FORT WORTH, Texas (May 21, 2013) – Winning is nothing new to the Andretti family, but for 26-year-old Marco, it hasn’t been all that familiar over his seven full seasons in the IZOD IndyCar Series. With just two wins since he began in 2006 at 19 years of age, the youngest of the third-generation racing family is looking to change all that.
Currently in the midst of the best start of his career, Andretti is second in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, just 13 points behind leader Takuma Sato. Despite still looking for his first win since 2011, Andretti is exuding confidence with top-10 finishes in all four road/street events that opened the season. Among those performances was a pair of podiums as he finished third in the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., and most recently in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Admitting that the road/street courses have been a weakness of his, he credits his success to taking time this past offseason to try something different and seek advice from a coach.
“I was always dedicated, but I really focused on the details of where I was getting beat and fixed it,” Andretti said. “I went to a driver coach. I went all the way to London. You can’t be too proud. You’re always going to learn even at this stage and at this level in this sport.”
Not allowed to discuss who the coach was, Andretti did say that he came highly recommended from Formula One star Lewis Hamilton and other successful drivers in Europe.
Trusting in what he learned in London, Andretti believes his new calculated and finesse approach will prove even more beneficial as the schedule opens up to the oval circuits beginning with Sunday’s Indy 500. After an impressive week of practice that concluded by qualifying third, Andretti is feeling more confident than ever that he will be the one showered with milk on Sunday evening in Victory Lane.
“I think this is going to be one of my best shots at it,” Marco said. “It’s my eighth go at it and we’ve had a chance to win this race numerous times. I never in all those years felt what I feel in this year’s race car so far. I think we improved last year’s car 10 fold. Last year’s car wasn’t great and we led the most laps so we just need to lead the right lap. I don’t care if I lead a half a turn; I just want to lead that lap.”
The Indy 500 is important for everyone involved, but Andretti understands the added pressure that comes with his name. Despite the immense success of his grandfather Mario and father Michael in the sport, the Andrettis can only lay claim to one Indy 500 crown. That one came in 1969 courtesy of Mario, and Marco is intent on ending a four-decade drought for the family.
“The race is the biggest race in the world,” Marco said. “My family and I live our lives around the sport and that race in particular. I’d feel more complete (to win) for sure. It’s been 20 years since an Andretti has been on the front row, so I guess that’s a good start. Five hundred miles is a long way, there are going to be a lot of elements that could take us out of it, but I think if we execute we win because I think it’s our race to lose.”
Andretti’s starting position of third marks the first time since 1993 that an Andretti will start the Indy 500 on the front row (Mario qualified second to Arie Luyendyk that year), but it isn’t his best-ever Indy 500 qualifying effort in eight career starts that has him pumped.
“Personally, I think we’re stronger in race trim than qualifying,” said Andretti, whose previous-best start was fourth last year. “We’ve been quick every day; we’ve been in the top three almost every practice. Having the speed obviously helps, but you need a good, balanced race car for 500 miles and I think we have that. We’ve been really focusing on that more than qualifying.”
For Marco, a huge confidence boost from winning the Indy 500 would serve him well at one of his favorite tracks where he has had success but also is searching for his first victory. Just two short weeks after the Indy 500, Andretti will return to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 550 on Saturday, June 8.
Like Indianapolis, Texas is a large oval with high speeds. With three top-10 finishes at “The Great American Speedway!” already, Andretti is looking to take advantage of his new coaching and hone in on victory. Admitting that the new car has changed the racing a bit at Texas, Andretti feels it plays even more into his team’s favor.
“It’s not as much of a pack race anymore; it’s more of an emphasis on the driver and the car set-up,” Andretti said. “That’s what we prefer as a team because with Andretti Autosport, things are jiving quite well last year and especially this year. The ideal situation is that we’re leading the points coming in to Texas.”
A victory in Indianapolis would set up Andretti to make a run at an accomplishment that the IZOD IndyCar Series has only seen twice in its history. Luyendyk (1997) and Scott Dixon (2008) are the only two drivers to win both of the series’ marquee events in the same season.
Of course, all of this would require Andretti to get back in Victory Lane for the first time in 27 races dating back to 2011 at Iowa Speedway. Like any competitor, wins are important, but the championship is the bigger picture.
“I’m not where I want to be, but I’m in contention now and I think if we keep driving the way we are, the wins are going to come,” Andretti said. “If we keep getting the results we’ve been getting, we can win the championship.”
Great seats are still available for the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550 – “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” – on Saturday, June 8. Tickets are available by calling the ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.