Marco Andretti is trying to take the Dario Franchitti perspective on the Indianapolis 500. Which is to say, the wait is worth it.
Indy 500 2016
Franchitti didn’t roll into victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway until he was 34 years old, and then he followed it up with two more wins before retiring.
Andretti has competed here 10 times, but he’s still only 29 years old, which, in theory, gives him another decade-plus to secure a Borg-Warner Trophy likeness or two.
It’s not as if he hasn’t been close to winning. In fact, he has one of the best records over the past decade, with five top-five finishes, seven top-10s and 141 laps led. He has led three of the past four races, finishing third two years ago.
If his car is as good starting Monday as it was at last month’s test, the awaited win might not be much longer in the coming.
“My car at the end of that test was extremely comfortable, which is what it takes to win (the 500),” he said. “You have to have a comfortable car and hopefully get a little bit of speed out of it, too. If we can do that, we can really make it happen.”
Andretti famously lost his rookie attempt in 2006 to Sam Hornish Jr. in the final few hundred yards, and he was third in ’08 and ’10. The past three years he’s finished fourth, third and sixth, respectively, with 110 laps led.
He just hasn’t won the race, and he doesn’t know why.
“We can go with the typical media answer, which is the ‘Andretti Curse,’ but I really look at it as we’ve been blessed as a family,” he said. “We’ve been healthy with all the times we’ve been able to compete there and the race has been able to give me some of my best results of my career.
“Having said that, there’s been a lot of dominant races there that have escaped me.”
This season hasn’t gone Andretti’s way, and he enters 500 practice ranked 18th in the standings, last among Andretti Autosport’s four drivers. He was a disappointing 15th in Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, another example of how dreadful his results have been. He doesn’t have a top-10 finish this season.
But four of the five races to date have been road courses or street circuits, and the only oval — Phoenix International Raceway — uses the same bodywork kit. Things change for the 500, and Andretti is taking that as a cue for a fresh start.
After all, what choice does he have?
“I’m really confident, actually,” he said. “Once I hit the track I’m of the mind-set that whatever deficit (Honda has) I’ve got the mentality that anyone who wants to win this race has to come through me.
Marco Andretti waits for his car prior to the start of the second practice for the Angie’s List Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 12, 2016. Bob Goshert / For the Star
“We’ve run extremely well throughout my career, and we haven’t been worse than sixth the past three years. There’s one thing left for me to do at Indy.”
Practice for that first win begins at 2 p.m. Monday. Qualifying is this weekend; the 200-lap race May 29.
As a family, the Andrettis have one Indianapolis 500 win in 70 attempts — Mario’s in 1969 — compared to the nine wins in 73 starts in this event for the Unsers. Maybe this is the time the gap starts to close. If not, there should be other opportunities.
“In an ideal world I could be in it another 10 to 12 years,” Marco said. “Man, that’s going to give me a lot of good shots to win this thing numerous times.”
Rookies go first
Weather permitting, five rookies will open Monday’s practice by working through the rookie orientation program, which includes multiple phases at gradually increasing speeds.
Spencer Pigot (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), Matthew Brabham (PIRTEK Team Murray), Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), Stefan Wilson (KV Racing Technology) and Max Chilton (Chip Ganassi Racing) are the newcomers.
Brabham made his IndyCar Series debut in Saturday’s road race, finishing 16th. Wilson, the younger brother of the late driver Justin Wilson, made his only start in the series in 2013 in the Baltimore street race. He finished 16th for Dale Coyne Racing.
Conor Daly is an IndyCar Series rookie this season, but he is not a 500 rookie. He started the 2013 and ’15 races, although he did not complete a lap last year.
Follow IndyStar reporter Curt Cavin on Facebook and Twitter: @curtcavin.
INDY 500 PRACTICE
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.: Ticket office open
10 a.m.: Gates open
Noon- 2 p.m.: Rookie orientation program
2-6 p.m.: Indy 500 Practice
6 p.m.: Gates close
News Source: indystar.com