FORT WORTH -- Marco Andretti hopes his previous success at Texas Motor Speedway will finally translate into a visit to Victory Lane during the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Since he took the checkered flag for the first time at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma in 2006, the 24-year-old driver is still seeking career win No. 2.
“It’s just made me respect it even more,” said Andretti, who has had consecutive top-five finishes at Texas Motor Speedway. “It’s IndyCar racing. To me, it’s as stacked of a field as it’s ever been driver- and team-wise. Even the guys, my dad and grandfather [Michael and Mario Andretti], they’ll admit that.
“Here’s an example, like the road courses: If you were two-tenths [of a second] off in '06, you’re still sixth. Now you’re 16th. It’s just gotten that much tougher. But I think it’s going to make it that much sweeter when we’re able to. And we will.”
Andretti will have two shots at winning on Saturday night at TMS. After finishing fourth and third in back-to-back years here, the 550k race has now been split into two separate 275 races.
It’s something Andretti has yet to see in his career. In fact, not many drivers have been put into this situation. It'll be the first time since 1981 -- and only the 19th overall, including CART and USAC -- that the IndyCar Series will have a doubleheader.
The points and prize money will be halved for each race, with the winner getting 25 points. There will also be a bonus point for the pole leader in the first race and two bonus points for the driver leading the most laps in each race.
Despite the adjustments, Andretti thinks it won’t throw a monkey wrench into his strategy.
“It’s like a bowl. ... It’s really fast,” Andretti said of Texas Motor Speedway. “The thing about this place is how banked it is. It allows everybody to be flat out. Even if your car is not working great, you’re still flat out. So that’s why it’s so close together and such good races.
“I try to run the thing high because not a lot of people can get it to work up there. If you can, then you normally have clean air because nobody’s ahead of you. So you can maybe carry more throttle up there than others. So far it’s been working, so we’ll probably have a similar approach.”
If speed continues to be a problem for Andretti, as it's been all season, he will have an hour between races to make the necessary changes to his No. 26 car before he hits the track again. During that time, drivers will find out their starting position via blind draw -- a new addition to the traditional doubleheader.
Andretti could find himself racing next to a driver who’s not used to being up front, or he could find himself starting from the back.
“I like it,” Andretti said. “It shakes it up. A little bit of lady luck on your side would help, but at a place like this, if your car is good, you’re coming to the front. The only thing that can matter is you can get caught up in a wreck or something, not having the track position. Other than that, a good car should come to the front here because you’re actually able to pass.”
Not only will Andretti have a shot at his second career win, but he could parlay that into win No. 3 as well. Having two races means two Texas-style celebrations. The Foyt-Rutherford Trophy will be presented after each race to the winner. Firing the commemorative pistols also have become a staple at TMS.
“So hopefully we can get two sets of guns,” Andretti said.