Dallas Motorsports: Mario Andretti

Victory evidence of Marco Andretti's maturity

June, 28, 2011
6/28/11
9:33
AM CT
To carry a famous name in any sport -- Griese, Montana, Jordan -- the burden of comparison for the second- or third-generation athlete is overwhelming. There are certain racing gods -- Petty, Foyt, Andretti, Earnhardt, for instance -- that have seen mixed success in carrying on the family name over the years.

Third-generation driver Marco Andretti hadn't won since his 2006 IndyCar Series rookie campaign, but I was probably one of the least surprised that he had that breakthrough win this past weekend at Iowa. Marco gave me a hint that he may be close to ending that winless streak when he arrived to The Speedway Club at Texas Motor Speedway for a media luncheon the day after a harrowing Bump Day at Indy in which he made the 33-car field in the final minute.

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Jared C. Tilton/Getty ImvagesMarco Andretti overtook former teammate Tony Kanaan with 18 laps left to win Saturday's IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway, his first victory since 2006.
He spoke about maturing over the last few years, And while some critics may say it was about time, you have to realize that he's still only 24 years old despite six years in the series. Just a kid with an immense amount of pressure on him due to that last name of Andretti.

And you could see that new maturity by the way he handled Bump Day with his dad in his ear. He laughed how there was no way he and dad would have survived a Bump Day like that a few years ago if he had not matured. Marco didn’t point fingers on why the car and team were in that position. He seemed genuinely bummed that teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway didn't make the field instead of being content that he was in the show and that was all that mattered.

At that May lunch, he spoke of finally realizing that there was more responsibility and commitment to being a race-car driver than getting into the car five minutes before the track went hot. He discussed about working with his crew, becoming part of that team framework as well as becoming more engaging in sponsor and media obligations and handling them more adeptly. In fact, he visited the local Dr Pepper/Snapple plant that morning and talked about what a cool time he had and enjoyed meeting a lot of nice people.

Maturity.

He was thoughtful in his answers to media questions that day, even joking that a few years ago his answers to most of them would have been, “Yes” and “No.” When a media person said maybe they should've asked better questions, Marco said, “Not really. I probably would have answered most them ‘yes’ and ‘no’ anyway.” Listening to him speak and watching his demeanor, you could sense his transformation.

Maturity.

The kid always had talent, and I hope this win is a momentum builder for his season and his career. He is one of those marquee names with that great family lineage of Grandpa Mario and Dad Michael that reverberates around the IndyCar series much like Earnhardt in NASCAR. Having Marco achieve more success and contend for championships would be a boon to sport.

Welcome back to Victory Lane, Marco. I hope to see you there more often in the future, and I think you’d look pretty good wearing a cowboy hat with six shooters in hand!

Marco Andretti gets two shots at win No. 2

June, 8, 2011
6/08/11
8:00
AM CT
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.

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Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesMarco Andretti, who hasn't won since 2006, gets two chances to end that streak during the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
“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.”

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Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesMarco Andretti has fared well on TMS' high banks, finishing fourth and third the past two years. "It's really fast. It allows everybody to be flat out," Andretti said. "I try to run the thing high because not a lot of people can get it to work up there."
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.

Marco Andretti aims to break family drought at Indy

May, 23, 2011
5/23/11
7:16
PM CT
FORT WORTH, Texas -- If your last name is Andretti, the Indianapolis 500 hasn’t been your best friend the past three decades.

Three generations of drivers have placed that historic name in nearly every single category of the IndyCar record book, but only patriarch Mario chugged a jar of milk produced by the American Dairy Association of Indiana after “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 1969.

Since that moment, it has been a number of heartbreaking defeats. Even Marco, the youngest of the family drivers, suffered a fair share of the Andretti Curse during his first Indy 500 in 2006. Sam Hornish Jr. passed Marco on the final lap to win by .0635 seconds. Michael, Mario's son and Marco's father, was right behind in third place.

“We have to look at how fortunate we are,” Marco said Monday during a media luncheon at Texas Motor Speedway. “Number one, to be able to go compete and do what we love to do. We’re safe. We’ve been safe in our careers. But yeah man, I’m sick of the plane rides home just talking about how we could’ve won it.”

Marco qualified in 28th place for the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 on the final run during Bump Day on Sunday, knocking out fellow Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay in the process. Despite noticeable speed struggles, Michael, now owner of Andretti Autosport, likes Marco's chances this Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I really think once the race rolls around, [speed] doesn’t matter and it comes down to handling,” Michael said Sunday after Bump Day. “That’s why I feel confident with the cars we have in the field [teammate Danica Patrick qualified 17th]. I think Marco is going to be the guy to beat, I really do.”

The Indianapolis 500 is the first of four straight oval-track events on the 2011 IndyCar series schedule. On deck: The Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11.

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