When Marco Andretti was old enough to realize he was an Andretti, he also noticed that people also started to treat him differently. Notably, being the son of Michael Andretti and the grandson of Mario Andretti, there are some big shoes to fill in the motorsports world. Though beyond that, the Andretti name is familiar around the world, with people who don’t even follow IndyCar knowing of the family.
Because of that, fans and media look to Andretti to carry on the name and family tradition and with that, there is added pressure and stress on his shoulders. It seems the pressure even increases when it comes to the Indianapolis 500.
Mario won it, but Michael never could. Now with Marco, it seems that he has come close in every which way possible. In his 2006 rookie season, he was leading with one lap to go and ended up finishing second in the closest Indy 500 finish to date. As a result, fans and media bring up the dreaded Andretti curse, which doesn’t help as it adds to the already high level of stress and pressure he puts on himself to succeed.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he commented. “I don’t care what my last name is, I want to succeed and its killing me not having a win (Indy 500). It doesn’t matter if my last name was Smith or Andretti. I’d want to win otherwise don’t compete. Yeah I mean there is added pressure but want to succeed any way. That’s the easiest way to put it.”
Beyond simply wanting a win at Indianapolis, there is pressure all around as a result of going winless last season. The beginning of the year, Andretti and Andretti Autosport struggled a bit, but it was a result of the performance difference between Honda and Chevrolet. At the start of the season, it wasn’t looking good for Honda as Chevrolet was dominating the races.
That changed at Indy last season, as Honda was able to find something Chevrolet didn’t have. Though with all the wrecks that happened – mostly Chevrolet, some rule changes were made in hopes of making the manufactures equal without incidents. Everybody knows what that resulted – Chevrolet winning the Indianapolis 500, and eventually the championship.
Honda has been working to improve their areo kits, taking notes and submitting adjustments to IndyCar ahead of the season. As a result, they should be stronger at St. Petersburg. Andretti has high expectations that they will do well, but nobody is going to know what will happen till the first race of the season.
“I think it’s a little too early to say,” he stated. “We need to see what Chevy has. I know what we have. We have an improvement over last year. Is it enough? I don’t know. We hope so. Obviously the competition has been working, as well. We won’t know until we are on track with them really.”
The addition of the aero kits also produced insane and exciting racing to watch on the speedways, with the close racing and finishes. However, it also produced a lot of wrecks, mainly at Indianapolis. With neither manufacture focused on changing speedway set-ups, Andretti shares a bit of concern into what will happen, but feels that Honda will challenge Chevrolet on the short ovals, and road courses.
“I’m a little worried about the speedway stuff, the politics there,” he commented. “I have to voice my opinion on that. I hope the field isn’t divided there. We’re not allowed to change a lot on the Speedway side. We should be closer on the short ovals and road and streets – I would hope.”
Despite the issues in reference to the aero kits, Andretti had a solid season with two podium finishes and a slew of top-fives, and top-10s. He also almost held the record of being the only driver to complete each lap in every race; however that was crushed in the second to last race of the season with a DNF at Pocono. Notably, though as mentioned, there were no wins and that was something that left him frustrated.
“Last year we were trying to hang in there,” he commented. “It’s frustrating sort of fighting for fifth on a given week. You put the perfect weekend together, you’re third. These guys (Josef, Graham and Hinch who were in the press conference with Marco) were able to pull out a couple of win. We were right there for a couple of them, but never really broke through. Again a few podiums but we definitely need the win column. For me it’s frustrating because, I mean that’s what put Ryan Hunter Reay ahead of me in points. I have a better finishing average than him but it doesn’t matter. We’ll keep working and try to get in the win category.”
Wins are important at the end of the day it don’t matter how many laps you complete or races you finish, it matters where you finish. That’s why going in 2016, Andretti is doing everything that he can to make this year better. The training has gone as far as taking boxing lessons, to get into better shape both physically and mentally.
Of course, of all the races that he could win, the 100th Indianapolis 500 would stand out to be the biggest, as it’s a race that he wants to really badly win. It’d be nice to win the event while his grandpa Mario is around to see it and certainly any win at Indy would be sweet, but to win the 100th running would be really special not just to Marco but to the whole Andretti family. It would also put an end to that dreaded Andretti curse.
“I want to win it every year,” he said. “But there is something to be said about Ray Harroun, the first one but the 100th one would be the milestone, set the tone for the next 100 years. If there is a year to do it, it’s a good one.”