The name Andretti is synonymous with Indianapolis. The two are married to one another, in a unique love-hate relationship.
The Indianapolis 500 has meant everything to this family. It has given them an extraordinary amount of pain and sorrow, yet it has also brought them joy and elation. The 1969 race was supposed to be the start of multiple victories and bottles of milk. Instead, the glass has remained empty, as the thirst increases each passing year.
Mario, Michael, and Marco Andretti have combined to start 60 Indy 500 events. While they have just the lone win, there are plenty of other numbers worth mentioning. They have started on pole four times (Mario 3, Marco 1) and have a total of 11 front-row starts between the three of them. Their average starting positions (8.7 Mario, 10.6 Michael, 9.5 Marco) are all very similar with Michael having the slight edge over Marco in terms of the best average finish (11.8 to 12.0) in the race.
Michael made 16 starts in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and Marco will aim to make his 16th start later this month. Marco has completed more laps than his father (2,800 to 2,653) but Michael has the overwhelming edge in laps led with 431 to Marco’s 141. In fact, Michael owns the record for the most laps led by a driver that has never won the race.
That is an accurate representation of the amount of heartbreak that Michael suffered during his career at Indianapolis. Mario managed to finish all 500 miles of the race five times in his 29 starts. By comparison, Michael did so just four times. That is an eye-opening statistic when you consider the reliability issues that drivers faced during Mario’s era.
We all know the story of how the 2006 race played out, and how it ended. Nobody knows that more than Marco, who is constantly reminded of that epic finish in his rookie year. Now 15 years later, Marco returns to his second home with the same appetite for victory, but an even greater hunger.
For the first time in his career, Marco is not running the full season schedule. In fact, the Indy 500 is his only planned IndyCar race this year, although he would like to do more if the opportunity is there. Though he has some other racing endeavors lined up for 2021, his primary focus is on the Month of May.
“I’m as happy as I’ve ever been, focused on what I want to focus on, which is putting all of my energy on winning this race, first and foremost,” said Marco, who earned pole position last August in front of an empty house. “The team has made some unbelievable strides from August, and if we roll off with anything close to the speed of last year, we can win the race.”
“Getting the pole has put me in a different mindset for here, which is the kind of mindset I came here with a rookie,” Andretti stated. The fans would have erupted if they were able to be there, in what would have been one of the wildest scenes in the history of Pole day. Instead, that joy and celebration never happened because of the pandemic. Just another punch in the gut to an Andretti at Indy.
Marco has completed 2,800 laps in his 15 starts at Indianapolis, leading a total of 141 laps. In addition to his runner-up finish in his rookie year, he has finished 3rd three times and finished 4th in his first start on the front row. While his pole run last year was invigorating, he has still not led a lap in this race since 2014. The results have simply not been there these last few years but a refreshed and motivated Marco might just be the perfect combination.
Although this year will still be a little different, Marco will still have many of the same faces and voices around him. He has familiar teammates in Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, and Stefan Wilson. Michael will be in his ear as his race strategist, with Bryan Herta now on his son’s radio. Marco’s engineer is Andretti Autosport’s technical director Eric Bretzman, who was Scott Dixon’s longtime engineer. Safe to say, the third-generation driver is in good hands.
Once again, there is a sense of optimism for Marco heading into the Month of May. He is oozing with confidence as he prepares for his next journey at the Speedway. Marco will again be in the No. 98 car, which has won this race four times. The last two were five years ago with his teammate Rossi, and ten years ago with the late Dan Wheldon in a one-off entry with Herta.
Marco would love nothing more than to match that result by Wheldon. What an incredible story that would be. And after all, isn’t that what Indy is all about?