Andretti Autosport has five cars in the top nine in Sunday's Indianapolis 500. Any of them could win the race. The team has already won three out of four INDYCAR races this season. One of the Andretti cars led the speed chart most days of Indy 500 practice. The team put rookie Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti on the front row.
I'm picking Marco to finally add another win to the Andretti legacy at Indianapolis. Most of that family legacy is hard luck at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Marco's grandfather Mario only won at Indy once in his illustrious racing career. 1969 is the only win to the Andretti name in 67 starts. "Mario is slowing down" became almost as famous a phrase as "It's a new track record" for the late track announcer, Tom Carnegie. Mario, Michael, John, Jeff, and now Marco Andretti have all chased the checkered flag at Indy. This is the year a driver named Andretti finally celebrates again.
"I have to stop myself from thinking too far into it," said Marco. "I think it would just be incredible. My grandfather said it would be one heck of a party. There's a long way to go. But it's definitely achievable."
Marco knows this year is his best chance yet to win the greatest race in the world. His car has looked the best to me in practice.
"I don't want to get overconfident," said Marco. "In everything that we have control of, I think we are right where we need to be: the racecar, I have all the confidence in the world in my guys and my own ability. From there it's going to be about taking the necessary risks, not the unnecessary risks, to get to the end."
Marco's father, Michael, has won the Indy 500 twice as a team owner. Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay won the INDYCAR season championship a year ago. Hunter-Reay already has a win this season and teammate James Hinchcliffe has two wins.
"I'm driving for the championship team," said Marco. "Why can't that be me? I feel a lot better about my consistency this year. The team is back to where it was in 2004 and ‘05 in being the team to beat and not Penske. As far as the team success, we're right where we need to be."
Marco has finished in the top seven of all four races this season and stands second in the points. He admits he's driving with more patience.
"Finesse wasn't a part of Marco Andretti's vocabulary for seven years of my career," Andretti said of himself. "So far this year, that word has been helping me a bit. I'm hoping it will help me Sunday. It's kind of a whole new approach. When you get in trouble is when you do force the issues."
Trouble often finds the Andretti's at Indy. But I like the relaxed, more pleasant Marco I see this May at Indy. He seems more comfortable in his car, and with himself. Sunday is his best starting spot, outside row one, in eight starts at Indy. I expect to see the #25 RC Cola Chevrolet in victory lane Sunday.
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