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IndyCar Indy 500

Andretti upbeat for Indy 500, happy his dad is strategist

Marco Andretti says that he believes his car is strong enough to make good progress through the field in the Indianapolis 500 this weekend, if father Michael Andretti can call a good strategy for him.

Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport

This Sunday’s race will mark the 250th IndyCar race of Marco Andretti’s career, and his 17th Indy 500. That’s one more than Michael achieved, although he lost five years of potential winning chances by being part of CART during the U.S. open-wheel split.

This will also be the second year in which Marco, the 2020 polesitter here, has been tackling the 500 as a one-off outing. Although he knew from April’s test that his #98 KULR / Curb-backed Andretti Herta Autosport-Honda had “slow car syndrome” as it is known here, he’s confident that in race trim he can move forward from his 23rd grid slot.

For one thing, it’s not entirely representative of his pace, since he had an explosion in the plenum chamber on his initial qualifying run, causing the car to cut out briefly, and by the time he made his second run, track conditions were hot and slower.

After finishing Monday’s two-hour practice session – the last before Carb Day – in eighth place, Andretti said: “I think we just need track position to materialize at some point in the race, whether it be strategy or a caution or just trying to get in there.

“I think in traffic we're really good. It's just when you get to the back of a huge string of cars, everybody is kind of just at the mercy of lifting because you get a run and you pop out [to pass] and then the guy ahead of you has the tow to keep him there. You just have to be patient.

“I think I have the car right now to be able to hawk everybody in front of me and just wait until they make mistakes, and I think that's how you pass from third on back in a pack. I'm really happy with the racecar. I'm underwhelmed with the speed still. We are what we are. I'm just looking to try to nail a balance and carry more throttle than 32 other guys.”

Andretti revealed that despite the cool conditions – 63degF – he spent the session prepping for Sunday, that is likely to be more than 20deg hotter.

“The old me would have had the car trimmed for today and trying to go for P1,” he smiled, “but we were actually trying bigger wickers and trying to nail the car for 90 degrees. It actually might rain Friday [Carb Day], so the next time we're on track might be the race.

“I think we're ready for that and those conditions. I think I actually welcome those conditions because it gives me more of a shot when it comes down to car balance than if it's just speed. Unfortunately it might take both speed, luck and balance to win this race, but if we get luck and balance, we can have a pretty good shot…

“It's going to take some strategy. The tires are pretty robust, and I told them if it comes down to the end, I'll run more laps on these tires. Just talking about different scenarios. You don't really know -- when it's hotter, it's going to expose the car more which, like I said, I like because I think we have a margin there. The car is pretty good.

“It's just a car speed issue. Like I think I have to carry more throttle than others for the same result. But that's what we've got.”

Andretti said that having Michael as his strategist on Sunday was a “no-brainer” and that their occasionally tempestuous on-radio relationship when they last worked together in this manner was very much a thing of the past.

“I think he's the best to do it honestly,” said the 35-year-old third-gen racer. “He sees this race, and he's a really, really good strategist. The two of us work a lot better nowadays than when I was a rookie and didn't think Dad knew anything what he was talking about! Now he definitely doesn't because I have more starts than him here, or I'm about to!…

“Back when I was a rookie, it didn't affect Dad and I, it affected the people around us, and we would be animated on the radio and go to dinner no problem. But other people would make mistakes because it brings the energy so high, and… now it's even higher. But…now I think they laugh at us. It's like they smile and they know that when we're going at each other, it's because we want to win this race.”

Marco and Michael Andretti.

Marco and Michael Andretti.

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

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