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IndyCar Indianapolis 500

Marco Andretti credits Hampson, Wickens for stronger 2024 Indy 500 bid

Marco Andretti believes there is a chance for him to finally return to the sharp end of the field and be in the fight for this year’s edition of the Indianapolis 500.

While Andretti has always been regarded as a threat during the Month of May, it has been a decade since he was in a proper battle for victory for the Indy 500.

Although he won pole for the 2020 edition of the Indy 500, the last of his four podiums came in 2014.

It has been especially challenging since becoming an Indy-only entry the last three years, with no finish higher than 17th. 

“I knew the last three years we weren't gonna play, so I was a little bit deflated,” said Andretti, who claimed rookie honors in the 2006 Indy 500 with a runner-up finish.

However, this year brings confidence for Andretti, who will start 19th – a grid position that has won the Indy 500 twice before (1954, Bill Vukovich; 2014, Ryan Hunter-Reay) – in is 19th start on Sunday in the No. 98 Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda.

“This year, the car seems to accelerate,” said Andretti, who finished 10th in Monday’s post-qualifying practice at 225.205mph. “It seems to have speed when we try to go fast.”

When pressed on having a proper car to fight with, Andretti stated, “I think so, yeah. I'm cautiously optimistic.”

Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta w/ Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda

Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta w/ Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Some of that attitude can be attributed to the addition of race engineer Craig Hampson, who worked with Alexander Rossi at Arrow McLaren last season.

Hampson was with Andretti Global from late 2013-16 before joining Dale Coyne Racing from 2017-19, which included a reunion with Sebastien Bourdais. He previously guided Bourdais to four consecutive Champ Car titles during his time at Newman/Haas Racing.

“It's funny, we don't even have a ton of discussion because we have so much experience between the two of us,” Andretti said.

“So, we kind of just sit there; I'll read the thing and be like, 'Yep' and then if we do that, 'Yep'. We're on the same page.”

Andretti made it clear that Hampson was his wanted man.

 “I've actually pushed to get him back sooner than we got him back, but the higher-ups in the team missed that contract,” said Andretti, who is the grandson of 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario.

“It really made me angry when I was driving because it was like, 'How do we miss getting him back?' But we got him.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, DRR-CUSICK MOTORSPORTS Chevrolet, with Robert Wickens, Andretti Global

Ryan Hunter-Reay, DRR-CUSICK MOTORSPORTS Chevrolet, with Robert Wickens, Andretti Global

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Andretti also credited Hampson for bringing on Robert Wickens, who was also formerly with Arrow McLaren in a coaching-type role while also racing – and winning the 2023 title – in IMSA’s TCR class of the Pilot Challenge.

“He's extremely, extremely critical,” Andretti said. “He's so good at reading data and finding, basically extracting the most out of every little detail that we need because that's what this has come down to.

“It's track position, but it's harder and harder to pass because everybody's so good. The tire is so good; there's not a lot of fall off. So, all of those minute details are what it comes down to.

“And because they add up over 500 miles, all those tenths of a second, then it's a second, then it's two seconds, and then two seconds is a lot of distance. So, you have to put all of those together.”

There is also a competitive fire that Wickens carries unlike anyone else in the paddock.

“I agree,” Andretti said. “He does.

“He works so hard and I think he, hopefully the others learn by example because he's the last one to leave the garage. We're on the phone till 9:30 at night and that's what it takes, man.

“That's what it takes.”

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