After an offseason spent recommitting himself to racing, Marco Andretti was rewarded with the best season of his IndyCar career.
Although he didn’t make it to the winner’s circle — he’s got one more chance in Saturday night’s season finale at Auto Club Speedway — he’ll return to Andretti Autosport next season to make another run at an IndyCar championship and the Indianapolis 500.
The team told The Associated Press on Thursday night that Andretti had re-signed to drive the No. 25 next season for his father, Michael, with sponsorship from Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
"I feel we have been getting closer to a championship title and an Indy 500 win, and I wouldn’t want to win it with anyone more with the Dr Pepper Snapple family and with my dad," Marco said in a statement. "I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business and a lot of good results coming our way."
Andretti, a third-generation racer, goes into the finale ranked a career-best fifth in the standings. He’s got two podium finishes, a career-best two poles, a career-best 14 top-10 finishes this season, and started on the front row of the Indy 500 this year for the first time in his eight-year career.
His 256 laps led this season is almost four times as many as Andretti led last year, when he finished a career-worst 15th in the standings and spent a portion of the winter in Europe working with a driver coach. The extra work was evident immediately as Andretti was challenging for wins at the start of the season and in the championship hunt for a bit — he left Indianapolis as the IndyCar points leader following a disappointing fourth-place finish.
Although re-signing to drive with his father, who has fielded a car for the 26 year old since 2006 rookie season, may have seemed automatic, there were rumblings Andretti at one point was looking around the paddock to see what other options might be available.
In the end, his re-signing kicks off what could be a busy weekend of announcements for Michael Andretti at the final IndyCar race of the season. The team is expected to announce a manufacturer switch to Honda, and could have driver James Hinchcliffe re-signed before Saturday night’s finale.
Michael Andretti hinted Wednesday many of his deals were coming together quickly while announcing a title sponsor for the Milwaukee IndyFest race he promotes.
For Marco, it’s not clear which Dr Pepper Snapple brand will adorn his car next season. He carried RC Cola the last two years and worked with DPS on its philanthropic initiative, serving as honorary chairman of the 2013 United Way campaign "Drive Home Giving." The campaign raised nearly $2.2 million for United Way agencies.
"Dr Pepper Snapple’s products are among the most well-loved brands on the market, and they carry great appeal with our fans," Andretti said.
Jim Trebilcock, executive vice president of marketing for DPS, lauded Marco and Andretti Autosport as ambassadors of its brands.
"Our brands and IndyCar both have extraordinary and passionate fans, and we’re looking forward to working with Marco and his team to drive excitement and build on that passion," he said.