MOORESVILLE, North Carolina – On the track, Marco Andretti is driving with fierce desire and determination that has led Andretti Autosport General Manager Kyle Moyer to say it’s the best he’s ever seen Mario Andretti’s grandson race. Unfortunately, mechanical failures, mistakes and plain bad luck has the son of team owner Michael Andretti mired in seventh place in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.
Perhaps a return to his best racetrack will be enough to save Andretti’s season.
Andretti heads to the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway this weekend, where he has one win, four podium finishes and five top-10 finishes in seven starts. He drove to victory at Iowa in 2011 when he raced his way to the front from the 17th starting position. Another such performance will have to come soon for Andretti, because the 2014 season has just seven races left including a doubleheader next weekend at Toronto.
Andretti enters the final Saturday night race of the season 121 points behind points leader Will Power and 15 points out of sixth-place, currently occupied by Andretti Autosport teammate Carlos Munoz of Colombia.
Last Sunday’s Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco began with high hopes for young Andretti, as he started fifth in the middle of Row 2. But after making his first pit stop he was penalized for speeding and had to serve a drive-thru penalty that doomed him from contending for the victory, as the first 158 laps of the 200-lap contest were run without a caution period.
He fought his way back to a ninth place finish.
“The race for us was blown from the beginning and the pit lane penalty,” Andretti said. “I’m not sure where they got me speeding, I’m sure I was on the limiter way before the cones so I’m not sure what happened there. We never really rebounded after the penalty making for a really frustrating 500 miles.”
Despite his frustration, his performance drew praise from his father and still gives him hope of making a fight out of the championship.
“Marco did a really good job fighting back from speeding,” said team owner Michael Andretti. “It was disappointing, for sure. Marco rebounded a little bit after having that problem on pit road and it’s a bummer for Ryan Hunter-Reay because a bolt broke on the suspension and he’s lucky he didn’t put it in the wall. Ryan is 58 behind and can still win it from there.”
And so can Marco Andretti, if he is able to find better fortune.
After finishing third in this year’s Indianapolis 500, he finished 10th and 16th at the Detroit Doubleheader. The real downer came the following weekend at Texas Motor Speedway when engine failure after just three laps dropped him to a last-place finish.
Since that time, he was involved in a controversial call by INDYCAR Race Control when they gave him the move-over flag to Andretti who was on the lead lap with race leader Takuma Sato trying to lap him. Andretti did not heed to the blue flag and was black-flagged by INDYCAR officials. Despite that call, he finished eighth in that race and was ninth in the second part of the double-header.
Another ninth-place finish at Pocono has Andretti at a pivotal point in his season. That is why another outstanding performance at his best track is crucial for Andretti this weekend at Iowa Speedway.
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