Today’s question: Earlier this week, Marco Andretti was confirmed to compete next year in his 18th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. What about his career sticks out to you the most?
Curt Cavin: Let’s start by acknowledging not only his longevity in the sport – one of 18 drivers to make 250 career starts – but also his accomplishments: Two race wins in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES (Sonoma in 2006, Iowa in 2011), the runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, the “500” pole in 2020, six series poles overall and his consistent prowess on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Marco might not finish his career with the accolades of his famous father and grandfather, but he has represented the family extremely well at IMS with six top-six finishes, including four top-threes. I think for a singular Marco moment, watching him pass his father for the lead at Indy with three laps to go in ’06 ranks even a tick higher than the pole he won there 14 years later. Unfortunately, Marco couldn’t hold back Sam Hornish Jr., who after nearly crashing in Turn 3 on Lap 199 delivered one of the best final laps in race history. Had Sam not done so, imagine how Marco’s career would be thought of today.
Joey Barnes: There are certainly some incredible and memorable moments in Marco Andretti’s career to this point, especially in the Indianapolis 500 that span from his rookie runner-up in 2006, being in the mix late in that wild 2014 edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” also comes to mind. Additionally, that pole during the “Pandemic 500” was sensational. However, I will step out of the typical Brickyard box for the 2022 SRX series champion and look elsewhere. The one that sticks out is the 2015 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, which is still one of the all-time wild – and best – races in my book and featured 80 lead changes. Andretti was out front consistently, finding the lead 10 different times for 31 laps. On a late restart, he pushed from 10th to third in just two laps, nearly finding the lead until Graham Rahal made an aggressive dive to the bottom entering Turn 3 to hold the top spot. The yellow waved seconds later, and the race finished under caution. That gutsy performance by Andretti always stuck with me, and if my memory serves me correctly, it is still the only time the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has seen an Andretti and a Rahal share a podium.
Paul Kelly: The cruelty of the “Month of August” 2020 sticks out to me the most when thinking about Marco Andretti’s career. From the minute he suffered the heartbreaking loss to Sam Hornish Jr. as a 19-year-old in the 2006 Indianapolis 500, nearly everyone thought it would be just a matter of a year or two before Marco placed the Andretti name back into Victory Circle at Indianapolis for the first time since 1969. But it didn’t happen, and the pressure on Marco to deliver at Indy ratcheted every year. So, when Marco won the pole for the pandemic-delayed edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in August 2020 after having the dominant hot rod of the week of practice leading into Pole Day, it appeared finally he could end the “Andretti curse” at IMS. Marco also appeared to savor every second leading to Race Day that month at IMS, showing a maturity and contentment that wasn’t always evident earlier in his career. The world got behind Marco that Race Week to win at Indy, and a victory would have been a storybook result for him and his famous family. So, it was such a bummer to see his car drop through the running order right from the green flag Aug. 23, 2020. I know I’m not alone in hoping Marco gets one more ride at Indy as fast as that 2020 Andretti Herta Autosport car and can get a spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy. It would be great for Marco, the Andretti family and global motorsports.