Marco Andretti To Pull Back On Driving Career

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 15 2021

Marco Andretti will cut back on his IndyCar Series driving duties.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Third generation racer Marco Andretti has put the brakes on a fulltime INDYCAR career, “re-setting” his priorities to currently run only the 105th Indianapolis 500 as part of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Marco _ the 33-year-old son of Andretti Autosport team-owner Michael Andretti and grandson of 1969 Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti _ capped his 15th season in the series in 2020 by qualifying on-pole for the rescheduled 104th Indy 500 in August.

“Upon careful thought over the past couple of months, I have made the decision to make some changes to my racing activities and focus for 2021,” Andretti said Friday in a news release. “I recently shared this decision and the changes that I want to make with my Dad and have spoken at-length with him about it. I appreciate his openness and for allowing me the flexibility to map out my own course going forward.

“I am fortunate to be in a position at Andretti Autosport to run the full INDYCAR season if I want to. But, instead, I have decided to change up my direction somewhat _ to reset _ to do something a little different _ look at everything fresh and see where that takes me. And, to me, now seems like the appropriate time to do that. 

“I definitely am going to keep driving. I still have a deep passion for it and have unfinished business to take care of and some boxes that I want to check before I consider retiring as a driver.”

Andretti started all 14 INDYCAR races impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda. His first career pole at IMS was among three other top-10 starts during a season in which his average grid position was 14.3. Marco’s best finish in 2020 was 10th during the second race on the Iowa Speedway oval. His average finish last season was 19.3.

Despite qualifying on-pole at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Marco failed to lead a lap in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” en route to a lackluster 13th-place finish. He did not lead a lap during the entire season while completing 1,523 of 1,900 laps (80.2 percent). His season also included five DNFs.

Marco has two wins on an INDYCAR resume that began in March 2006 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He won his first series race on the road-course at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on Aug. 27, 2006. At the time he was the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race at 19 years, 5 months and 14 days. Marco did not visit Victory Lane again until prevailing at Iowa Speedway in Newton on June 25, 2011. 

“Marco and I have discussed this at-length,” said Michael Andretti, who logged 42 wins and a Championship Auto Racing Teams title during his open-wheel career. “I both support and respect his decision to take a focus on other areas of life, and maybe even other forms of motorsport. We were working on a full-season INDYCAR entry for him, but he decided he wanted to take a different direction and I respect him for making that decision.”

In addition to his dad, Marco has raced his entire career in the shadow of grandfather Mario, who won 52 races and four domestic open-wheel championships in addition to the 1969 Indy 500. Mario also won the Formula One World Driving Championship in 1978 with Team Lotus.

“I think for any multi-generational athlete, it can be really challenging to find your own ground and make your own name on top of your family’s,” Michael Andretti said. “Marco has always had the courage to chart his own path and I’m proud of the career he’s built for himself and the person he’s become. I know this decision wasn’t easy. 

“But, like he has said, this is not retirement. He has some great accomplishments behind him and I think he still has many more ahead of him. He’s offered to help us out with some testing. I’m looking forward to having him back with us for the 500 and hopefully maybe a few more races through the season.”

Marco earned his first Indy 500 pole in August with a four-lap/10-mile average of 231.068 mph in the No. 98 Honda. Marco scored his family’s first Indy 500 pole since Mario claimed P1 in 1987 and the first pole for a car carrying the No. 98 since Parnelli Jones qualified first en route to victory in the 1963 Indy 500.

Marco nearly made family history as an Indy 500 rookie with Andretti Green Racing. After starting the race ninth, he was edged at the finish line by 0.0635-seconds by pole-sitter Sam Hornish Jr. of Team Penske. Michael Andretti, who never won the Indy 500 in 16 starts, finished third in the 90th edition of the race. Marco was voted Chase Rookie of the Year after the race, the series Rookie of the Year and earned the Tony Renna “Rising Star Award” after finishing seventh in the overall point standings.

“First and foremost, I remain very hungry to win the Indy 500,” Marco said. “It is our biggest stage and the place that I feel I bring the most to the table as a driver. I’ve come close there and am in the mix there it seems each year. Winning the pole there last year was awesome but that isn’t enough. I know that a victory there is in my future so we’ll try to get that done in the coming years.

“As such, I have committed to and am looking forward to running the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport this year. In addition to being squarely focused on the Indy 500, I might also take a look at running some other races on the INDYCAR schedule as the season progresses, in order to remain ‘car fit.’ I have also offered to help the team with some testing and other activities along the way. And, I may look at different opportunities in all of motorsports.

“My involvement in my Andretti Autosport entry will continue.” 

In 2019, Marco assumed an ownership stake in the Andretti Herta Autosport team for which he races. Andretti plans to assist Andretti Autosport with preseason testing and development, including the Jan. 19 Sebring test day.

Marco previously has competed in the American Le Mans Series, the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA Formula E Championship.

“I want to do some sports car racing _ maybe even get the chance to do IMSA events with my cousin Jarett, which would be a lot of fun for me,” said Andretti, a native and resident of Nazareth, Pa. “I’ll be looking into other sports car opportunities as well in the coming months and welcome discussions in that regard. Marquee events like the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans would be on that list for sure.

“I am excited for what the future holds for me both on and off the track and, again, am grateful to Dad and Andretti Autosport for allowing me the freedom to change things around as I’d like and to proceed forward a little differently this upcoming season.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 15 2021
No Comment