Andretti ignoring his detractors
Veteran focused on breaking out of his struggles at Pocono
When Marco Andretti said, “You’re always a treat to talk to,” in answer to a question at a function Friday morning, it elicited some laughter around the table.
But, he was only half kidding. The question concerned how he was handling some of the struggles he’s been having again this season in the NTT IndyCar Series, which returns to Pocono Raceway for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2:30 p.m., NBCSN).
The facts — and he’s not happy with any of them — are that he has finished 10th or better only four times in 13 starts in 2019 and has not won a race in the series in his last 140 starts.
If his name was Smith, people probably wouldn’t mention it. But he’s an Andretti, and the family name carries with it an expectation of excellence.
“At this point in my career, I can tell you the critics don’t hurt me anymore,” the 32-yearold third-generation driver from Nazareth said. “It used to drive me crazy, but you have to strive for the positive side. People blogging in their mother’s basement don’t bother me anymore.”
Andretti is 16th in the series point standings, so thoughts of championships are all but dead.
But the possibility to right the program on the closing laps still exists, and Andretti Autosport, the race team owned by Marco’s father, Michael Andretti, has taken a step that Marco says is “pretty much plug-and-play” and has assigned Garrett Mothersead as the engineer on Marco’s #98 U.S. Concrete Honda-powered car.
Mothersead was the engineer when Takuma Sato drove to victory in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 for AA and was serving in that capacity with Zach Veach this year.
“We did a bit of a swap,” Marco Andretti said. “We had a test [together] in Portland; it was a lot of fun and we were fast, so I’m cautiously optimistic about it. I’ve worked with him for a while, on differ
test days. He knows my style. It’s been good so far.”
The engineers for Andretti Autosport’s four cars regularly work together, which makes this almost a minor announcement. But, if there is some small spark that can light a fire that leads to something big, the move is pretty much a no-brainer. There is nothing to lose.
“I just need some confidence and a car I can really feel and
work on,” Andretti said. “Hopefully, we can roll off the truck with a good car so we can keep the setup very close and not jump around as much as we have [at other tracks]. Jumping around really hurts.”
The teams won’t have much time to find the right setup this weekend. The cars have only a one-hour practice session (9:30 a.m.) to get ready for qualifying and one final practice session at the end of the day.
“I don’t really care if I’m not on pole here,” Andretti said. “Like 2013.”
When IndyCar made its reent
turn to Pocono six years ago, Andretti put his car on the pole with a two-lap average of 221.273 mph. He led more laps than all the other cars combined, but he had to conserve fuel toward the end and wound up finishing 10th.
That is one of the one-that-got-away events Andretti had in mind when he looked at his career on Friday.
“It’s so easy to look back at races that I feel I should have won,” he said. “That puts you in such a frustrating mindset, because there have been a lot of races that eluded me. And you know, that kind of hurts your confidence … not your confidence, but your positivity.
“I know how competitive the series is. I don’t need to explain that to anybody. And so, in some of those, you slip a little, you slip a lot. You’re two-tenths [of a second] off. When I came into the series, you’re still sixth; now you’re 16th. So all it’s all about hundredths. When you think you’re far off, you’re not.”
Andretti may have his critics, but he also has a huge following — 157,700-plus followers on Twitter.
“I read ‘em; I appreciate people who ride with me on bad days,” he said. “I appreciate the ones who know how competitive IndyCar is.”
After Pocono, there are three races left in the season.
Andretti Autosport has had two previous Pocono winners — Alexander Rossi last year and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2015.
“Yeah, it would [be perfect to see things turn around at Pocono],” Andretti said. “I was seventh last year and had to conserve some fuel at the end. Our potential is good.”
Marco Andretti has finished 10th or better only four times in 13 starts in 2019 and has not won an IndyCar race in his last 140 starts.