INDIANAPOLIS — Marco Andretti is back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The third generation driver though returns as the defending Indianapolis 500 pole sitter — a feat that he says was one of his greatest accomplishments of his racing career.
But, this time though, he’s doing so in a one-off situation. Andretti, 34, stepped away from a full time gig this past offseason. He walked away wanting to focus on doing other racing endeavors. But, what he wasn’t willing to give up though, was his pursuit of an Indy 500 victory.
Following last year’s race day frustrations, Andretti comes to the Month of May with a different mindset.
See, Andretti dominated the speed charts last year. He did win the pole. Then, he went out and didn’t lead a single lap of the race. He’s not going to allow that to happen again.
“The front row last year was fun. It was awesome. It was one of my greatest accomplishments actually. I’m trying to have an even greater one this year. I don’t have a mini borg to show for it,” Andretti told me on Thursday morning in the shadows of victory lane.
Andretti says that all of his focus right now is on the race car and the race car only. The speed isn’t there in comparison of last, but they’re not losing sleep over it. He said he knows he doesn’t have a pole winning car for this weekend, so why focus there? Why not focus on his “race” car.
“I have my dad calling my race and he always pulls some kind of magic and I think right now I feel like we have a car that if track position materializes we can stay there,” Andretti continued. “It’s 500 miles still and anything can happen.”
Andretti said that this year is all about a different perspective and mentality too. In the past, he used to pay close attention to the speed charts. He wanted to be the quick man at the Speedway each day. But, he’s grown to learn that being fast in practice gives you a false sense of security too. It’s not real. To be fast in practice, all you need is a fresh set of Firestone tires and a big tow. He knows how to find that. But, finding that pace isn’t the route to victory lane on race day.
“I’m paying a lot less attention to speeds this year because I think I used to try to just be quickest every time on track which is great, but it’s new tires it’s in the tow, it’s false,” he told me. “The car doesn’t have the speed for pole this year so I’m just focusing on the race.
“All my focus this month has been on the race car and not necessarily having new tires in a big tow. That’s a comfortable situation. I’m trying to put myself in uncomfortable situations because the race is not comfortable.”
As to if he has a car to win?
“Yes I do. I think we’re still a few changes away to be honest but we’re close.
As to what he learned from last year to apply to this?
“I knew on Carb Day last year that we were out of it because of reasons that I hopefully learned from for this year.”
Andretti is always good here. He’s a hell of a talent that has a mindset now that can help him kiss the bricks and drink the milk on May 30.