INDIANAPOLIS — Marco Andretti admitted that his fandom of the final practice session during Carb Day was never very high on his excitement list. The third generation driver always thought that this practice was never very beneficial to them.
Last year though, he told me me that he knew on this day that he had no shot at an Indy 500 win despite having the pole. He was right. He didn’t lead a single lap. This year, well his mindset has changed. Andretti, had an issue during practice on Friday afternoon which as he said that if we never got this session started, he would have been a DNF in last place (33rd) in Sunday’s 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
“I’m not a Carb Day fan, but today it saved my Indy 500,” said Andretti. “That’s why you have Carb Day. There was a bad electrical box we would have found on lap one. That’s what Carb Day is all about. We’re lucky. Everything from here on out is a bonus, so we’re happy.
“From my experience here, when you’re able to reconfirm the car is good in different conditions, the car is good. If it would have rained all day today and tomorrow, we were ready. Today confirms that we were ready, right?
“But I’m happy it didn’t rain because we found the electrical box that we would have had a DNF in the Indy 500. So we’re really, really lucky.”
Now that the problem was rectified, Andretti is really happy. In fact, they found another issue after qualifying to what is causing his car to be so slow this week.
“Found it Saturday night and confirmed it Sunday,” he said. “Double confirmed it today.
“Yeah, it was the floor. We can’t understand why. They wouldn’t let me say it publicly anyway. Yeah, I mean, we just put a new floor on, which was on paper not as good as my teammate’s. We have bigger issues, I know how to get around this place. I was basically just telling them that there’s something wrong. Even dad would confirm it. We’d be in the meetings, we have to find it.
“I’m actually lucky we made the race. I’m happy actually. Way happier after Carb Day this year than last even starting on pole.”
It paid off. Andretti turned 65 laps on Carb Day with a top speed of 226.396 mph in his No. 98 Honda. That’s good enough for fifth overall. The speed is riding out of his entry as he was also 10th in the Sunday race practice post qualifying.
That’s building his confidence level now as he goes from saying he had no shot of winning on this day last August to having a shot this time around.
Andretti, starts 25th on Sunday. Johnny Rutherford started on the pole in 1974 and didn’t lead a single lap. He’d start 25th in 1975 and lead the final one in an Indy 500 triumph. For all that’s gone wrong with the Andretti Curse here, was Friday a sign of that ending and Marco joining his grandpa as the first Andretti driver to win a pole last year here since 1987 and now being the first since him to win a race here since 1969?
“Yeah, I feel pretty confident. A little bummed because I think we would have been easily top nine car.
“500 miles, so I need to stay unscathed, slowly pick them off,” he said. “Hopefully we have the strategy and stops to do that. Guys looking good in the pits as well. Everybody is feeling good. We just have to execute and try to be smart, risk versus reward to try to get to the front.”