INDIANAPOLIS — Marco Andretti isn’t used to being in the position that he’s in right now. Last year was the first time that Andretti scaled back to a part-time program. However, because he ran full-time in 2020 and had been on an oval since the behind closed doors Indianapolis 500, he was eligible as a veteran participant in the opening test session. This year though, he’s not.
He’s not raced in an NTT INDYCAR Series machine since May 30 of last year. Because of that, he wasn’t eligible for Indy 500 practice yet. He had to complete the veteran refresher program which consists of the final two phases of Rookie Orientation.
Yes, the guy that just two years ago sat on the pole here, needed a refresher course.
“That part of it was a bit of a bummer. My day was over after I graduated from that,” Andretti said after turning 46 laps in the orientation session. “I didn’t really get to run this afternoon, didn’t turn a lap.
“My normal saying, comeback to that, it’s the same for everybody. But for me it wasn’t today because I didn’t really get to run at all.
“Yeah, I mean, I definitely missed out on a couple group runs which I’m pretty bummed out about. This is a place where you have five. That’s why the one-off guys can make it work because it’s not like Long Beach, you practice, qualify, race.
“We have some time to catch up. Yeah, I mean, it’s a bummer to lose track time whenever you lose track time.”
Andretti, said that it’s actually harder to go slower around here than it is to go faster. It was a different sensation for him to get used to.
“Yeah, it’s hard to go less than 215 around here from 17 years of doing the opposite,” the third generation driver continued. “Sometimes, as Scott (Dixon) and I were talking about, the car feels worse at that speed.
“Yeah, it’s not very confidence-inspiring. I think it’s the opposite to go that slow because the car doesn’t feel very good.
“Got through it. Teammates are happy with their cars. As Scott said, everybody is pretty happy right now. The temps play a part in that.”
Also, this year feels different too in a sense to him because he is raw in comparison to everyone else. Just he, Sage Karam and Juan Pablo Montoya haven’t been in an Indy Car race since last May. The other 28 drivers here have.
“Yeah, I was telling my team, it does feel different,” he said. “Usually it’s a continuation of the season. I think I’m just more excited actually because obviously I’m putting everything into this throughout the off-season, stuff like that.
“Yeah, I think kind of just more chomping at the bit to get back behind the wheel. It was good to get a couple runs. They slowed me down a bit to pass the phases, but we got through it. Now we can actually get to work.”
As far as the rest of the way, Andretti hopes his experience plays a role into how things shake out.
“I mean, it’s my 17th, so I’m just trying just get through it and tap into some experience, balance that with the speed of the rookies, try to be smart, then.
“Yeah, I mean, hopefully just be there when it counts. We have a little bit of a car speed issue right now which makes life a lot more difficult at the Speedway. Horsepower makes everything a bit easier. Hopefully we can close that gap from now until when we come back for the race.”
While it’s one day, he’s also not happy with where his car sits at the moment in the speed department.
“Yeah, kind of a second year in the row where we don’t have the fastest car on the team by a longshot. That makes it difficult. Probably right now if we had to qualify today, we would probably qualify in the 20s. That’s not exciting to me.
“But, yeah, as far as just mixing it up with these guys in traffic and stuff, it’s a blast.”