A New Beginning For Andretti
June 29, 2007 | 3:05 P.M. EST
That may not come as a surprise to those who followed the 20-year-old’s highly publicized rookie campaign last season, but in 2007, the fact that he finished an oval race is a minor miracle.
Of the eight IndyCar Series races competed this season, seven have been ovals, and last weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 was the first the third generation driver completed. Mechanical issues, accidents, driver error... – you can make a list of any and every possible excuse for failure drivers have used in the past, and more than likely Andretti can apply it to describe some of his races this year.
But on a day when he was under the weather, and other drivers couldn’t possibly find more ways to take each other out of an event, he persevered and finished a mere 0.0681 seconds behind his race winning teammate Dario Franchitti in the IndyCar Series’ inaugural visit to the Iowa Speedway.
"I just needed to finish," said Andretti. "I'm happy to be second of course. But no confidence lost here, for sure."
With that newfound assurance, the driver of the No. 26 NYSE Dallara-Honda will be looking for a fresh start to the season beginning with this weekend’s SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway.
In his lone start at the .75-mile D-shaped oval, Andretti started fifth and finished fourth, one of only six drivers who remained on the lead lap as race winner Sam Hornish Jr. obliterated the field en route to one of his most dominant performances of 2006.
"I'm very happy to have finished this race because with about 20 laps to go, I almost lost it," Andretti said after the Richmond race last season. "The NYSE car was pretty good, but it was also a handful at times. Once again, the NYSE boys did a good job all weekend. It would have been nice to have given the leader a run for the money at the end, but I'm still happy to have finished where we did."
In a year where everything has gone wrong - even when it shouldn’t - Richmond appears to be the perfect tonic for the second-year Andretti Green Racing driver as he looks to regain his oval confidence and build momentum for the remainder of the 2007 campaign.
After this weekend’s SunTrust Indy Challenge, the path gets even better for the struggling Andretti. Of the eight races remaining, four are on road-courses - his preferred type of track – and one is where he is the defending race winner; Infineon Raceway.
He may not be able to put himself in championship contention the rest of this season, but keep an eye on Marco Andretti this weekend. If he can follow up his strong Iowa performance with an equally good showing at Richmond, he may be able to make people forget his "sophomore slump" and get them talking about his potential once again.