Strong Performance For Andretti
April 12, 2010 | 4:18 P.M. EST
"(Marco's) driving reminded me of his father, Michael Andretti," Castroneves said after winning the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union. "Marco did a good job in passing me (for the lead). In fact, he kind of like pushed me away. And he was driving like he was more patient this time."
Andretti led 58 laps in the IZOD IndyCar Series' first visit to the picturesque 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Ala., and nearly came away with his first win since his rookie season in 2006. Though his strategy led to a fifth-place finish, he posted his first top-five finish on a road and street course since he finished fifth at Watkins Glen last season.
"We have to be happy to put the Venom car into the top five, especially after our finishes on road courses last year," said Andretti, whose average finish on a road and street course was 8.85 in 2009. "I think maybe we could have stretched out each of our stints a bit longer and gained on fuel one lap at a time. Helio (Castroneves) just went longer than us each time and that was the difference at the end. He was able to go that much farther and we fell short."
The performance could help in rebuilding the confidence of the young American driver, who along with teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay, Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan, has shown his Andretti Autosport team has the pace of Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
"We just have to keep marching forward," said Andretti, who has qualified for the Firestone Fast Six at St. Petersburg and Barber. "The four of us are working together to keep improving our race cars; we're still a bit off pace. Overall I think this shows we're on the right track."
And it showed his racing rivals that they may have to deal with the No. 26 Team Venom Energy car more often this year.
"He definitely made the emphasis on getting past people," said Scott Dixon, who finished second at Barber. "On a track so difficult to pass, he did a great job. To be honest, I'm sure he had some people yelling at him to make him save fuel. For him to not make any mistakes that I saw with Helio in his mirrors, he did a hell of a job today."