INDIANAPOLIS — Marco Andretti knows how much heartache his family has suffered at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He needs no reminders that IndyCar could use an American superstar, and with his famous last name, he is quite aware of the hope that maybe he can be the one to elevate this attention-starved series.
None of that matters to Andretti as he heads into the Indianapolis 500.
He believes he can win today’s race — “it’s going to be our race to lose,” he said — and he wants it, badly. But Andretti wants it for himself, for his own career, and not because of what it would mean to his family or for IndyCar. Mario Andretti won in 1969, and no Andretti has done it again in 65 starts and many of those races were devastating near-misses.
“That’s not my approach to the event. My approach is I want to win our Super Bowl,” Andretti said. “I put that pressure on myself. I don’t want to do it because he did it and my dad didn’t, that’s all bonus. Do I think we can? You’re darn right.”
The 96th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is the most wide-open race in a very long time. Engine competition for the first time in six years and the introduction of a new car has widened the pool of potential winners, and there’s no clear favorite.
“I think we’re going to see the best race we’ve had in at least a decade,” said Roger Penske, winner of 15 Indy 500s and the team owner of pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe.
Penske is undefeated this season, as Helio Castroneves and points leader Will Power have combined to win the first four races. And with Chevrolet power, Penske drivers have swept all five poles so far this season.
Andretti has been consistently fast lately, and was thought to be a threat for the pole. He wound up fourth.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard knows that an Andretti win would be a very good thing for the series.
“Wherever you go in the world, Andretti is known in racing,” he said. “This is Marco’s stance. I’ve never seen him so confident. It’s like a new Marco to me.”