During the off-season, Marco Andretti went to work – he wanted to improve. He met up with a driver coach and spent time learning how he could improve.
The result of that experience is paying off as Andretti is off to a strong start this season with finishes of third and a pair of sevenths.
“This is what used to be the weakest part of the schedule for me, and I find myself just a few points out of the points lead,” he said. “I’m super thrilled about my progress in the off-season. Working on these weak points I think definitely has helped, but it’s definitely good to see results translate through.”
As far as stepping it up a notch and picking up his first victory of the year, he says it will come if he keeps driving like he has been.
“I’ve worked on my street courses in the off-season in a big way,” he commented. “Really I need to give my teammates credit, especially Ryan (Hunter-Reay). He adapted to the street courses a lot better than I did. I was really over-driving the car. In the off-season I really studied how I was over-driving the car. It ended up working against me, causing more problems for myself, leaving me on the outside looking in.
“This year, qualifying, there’s a couple hundredths of a second (that keep us) out of the top six, but it’s a lot better than looking in on the top 12, which is where we were last year. I think we’ve improved. But to get wins we just need to keep driving the way we are.”
Andretti added that, “this is the first time I can actually say that I can see myself winning this championship.” He says he feels much better where he is this year in points and being a couple hundredths off, rather than being on the outside of the top 12 and a couple tenths off.
“I look at our competitiveness in general,” he added. “I’ve been working on consistency in the off-season, and I’m pleased so far. We have that. But I need to be consistently better.
“I think if we keep driving the way we’ve been, the wins are going to come. So it’s hard not to get excited about that because I just know it.”
Andretti hopes to carry the success so far this year into Sao Paulo this weekend as he tackles the tricky street course. Known for its long straightaways and some passing zones, the biggest challenge is stay out of trouble.
“Qualifying is also important because of the stack-ups in Turn 1, if you’re able to be ahead of most of that, that will help,” he added. “From there, it’s just going to be about doing everything right. Obviously, it’s easier said than done, but it’s going to take just that in order to be victorious there.”
To try and minimize the turn one pile-ups, the track officials have widened the corner a little bit and changed the curbing. Andretti feels that will make it better as there wasn’t enough room there before.
“We didn’t have enough room to get it done,” he said. “We had to really be all the way through by the time you got to Turn 1 in order to make a clean pass. There’s no way two cars are fitting through there.”
With it being the month of May, there is a lot of talk already about the biggest race of the year – the Indianapolis 500. For any driver, that’s the ultimate goal for a driver and that’s no different with Andretti.
“I think it’s always been a realistic goal,” he commented. “So we just need to capitalize on it. Unfortunately I already have a similar record to dad, which is the most laps led for a non-winner. That part of it’s frustrating.”
In seven starts at Indianapolis, he has three podiums, including a second in the first race he ran there.
Following Indianapolis, Andretti also gets the treat of returning to his hometrack of Pocono Raceway to race and if he could both the Indy 500 and Pocono, it’d just be – spectacular.
“If we’re able to win Indy and Pocono, then we’re in it for the Triple Crown, which would be spectacular,” he commented. “I think I’m going to have a huge hometown fan base which will feel very good. We had a very good test there, as well. It’s a pretty daunting track at first. If you get it right, it could be very fun.”