Marco Andretti knows he cannot rest on family laurels
Some might figure Marco Andretti got an early Christmas gift when he recently re-signed with Andretti-Green Racing, the high-profile IndyCar organization headed by his father Michael.
|Marco Andretti scored a podium result in the Malaysia A1GP race last month. It was smart for Andretti to race in A1GP this off-season. Racing in A1GP will certainly help to improve his road racing skills in the IndyCars, and it will help him to determine how well he matches up against some pretty good international talent.|
But the 21-year-old Nazareth native has a few other things on his wish list as he looks ahead to 2009.
He's looking for consistency from his team, his car and from himself.
Andretti wasn't pleased with his 2008 season on the Indy racing circuit. It gnaws at him that he was only seventh in the point standings with no wins and just one pole.
It started with so much promise, a second-place finish in the first race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He even led there for 85 laps.
But that was followed by a snapped half-shaft and a DNF (did not finish) at St. Petersburg and the inconsistent pattern was set.
''I've had two not-so-good years as far as results are concerned and I wasn't thrilled at all with last season,'' Andretti said earlier this week. ''We led in a lot of races and in all different types of circuits. We were competitive and then something happened. It was something different every time.
''It's not all luck. The entire team, including the engineers, have got to get to a point where we're giving our 'A' game every weekend. That's what it's going to take to start turning this thing around. That's why we're working to get the personnel in place to get the job done next year.''
Andretti says he knows what people are saying about him.
''They're saying 'Does he really have it? Is he really talented enough?' and I can't blame them,'' he said. ''I can't afford to keep hearing that. Whether people are saying it or not, I know I have to get better.
''We've got to have everything in place and perform to the best of our ability in each race. That's what I mean about consistency.''
And just because he's a member of his father's team doesn't mean he gets special treatment from the boss.
''That's the perception some people have, even within our own Andretti-Green team, but it's not the case,'' he said. ''When I talk to my dad, it's all business. I'm not going to go to him and say, 'Hey dad, I need this ...' I'm treated the same way as anyone else.
''I don't have a lot of leverage. I'm not established yet. I'm not a world champion. It would be foolish for me to sit there and make demands when he's got three other drivers to worry about. I'm definitely happy to remain a part of Andretti-Green, but there's no special treatment there.''
Andretti literally came within a few feet of winning IndyCar's feature attraction – the Indianapolis 500 – as a rookie in 2006. Last year, he finished third, but that wasn't what people were talking about after the race.
He was embroiled in controversy with his own Andretti-Green teammate Tony Kanaan.
Kanaan was caught by surprise when Andretti passed him and spun out of control, taking Sarah Fisher out with him.
Kanaan criticized Andretti on national TV and even though the two have talked about the incident several times, they haven't come to an agreement on what happened.
''Accidents are going to happen and Tony and I disagree to this day about what happened,'' Andretti said. ''But we're really good friends and we are always going to push each other.''
But it's Scott Dixon, last May's Indy 500 winner and series champ, who Andretti would like to start pushing at the top of the leader board.
''When you look at the stats, Dixon's average finish was second,'' Andretti said. ''In fact, the series winner the past two years has had an average finish of second. That's consistency and that's a high standard. That's where we need to get.''
Besides preparing for the 2009 season, Andretti is staying busy representing the U.S. and Andretti-Green on the A1 Grand Prix circuit.
Although the downturn in the economy hasn't really impacted his sport in a big way yet, Andretti is not taking anything for granted.
''We're fortunate with how many sponsors we have, but we know that times are tough for everyone,'' he said. ''From word of mouth, I hear things are getting pretty sketchy out there.
''Until you actually see money in an account from someone, you're not sure it's going to be there. That's why we really need to start winning.''
That's why Andretti is re-doubling his efforts to make himself a better driver and surround himself with a stronger team.
Even off the track, he's going to work harder than before.
''I'm starting to see the big picture of things,'' he said. ''It used to be with my schedule that I looked at things like, 'Oh, I have to go and do this.' Now, I look forward to doing them because it will help our sport, help our team.
''You need sponsors to make the cars go round and if meeting people and making appearances does that, then I will go do that and more.'' Morning Call