Road to Indy: Marco follows in fatherâ€™s footsteps
Michael's 19-year-old son, Marco, will attempt to compete against his father for the first time on racing's biggest stage.
"It should be good fun," Marco Andretti said. "It's what we both love to do."
Four previous father-son combinations have attempted to race together at Indianapolis, including Mario Andretti and his sons Michael and Jeff. In 1984, Michael Andretti started alongside his father in his first Indianapolis 500 and won the Rookie of the Year award. Seven years later, younger brother Jeff started his first 500 and also won the Rookie of the Year.
"To be that close to dad at Indianapolis, it was a big moment for me," said Michael Andretti, who made 10 Indianapolis 500 starts against his father from 1984-94. "To be honest with you, my first year there was pretty much a dream. Everything just seemed to really go my way. It was just so cool to see Dad next to me when we were going down for the green flag."
But now, the tables have been turned on Andretti, who won the 500-Mile Race as co-owner of Dan Wheldon's effort last season. Andretti said it will be difficult to take off the owner's hat even though he'll be wearing a driver's helmet for the first time since the 2003 Indianapolis 500.
"It's going to be a little strange, I'll tell you," he said. "I think when you're out there as a rookie, you don't have to worry about (your dad). You're just worrying about yourself. Now I'm definitely going to be concerned with what's going on with him. It's going to be a little bit more of a nurturing feeling out there. It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment for me, for sure."
Marco Andretti, the current leader in the chase for the season-long Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award, will make his fourth career IRL IndyCarÂ® Series start at Indianapolis, but he is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He made his first-ever start on an oval in the IRL Indy Pro Series Freedom 100 last May and won the Liberty Challenge on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course a month later.
Andretti is confident that his son can be successful at Indianapolis and in the IndyCar Series.
"He's got everything it takes," Michael said. "It's just now you got to get him the miles and the experience. And the good part about Indy is you get a lot of running time. That's going to be the goal, just have him out there every day pounding around and just learning."
Marco, who enters Indianapolis off a successful test at Watkins Glen International, added running the entire month with his father as a teammate will be a benefit to his development.
"It will be great to talk to him about what's going on the track," Marco said. "Being on track the same day, he'll know exactly what I'm feeling because he's there. It's priceless information to have."
And priceless memories to make.
It begins for the pair on May 7, when both will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program/refresher course. Marco Andretti, as a first-time driver at Indianapolis, must complete all four speed phases to be eligible to compete for the rest of the month's activities. Michael will participate in a refresher program.
"I'm looking forward to a long month and a shot at the 500," Marco said. "It's good for rookies because I have a month to get my act together. That's going to be the biggest thing for me. I'm nervous and anxious right now. Once I get on track, a lot of unknowns will be answered. I just want to get the month going."
FATHERS AND SONS:
Here's a look at the four previous father-son combinations who attempted to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
. 1977, Jim McElreath and his son James entered the 500. James McElreath failed to qualify.
. 1983, Al Unser Jr., raced against his father, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, for the first time at Indy. The Unsers raced against each other eight additional times.
. 1984, Michael Andretti raced against his father, 1969 winner Mario Andretti, for the first time. The duo raced against each other nine additional times.
. 1991 Jeff Andretti, Michael's younger brother, made the first of three starts against his father. IRL