By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
INDIANAPOLIS – After a solid week of practice leading into the weekend, Marco Andretti endured one of the toughest qualifying efforts of his career at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 29-year-old became part of the drama in attempting to make the Fast Nine Shootout on Saturday, getting bumped out in the waning minutes by Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay just moments after doing to same to the 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion.
More misfortune hit Andretti leading up to his run in the opening round of qualifying on Sunday after learning that his No. 27 Snapple Honda didn’t have fifth gear.
Amid the circumstances, the 2006 Indianapolis 500 runner-up put in a four lap average speed at 227.969 mph around the 2.5-mile oval, good enough to start 14th in the milestone event.
This year’s qualifying effort is Andretti’s worst since starting 27th in 2011, the year before he started 16th but managed to fight his way up through the field to finish third.
During his career in the Indianapolis 500, Andretti has scored four podiums in 10 starts, with his most recent coming in 2014.
Even with one of the worst starts of his career at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Andretti knows it’s a long race and is looking to do what the previous two winners have done – make a comeback.
“Qualifying without fifth gear is not easy,” Andretti said. “All I can say is I hope we are getting our luck out of the way before this race. I ride with my guys – we could start this race 33rd and I’m going in as confident as ever. Yeah, we could’ve been top nine or even pole contenders, but we’ve been up against it all week – a different problem every time we come out.
“But we’re ready to battle and the way I look at it is like having a bad first pit stop in the race, even if you’re on pole. We just have to keep battling. We’re looking to do what (Juan Pablo) Montoya did last year and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) did the year before that. That’s the goal.”
Image: Joe Skbinski/INDYCAR