By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Marco Andretti started his “Month of August” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a positive opening day, setting the second fastest overall speed at 224.345 mph during Wednesday’s practice.
While it was a strong outing for his Andretti Autosport teammates with James Hinchcliffe fastest overall (224.526 mph) and Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth (223.431 mph), Andretti is simply focusing on the bigger picture with hopes of finally capturing the Borg-Warner Trophy next Sunday.
It didn’t meant Andretti wasn’t satisfied with his speed right out of the gate as he felt his car ran good despite a brief hiccup in the morning session when his No. 98 U.S. Concrete/CURB Honda coming to a complete stop at pit entry and had to be towed back into the paddock.
“Funny enough, really I was more focused on the race car. I was trying to bury myself in traffic on older tires a lot today,” said Andretti, who’ll be attempting his 15th Indy 500. “We didn’t really focus on fast times. It was kind of nice that materialized as well. Well, second fastest time.
“It’s good that the car rolled off with some pace. That’s always kind of like the first hurdle you have to get over. From there it’s just working on the car balance. That’s what we were able to do. We were one of the better ones in the pack today. It just seems kind of hard to pass where things are at right now. So far so good. It was a good start.”
To keep the ball rolling, Andretti wants more positive days like Wednesday where his car is prepared for all challenges, again not so much about being fast at one point of the day. On a 15-lap average run, Andretti was seventh at 219.443 mph, the fastest out of the six-car Andretti Autosport stable.
“I’m not just talking about the speed. Just the way the car felt, really putting ourselves in really tough situations like the race is going to be,” Andretti added. “That’s going to be my focus, is to try to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and put myself in really tough spots, make the car as good as we can make it.
“Really, really focused on the race. I’ve been quickest here a lot, I’ve been on the front row, I’ve been in the top 10 the majority in qualifying, but it hasn’t gotten me a Borg-Warner. That’s my focus right now.”
This season has been another up and down championship trail for the 33-year-old, most of which have been out of control as he’s failed to finish a third of the season due to mechanical issues and sits 21st in points.
However, going into the 104th Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge (August 23 at 1:00 p.m. EST on NBC), Andretti comes in with much encouraging momentum as he escaped the Iowa Speedway doubleheader with a 10th place finish in Race No. 2.
“When stuff is out of my control, there’s not much I can do, right? Just got to keep going. Yeah, that’s basically my answer. A lot of it’s been circumstantial, DNF’s here, a fire in Iowa, stuff like that,” said Andretti.
“I think we just came off one of my worst tracks, is Iowa. We top 10’d it. That was our first normal race of the season and we were in the top 10.
“We started at Texas, we should have finished fourth through sixth. We had some stuff go wrong there.
“It’s not really pace this year. That’s kind of what is keeping me upbeat and positive. This place, I feel good around here regardless.”
The Indy madness will soldier onto Thursday (11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PST on NBC Sports Gold) where Andretti and the gang will aim on improving to assure they don’t regress as race day approaches.
“I almost wish it was a one-day event sometimes because we roll off so strong every year on opening day. We have been quickest more often than not I think, or at least up there,” said Andretti. “My plan now is to just not derail it and keep just fine-tuning it, slowly improving it, not go backwards throughout the month.”