By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Since 1965, the Andretti family name has become synonymous to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Outside the years of 1979, 1996-2000, 2004-05, at least one has competed in the Indianapolis 500. Those keeping score, that’s 49 of out the last 58 years.
For Marco Andretti, it’ll be his 16th start in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, equaling his father Michael’s starts. This bears the question of how much longer until the Andretti name no longer competes at Indy as a driver?
During Indy 500 Media Day Thursday, Marco was asked should he win the 105th Indy 500, would he pull a Sam Hanks (1957) and retire?
Marco responded that it’s a “good problem to have and good decision to make.” However, he hopes that elusive triumph will extend his racing career.
“I’ve thought about that. I just think when you’re able to do that, there’s a lot of opportunities that might arise and I would have to just game plan it at that point,” said Marco.
“If a unique one comes with a great offer that’s hard to turn down, you take it. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Marco isn’t the lone Andretti currently competing in the world of motorsports. Jarett Andretti, son of the late John Andretti, has competed in the Freedom 100 and IMSA Prototype Challenge. Marco even expressed interest of running races with his cousin at some point in 2021.
On paper, you’d think Jarett is bound to carry the Andretti legacy if the opportunity arise. When asked by Motorsports Tribune, Marco admitted he hasn’t asked Jarett about running Indy.
“I haven’t talked to him if that’s where he wants to ultimately be. I don’t know which path he wants to go,” said the 2006 Indy 500 runner-up finisher. “Now that you say that, I would like to ask him because I don’t know if his ultimate goal is to run here or not.
“As far as I feel I could be competitive here and be good and be blessed to have sponsors to do it, I think I’ll be back because this place means a lot to me.
“Between him and I and, who knows generation. Maybe my brother. Who knows we have a big Italian family.”
Time will ultimately tell if we’ll see a sixth Andretti compete in the Indy 500. But Mario has spoken highly of Michael’s youngest son, seven-year-old Rio Andretti. Marco shared the tale how Rio felt about straightaways and turns.
“Here’s a funny part of the story because my grandfather was kind of updating and he talked to dad about it. They said, Mario asked Rio, ‘Do you like the straightaways better or the turns?’
“He goes, ‘The straightaways because they’re fast!’
Then Mario goes, ‘Do you like the turns?’
Rio goes, ‘No, I don’t like the turns.’
“They’re kids, but he’s having fun with it,” Marco continued. “We had a family dinner at dad’s Tuesday night and he was circling on the four-wheeler the whole night. So yeah, maybe. You thought I had pressure imagine being named Mario Andretti.”
Speaking of Mario, there’s a good chance his 52 wins will be equaled by pole sitter Scott Dixon. If “The Iceman” scores his second Indy 500 win, he’ll equal Mario’s mark for second all-time Indy car victories.
When it happens, Marco replied: “I get yelled at all the time for that. Mario just blames me apparently that I’m not stopping Scott. Not a lot of people are. He says it in a joking way. I think records are made to be broken. They really are.
“I think if you asked me, I think Scott’s one of the best to ever do it,” Marco on Dixon. “I’ve gone up against him for 16 years and a lot of the races that I’ve been able to win or be on the podium, he’s on the podium with me.
“Even qualifying, like ‘Oh, Scotty’s right there!’ Like he’s the benchmark and he’s been the benchmark. You always know if you’re able to beat him that you’re going to be somewhere towards where you need to be.”
This year, the 34-year-old racer has scaled back on competing in the NTT IndyCar Series. At the moment, the Indy 500 is the only scheduled race for the No. 98 Honda. It doesn’t mean he’s not a busy man because he’ll be running SRX with the likes of Tony Stewart, Willy T. Ribbs and Bill Elliott this summer.
Also, the 25th place starter has Michael over the radio once again. Things have been good and fun, reflecting quite a bit on their bondage.
“I’m at a point now where he actually knows I’m listening him because I used to pretend I didn’t, but I was,” Marco on his father. “A lot of when you saw us kind of raise our voices and going at each other. We go to dinner afterwards.
“I think it more affected everybody around us because we’d come in and they’d all just be like with their eyes open. We were always fine.
“It’s just so turnkey this whole situation just coming here. Everybody’s like, ‘Oh what is it like to be back?’ I’m like, I was just here in August guys. It Seems pretty term turnkey and at home, so everything’s good.”