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A happier Andretti returns to Indy 500 as a part-time racer

Marco Andretti doesn’t want to be on the track if he’s not racing. He will watch television, however, and offer guidance from 650 miles away.

Andretti was at his home in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, watching Andretti Autosport race the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last week when he had an idea: Colton Herta could pull over early and probably win the race.

Andretti therefore sent the idea – during the race – to Herta’s father, Bryan. As his son’s strategist, the elder Herta called Colton in two rounds early and ended the day in victory lane.

“I was really on the horn with Bryan. It’s fun for me,” Andretti said.

It validated Andretti’s skills as a strategist, but the third-generation racer doesn’t envision himself sitting atop a pit and calling another rider’s race. Instead, he’s transitioning into semi-retirement and finding his calling as something other than an IndyCar driver from one of motorsport’s famous families.

Andretti left his full-time race after the 2020 season and only returned for last year’s Indianapolis 500. He is back this month for a 17th attempt at victory in the race that tormented his family; Mario Andretti, his grandfather, has the only victory among five different Andretti there.

When Marco starts the race on May 29, he will overtake his father at the start of his career. Dad Michael Andretti went 0 for 16, while Mario Andretti’s win in 1969 was his only win in 29 starts.

“I think I’m more like my grandfather, I just like driving,” said Marco Andretti. “This year I’m going to have more starts than dad, which is crazy for me. When he tries to tell me something, I can tell he doesn’t know what he’s talking about now.

Michael Andretti is the Indy 500 strategist for his 35-year-old son, who made his own decision to step away from the family business.

Andretti Autosport struggled to find sponsorship for Marco before 2021 and he had had enough, anyway. Racing wasn’t so fun anymore and nine straight seasons without a win had taken its toll.

The Andrettis invested so much in the Indy 500, and when Marco finally got his own moment in the spotlight, it only ended in another disappointment. Marco took pole in 2020 – when the race was held in August without spectators due to the pandemic – but he didn’t even lead the first lap and finished in a crushing 13th place.

His best result out of the remaining seven races of this 2020 season was 15th and he was no longer eligible for the IndyCar prize fund which financially helps support full-time teams. That’s when Marco decided he’d had enough.

“What I put in there, I felt like I didn’t take out for various reasons,” he said.

Still, the Andrettis can’t stay away from the 500. Marco finished in a 19th-place finish last season, and this year’s Indy 500 will be his first IndyCar event in a year.

“It’s the one I live my life around,” he said. “I get jealous here and there. I’m like, ‘Ah man, I wish I was there.’ But often I don’t. Often when it’s 100 degrees out there, I look good.

He lives his life the way he wants it now. He will return to Tony Stewart’s six-race summer exhibition series for a second season when it resumes on June 18. He would like to race in IMSA sports cars, but only in the top class, as he is only interested in racing for wins.

Other than that, he has business interests outside of racing and doesn’t see a role for himself if his father eventually lands the Formula 1 team he’s chasing.

Getting away from racing has been liberating in all aspects of his life, he said, even interactions with fans.

“You sign 100 autographs and the 101st person is going to hate you, but you try to spend more time, try to put more of a smile on your face, which I think comes naturally with my decision,” he said. declared. “I’ve been able to shape my life the way I want to now, and even go have fun on SRX and do fun things. It still keeps me in the game. I’m not completely retired. It allows me to keep working and I put all my energy into this race, I’m good without the drudgery of a full season.

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