28 June 2011
Marco and Michael thrilled with Iowa victory
Marco Andretti has been conspicuous by his absence from victory lane for nearly five years, but he silenced the critics with a fabulous drive at Iowa Speedway to win at the weekend.
Sometimes you have to stop and remind yourself how quickly things move in the world of motorsport. Only a month ago, Andretti Autosport were in the depths of despair, having failed to qualify two of their series drivers for the all-important Indianapolis 500 and reduced to the ignominy of buying a seat from AJ Foyt for Ryan Hunter-Reay. It was such a disastrous display that many were wondering if this was the end of the road for the team, especially with Danica Patrick set to quit and move to NASCAR.
Fast forward a month and suddenly Andretti Autosport are back in victory lane, with Marco Andretti taking his first win in almost five years (and 78 races). And unlike his sole previous victory at Sonoma in 2006 which was the result of a fuel conservation strategy, it wasn't luck or happenstance that put them there at Iowa: Marco had been fast from the green flag, making up positions from the start and then taking on the likes of Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan wheel-to-wheel - and beating them in a flat-out fight. It was probably the best drive of Marco's IndyCar Series career to date.
"It was fun racing!", said Marco. "It's always nice at the front. You know you can always trust those guys. It was close, it was dicy, but that's what the fans want."
What really impressed observers was the way he had bided his time before overtaking Kanaan, and then intelligently played the veteran Brazilian driver - luring him into an overtaking move that played into Marco's hands and allowed him to dive to the inside and break Kanaan's momentum and end his comeback challenge.
"I think the last 30 laps I was really asking how many laps to go because I didn't want to wait until three laps to go to make the move because if he would have chopped me or something, I would have been way back kind of like what I did to him," said Marco. "I wanted to kind of be in the driver's seat and kind of make the move when he was least expecting it, and from there we had to really put our head down. I got the lead a couple times so I kind of knew what I needed to stay on the bottom. I was really aggressive with the tools in the car and stuff, and we made it work.
"I was trying a couple times on the outside, but I knew I had to go on the inside when he was least expecting it, like he did to me a couple times," he explained. "It was good racing for a while. We were clean, and you know, if I did anything mean to him, I'm sure he understands it's for the win, and I wouldn't be belly aching if he chopped me. It's for first place."
Marco knows Kanaan well, the two of them having been team mates up until the end of 2010. Kanaan was happy for Marco's win and said "He did a great job. It was a great battle, a great race," although he was less appreciative of that final move: "It was pretty clean until he chopped me off." Still, he was one of the first to arrive in victory lane to congratulate the winner.
Marco insisted that he hadn't changed his driving style to achieve this win and it was just everything coming together at last. "All I've gained is experience. We've been in a position to win a lot of races we've come up short, so it's more, I think, relieved is the word. You know, I never doubted the team, never doubted myself. I always said as soon as the stars were aligned and a little bit of luck goes my way that we'd be sitting here.
"I think it's just the drought, so to speak, just made me appreciate what we have here in IndyCar racing," he continued. "From the drivers to the teams, it just makes us appreciate being here that much more because we know we beat those guys ... I'm going to be looking to make a habit of this, that's for sure. You know, it definitely gets the monkey off our back a bit because, you know, we can quiet a lot of my doubters at the same time. It feels so good."
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