The name Andretti is synonymous with Indianapolis. The two are married to one another, in a unique love-hate relationship.

The Indianapolis 500 has meant everything to this family. It has given them an extraordinary amount of pain and sorrow, yet it has also brought them joy and elation. The 1969 race was supposed to be the start of multiple victories and bottles of milk. Instead, the glass has remained empty, as the thirst increases each passing year.

Mario, Michael, and Marco have 61 combined Indy 500 starts. While they have just the lone win, there are plenty of other numbers worth mentioning. They have started on pole four times and have a total of 11 front-row starts. Their average starting positions (8.7 Mario, 10.6 Michael, 10.4 Marco) are all very similar with Michael having the slight edge over Marco in terms of the best average finish (11.8 to 12.4) in the race.

Michael made 16 starts in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and Marco will make his 17th next Sunday, which makes 250 in his career. Marco has completed more laps than his father (3,000 to 2,653) but Michael has the overwhelming edge in laps led with 431 to Marco’s 141. In fact, Michael owns the record for the most laps led by a driver that has never won the race.

That is an accurate representation of the amount of heartbreak that Michael suffered during his career at Indianapolis. Mario managed to finish all 500 miles of the race five times in his 29 starts. By comparison, Michael did so just four times. That is an eye-opening statistic when you consider the reliability issues that drivers faced during Mario’s era.

We all know the story of how the 2006 race played out, and how it ended. Nobody knows that more than Marco, who is constantly reminded of that epic finish in his rookie year. Now 16 years later, Marco returns to his second home with the same appetite for victory, but an even greater hunger.

For the second consecutive year, Marco is not running the full season schedule. The veteran driver’s primary focus is on the Month of May, and nothing else. "I’m good without the grind of a full season. The Indy 500 is the one I live my life around. I actually thought it was going to take me a while, but I feel right at home."

“I’m as happy as I’ve ever been, focused on what I want to focus on, which is putting all of my energy on winning this race,” Marco stated after earning pole position for the 2020. “Getting the pole has put me in a different mindset here, which is the kind of mindset I came here with a rookie.”

That was one of the strangest days in the history of this iconic event. Typically, hundreds of thousands of fans are gathered in the grandstands – even during qualifying. Marco has always been a fan favorite, and seeing him in victory lane here would be monumental for the sport as a whole.

Imagine the roar of the crowd and the energy that would radiate throughout this great coliseum of speed. We were robbed of that moment when he crossed the yard of bricks on his fourth and final qualifying lap. The only thing that could make up for that would be the fans celebrating him drenching himself with a bottle of milk.

In addition to his runner-up finish as a rookie, Andretti has finished 3rd three times and finished 4th in his first start on the front row. While his pole run in 2020 was invigorating, he has still not led a lap in this race since 2014. The results have simply not been there these last few years but a refreshed and motivated Marco might just be the perfect combination.

The Andretti Autosport team has always been one of the larger teams in the month of May. In addition to their full-time entries, they often have one or two extra cars. Marco is now that extra car, and while he is easily the most experienced driver on the team, he has some great teammates to work with.

Colton Herta might be the most talented driver in the series. Alexander Rossi is a former 500 winner, and all expectations are that Romain Grosjean will soon be an IndyCar race winner. Teamwork is a major part of the recipe for success at Indy, and they all know it.

Marco will again have his father on the radio calling strategy for him during the race. He believes their ability to work well together has strengthened over time. "As a kid, we butted heads a lot. Back then, we would get passionate on the radio. I think it really distracted a lot of people around us. Now they laugh and smile when they hear us going at each other. Because they know we just want to win and are having fun."

During the open test last month, Marco said that things have a different feel this year. "It does feel different. Usually it's a continuation of the season. I think I'm just more excited actually because obviously I'm putting everything into this throughout the off-season. I think kind of just more chomping at the bit to get back behind the wheel."

There is always a sense of optimism for Marco during the month of May. His confidence continues to grow as he prepares for his next chapter at the speedway. Andretti will be in the No. 98 car once again, which has some special history here. Rossi took the 98 to victory lane in 2016. Before that it was Dan Wheldon that won this race as a one-off entry. Both of those races took place on May 29, the same date as the race this year.

Marco would love nothing more than to match that result by Wheldon. What an incredible story that would be. And after all, isn’t that what Indy is all about?