Marco, Where Have You Gone? Or, What’s in a Name?

IRR’s not asking about Marco Polo, either.

Where’s the Andretti Autosport driver who is actually named Andretti been lately? In the Bahamas? Marco hasn’t won an IndyCar race since Iowa in 2011, now over three years ago. That was only his second career ICS victory, the first a questionable result coming at Sonoma in 2006.

Marco

Hard to believe it’s been almost a decade since that memorable afternoon in NoCal where his teammates – specifically Bryan Herta – helped Marco cross the finish line first under controversial circumstances. With the nineteen year old rookie Andretti leading the field but running dangerously low on fuel, Herta spun out on his own causing a suspiciously beneficial caution period, clearing the way for his first win. Team owner Michael Andretti’s son’s first win.

Marco2

It certainly can’t be said in that dubious race that there were no team orders, eh Michael? Besides that, there’s Marco’s ONE other win in an eight plus year career. At Iowa. Can you name another driver with as long of a tenure in the series and so few results?  Well ok, since we’ve been discussing legacies another driver fitting the bill may be obvious to some. So in that case, name two.

Unlike young Rahal’s rides, Andretti Autosport has been one of the most successful teams on the grid for many years now, most recently winning the championship in 2012 as well as this year’s Indy 500 – both with Ryan Hunter-Reay.  Other AA drivers include Canadian James Hinchcliffe and Colombian Carlos Munoz, the former a three time winner (in less than eight years’ time) and the latter a strong rookie of the year candidate already with podium finishes. However, it’s Hinch who’s said to be out of the fold next year.

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On AA’s website, Marco’s stats and info are far more extensive than Hunter-Reay’s, featuring  a long list of accomplishments. We at IRR wonder how and why this could be (wink wink, nudge nudge). In all of those junior league results and podium finishes listed for Mario’s grandson, there are still only two big league wins. That’s in over a hundred and forty starts. He’s only once had better than a tenth place finish in the championship and that was ninth last year, according to ESPN.com. He currently runs ninth in the championship.

So where has Marco gone? It’s obviously not the equipment that’s at issue, else the entire team would be struggling. Team Target has underperformed all year while learning a new engine but they’ve obviously no shortage of talent behind the wheel and are improving.  One could rightly conclude that Marco enjoys the best equipment and the most support his outstanding team can offer, yet he shows no discernible improvement.

Over the years Andretti Autosport has rotated various engineers and strategists in and out of the family portion of the business, all racing regulars who’ve enjoyed big league success elsewhere. The wins for Marco still haven’t come. Young Andretti even went all the way to the UK for work with renowned driving coach Rob Wilson in early 2013. That too has failed to yield the anticipated results. They’ve changed Marco’s number from 26 to 25, changed paint schemes and changed sponsors. The team’s even switched engines again, going from Chevy back to Honda. What else can be changed other than the driver?

Marco 4

Marco said several years ago that because he works for his father he was expected to perform as well as other racers if not better and to consistently compete for wins. He also implied that he felt added pressure as an employee of his family. If a win every couple of years wasn’t good enough then – as he admitted – how is a win every four years good enough now? Or perhaps the question really is, what’s in a name?

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