Marco Andretti still searching for Indy 500 glory after 3rd-place finish

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Marco Andretti keeps banging on the door at Indianapolis, but the darn thing doesn’t seem to want to open.

The third-generation driver threatened late as he battled both Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves for the win in today’s Indy 500.

But the latter two drivers ultimately settled the matter among themselves, leaving him to settle for a third-place finish behind RHR and Helio.

Add that to a growing pile of near-misses for the son of Michael and grandson of Mario.

Today marks his third P3 finish at Indy to go along with the runner-up to Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006 and the fourth-place showing he had in last year’s ‘500.’

“[We were] close but we never really dominated. You could say that Ryan and Helio did,” said Marco. “The only way we had a shot is if those two got together. They were putting so many blocks on me that there was nothing I could do.

“Every time we got to the front, we got shuffled back.”

Marco took the lead from Hunter-Reay in Turn 3 with 19 laps remaining, but Hunter-Reay quickly reclaimed it on the next lap. Castroneves would also jump him for second, and that was that.

Michael Andretti, Marco’s team owner in addition to his Dad, felt like Marco’s No. 25 Snapple Honda simply had too much downforce in the final laps.

“There were a few times when Marco tried to get up there, but I saw his car didn’t have the speed…[The downforce] was the difference with Ryan’s car to his,” Michael said.

“I think they were both really good, but I think [Ryan’s car] was a little more trimmed, we had a little more speed. I knew at that point [of the race], if we were going to win it, it would most likely be with Ryan.”

Afterwards, Michael met up with his son, who according to him was “really upset.” Considering his own star-crossed history as a driver at Indianapolis, he couldn’t blame Marco for feeling that way.

“It’s a weird feeling because I really was disappointed for him,” Michael said. “I know you only get that many shots. He had a car that was close, just not close enough.

“Yet I’m so happy and proud of the rest of the team. So it’s a weird feeling. As a dad, disappointment. As a team owner, couldn’t be happier. You have to try to balance those things.”

Marco has now led 141 laps at Indy, which is the fifth-most among drivers that have never won. Michael tops that agonizing list with 431 laps led over his 16 starts in the ‘500.’

Optimism abounds with new INDYCAR media partnership

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Wednesday morning’s announcement that NBC Sports Group will become the exclusive home to the Verizon IndyCar Series via TV, digital, streaming, and direct-to-consumer rights was the conclusion of a long and thorough process to finalize a media partnership that can build on the recent growth of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

And CEO of Hulman & Company Mark Miles believes the final outcome is one everyone can be happy about.

“We’re delighted by every aspect of this announcement today and these arrangements,” Miles asserted in a media teleconference on Wednesday, also making note of a number of highlights about the new media package. “The increase in broadcast, the number of races on broadcast, is really important to the continued growth of the series. The continuity with one media partner who is committed to the sport and to INDYCAR, who can help promote from race to race to race to race throughout the season is important. Having our first product, if you will, our first offering to fans in the direct-to-consumer channel is important to us.”

Miles added, “It met our objectives of increasing the exposure of the sport, increasing the promotion of the sport, and getting us into the over-the-top (streaming) market. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

John Miller, president of programing for NBC Sports and NBCSN, echoed Miles’ enthusiasm and noted that INDYCAR viewership on NBCSN has grown substantially in recent years, and this new and enhanced partnership, which will feature the 103rd Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC in 2019, will build upon that.

“From the NBC perspective, we’ve seen the growth of IndyCar on our cable network NBCSN. We’ve had sustained growth each of the past several years. So the opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us and makes our championship season portfolio even stronger,” Miller said.

James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, added that this will also help the individual drivers grow their brands and attract more sponsorship opportunities.

“As drivers, we’re out there risking our lives to put on a good show,” Hinchcliffe said. “The more people that get to see it, get entertained by it, the better it is for us. As athletes, we’re all individual brands in and of ourselves. Getting ourselves in front of more people, it raises our value to our current partners and potential partners. From every element, this is a huge win across the board.”

The sponsorship angle is a critical side-piece to the new media contract, especially in light of several new sponorship announcements for a number of IndyCar teams as well as IndyCar’s ongoing effort to find a new title sponsor for the series in 2019.

Miles further emphasized that new media partnership will do a lot to serve the business of the teams, drivers, and the series in regards to sponsorship.

“I think it’s important to the entirety of the IndyCar ecosystem,” Miles noted. “For the series itself, at some point we should talk about our sponsorship effort, how we think they’re going to be benefited with this relationship. James earlier talked about our drivers or athletes, and they are individual brands. They’ll get more exposure. That will be good for them.

“We earlier this morning spoke to our team owners. They’re enthusiastic about it as it gives them more to say in the marketplace, more value. Certainly that will be true for our promoters of the races as well.”

A few highlights of the partnership are below.

  • Eight races will be broadcast on NBC, including the Indianapolis 500. The remaining races will be broadcast on NBCSN.
  • Qualifying and practice for all events will also be available live, either through NBC, NBCSN,, the NBC Sports App, or NBC Sports Gold an over-the-top streaming service offered by NBC.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also feature extra content to further supplement IndyCar coverage such as archived races and full event replays. Further information about that content will be revealed in the coming months.
  • Details about international coverage are pending.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also do a handful of exclusive live broadcasts for practice and qualifying sessions that are not televised.
  • NBC Sports Gold will do live broadcasts for all Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races. More details about coverage for the Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series will come at a later date.