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.’

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.