Marco Andretti: “We’re on par for a great season”

Leave a comment

The confidence continues to grow for Marco Andretti, who is now the only IZOD IndyCar Series driver with Top-10 finishes in all four races this season after claiming a third-place result on Sunday at the Sao Paulo Indy 300.

Andretti, who often faltered on road and street courses in 2012, has done the opposite so far in 2013. His run to third in Brazil, which culminated with a last-lap pass of Josef Newgarden to get on the podium, has him believing that this year could be something special for him and his No. 25 RC Cola Andretti Autosport group.

“I think right now, we’re on par for a great season,” said Andretti, who sits second in the IndyCar championship behind Takuma Sato thanks to his early-season success. “[Road/street courses are] what used to be the tough part of the season for me. We’ve been getting some decent results where I used to struggle, so I’m pleased with that.”

With the Indianapolis 500 coming up, he appears to be coming on strong at the right time. Last year at Indy, the third-generation racer qualified fourth and led a race-high 59 laps but couldn’t stay up front in the second half and ended his day crashing with 12 laps to go.

There’s no doubt that he will be itching to erase that bad memory, one almost as gut-wrenching as when he lost the 2006 ‘500’ to Sam Hornish Jr. by six one-hundredths of a second. But while he’ll go all-out for victory at the Brickyard — he is, after all, an Andretti — he knows that there’s the championship to consider, too.

“We have some good momentum going, but we’ve always run well at Indianapolis,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a totally different ballgame being an oval. We just have to get a good race car there. If we can’t win, get another good result and keep the points going.”

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

Leave a comment

While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter