Andretti leads early, comes home fifth at Texas

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Marco Andretti continued his consistent 2013 campaign but fell out of a tie for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead with a fifth-place finish in last night’s Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway, which was won by new outright points leader Helio Castroneves.

Andretti looked stout in the opening stint of the race, quickly taking the lead from pole sitter Will Power and staying there through the first caution of the night at Lap 53. In the next stint, he stayed within striking distance of the leaders, but lapped traffic visibly frustrated him – he twice threw up a hand in frustration toward Sebastien Bourdais, with whom he had a close call on the track.

Eventually, Andretti re-assumed the point on Lap 94 after teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay relinquished it to pit. But Castroneves managed to reel him in and pass him for P1 just two laps later, and Andretti found himself set back by a caution later on.

“I think [pit strategy] worked out for Ryan [Hunter-Reay] – he had a vibration and came in early [on Lap 4],” said Andretti.  “He went out, ran some quick laps and he didn’t catch a yellow. We tried to do the same thing, we caught the yellow and the RC Cola car ended up a lap down.”

Andretti would eventually put himself back on the lead lap but by then, his title rival Castroneves had emphatically put his stamp on the proceedings. However, the third-generation driver still managed to post a solid result and that’s what he’ll have to keep doing throughout the summer in order to position himself for a title run.

“It’s unfortunate and to top it all off, the worst guy in the championship fight against me won, but congrats to him,” Andretti said with a a laugh. “We’ll move on to [the Milwaukee] IndyFest next week and try to make the points back.”

Castroneves will take a 22-point edge over Andretti to Saturday’s race at the Milwaukee Mile (4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network).