Marco Andretti is hoping 13 is his lucky number in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
While Andretti will have No. 98 on the side of his car, 13 has greater significance: it will be his 13th try to win the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.
And if 13 indeed proves to be lucky, it will finally end the dreaded “Andretti curse” at Indianapolis.
Grandfather Mario competed in the 500 29 times, winning just once, in 1969.
Father Michael competed in the 500 16 times, with a best finish of runner-up in 1991 and a pair of third-place showings in 2001 and 2006.
“When I think about my dad and his success, he’s dominated this race, too,” Marco told MotorSportsTalk. “I know he would have won it on skill as a driver, but it just for whatever reason eluded him. Still, he has five (500 wins) as an owner. Now, I want to win it for me, that’s where I’m at.”
And then there’s Marco’s 12 previous appearances in the Memorial Day Weekend classic, with a highest finish of second place in his first 500 in 2006 (lost by .064 seconds to Sam Hornish Jr.), as well as three third-place finishes in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
He also looked like a potential winner in 2012, leading a career-high 59 laps in the 500 before crashing 13 laps from the finish.
Add all that up and the Andretti family has managed just one win at Indianapolis in 57 combined tries. And it’s been 49 years since Mario’s win.
Soon or later, that has got to change, Marco said, and there wouldn’t be a better time to do so than Sunday.
He’s coming off a very strong week of practice where he was consistently among the fastest drivers on-track, including leading all drivers on two different days. He’s also starting from the outside of Row 4 (12th position).
“Man, I’m feeling as good as ever,” Andretti said. “I try not to get overconfident, I try not to get under-confident. I know in my 13 years here, it’s tough to win. I feel like it really picks the winner.”
And he’s hoping that finally, after nearly five decades of waiting since Mario’s win, another Andretti will drive into victory lane and toast his performance by drinking from the ceremonial bottle of milk.
“For me, it’d be a million pound gorilla off my back,” the third-generation member of the racing Andretti family said. “As a family, it’d be a long time coming.
“We’ve been so dominant there, the three of us (grandfather Mario, father Michael and himself). If I won, I think I’d just have to have a long cry because all of our misfortunes would probably come out in my head.
“Winning there would be a huge relief. It’s hard to put it into words what it would be, but it would make my career, that’s for sure.”
Andretti finished eighth in last year’s 500, watching as then-teammate Takuma Sato won, just like teammate Alexander Rossi did so a year earlier in 2016.
In fact, Andretti Autosport has won the 500 five times, including four while Marco has driven for the team (he’s racing for the affiliated Andretti Herta Autosport team this season).
And in this year’s race, he has five other teammates all vying for the Borg-Warner Trophy: Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz, Zach Veach and Stefan Wilson in the 33-car field.
Even so, that’s not stopping Andretti from feeling once and for all, finally, it’s his time and his turn to win the biggest race in the world.
“Man, I really hope so. As good as it is for team, it’s not great for me when my teammates win it, you know?” he said with a chuckle.
But getting serious again, he added, “I’ve run extremely strong there, but it’s just a place where a podium is not the same as anywhere else you go.
“Anywhere else you go, it’s a good day, good points and you get a trophy, but here you’re either a winner or you’re not. I’ve been on the podium four or five times there, and it’s one place where it doesn’t matter.”
The 31-year-old Andretti comes into Sunday’s race 10th in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings with 105 points, 73 points behind series leader Josef Newgarden. He’s earned three top-10s in the first five races of 2018, with a best of sixth place at Long Beach.
But the only part of the rest of the season he’s thinking about heading into Sunday. For at least one day, nothing else matters.
Said Andretti, “I’m as prepared as mentally, physically, spiritually as I can be and we’re ready to go, and if the stars align, it’s going to be ours. Hopefully, that happens.”