Marco Andretti returns to Indy 500 at peace with new life: ‘I’m good without the grind’

Marco Andretti Indy 500
Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – Just below the Indy 500 Winners Circle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Marco Andretti wandered up to a group of reporters Tuesday morning with an easygoing gait and a broad smile.

It’s been a while, huh?

“About a year,” Andretti said. “Give or take.”

The third-generation driver has adjusted well to a much slower pace since stepping back last year after 15 consecutive full-time seasons in the NTT IndyCar Series.

JIMMIE WATCH: Johnson third fastest on opening day of practice

INDY 500 INFO: Start times, schedules, TV, stats, historical details about the race

When he announced that move 17 months ago, Andretti described it as a “reset” of a racing career that had produced two IndyCar victories and some agonizing near-misses and disappointments at the Brickyard (notably a razor-thin loss to Sam Hornish Jr. as a 2006 rookie). In 2020, he started on the pole position but was unable to lead a lap.

In a statement at the time, his father, Michael, alluded to the pressure that Marco had faced as “for any multi-generational athlete, it can be really challenging to find your own ground and make your own name on top of your family’s. Marco has always had the courage to chart his own path.”

Marco Andretti said Wednesday he remains very much at peace with his decision to scale back his IndyCar schedule to the Brickyard, which always has been the center of his family’s universe as the site of some triumphs and many heartbreaks for him, his father and his famous grandfather, Mario.

“What I put into it, I felt I wasn’t getting out of it for various reasons,” Marco said of racing full time in IndyCar. “But (the Indy 500) is the one I live my life around.”

The 106th Indy 500 will mark his first IndyCar start since the Brickyard last year.

His main focus in 2021 was the six-round Superstar Racing Experience, where he won in a stock car last July at Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin against a stacked field that included Tony Stewart, Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves.

Andretti’s only other major start of 2021 was in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, sharing an LMP3 prototype car with his cousin Jarett (who runs the Andretti Autosport team) and Oliver Askew in the six-hour race at Watkins Glen International.

The limited schedule has been ideal for Marco, who said he has turned down “a ton of rides” in sports cars because he prefers racing in the fastest overall division without having to worry about traffic (“I don’t like looking in my mirrors; if there’s closing rate, I want to be the guy closing”) in the slower prototypes and GT classes.

Despite racing less often, he remains a fan favorite at Indy, where he has been signing autographs this week with a smile “that is coming more natural with my decision a couple of years ago.

“I’ve been able to mold my life the way I want to do it now,” Andretti, 35, said. “And even go have fun on SRX and do fun stuff, but it still keeps me in the game. I’m not fully retired. It keeps me working, and I put all my energy into this race. I’m good without the grind of a full season.”

There are times he still misses racing, though. He attended the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach last month and was itching to be behind the wheel as the street course produced record lap times with unexpected grip. He also felt pangs watching IndyCar drivers navigate a rain-soaked Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last week.

“I get jealous here and there,” he said. “That wet race last week, I wish I was in, that’s all me. So here and there, I’m like, ‘Oh man, I wish I was there.’ A lot of times when it’s 100 degrees, I’m good watching.”

Particularly when he still can have an impact on a race’s outcome from his home in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

Last Saturday, Marco furiously was texting Andretti Autosport strategist Bryan Herta as the track dried during the opening laps, advising an early pit stop for Colton Herta, who had started 14th. The team made the call ahead of the field, and Herta made up 11 seconds while catapulting into the lead on Lap 5 in his first victory of the 2022 season.

Though he enjoys advising, Marco has no interest in becoming a race strategist, nor in moving into management. In his last few seasons of full-time IndyCar, he was more involved in competition and personnel moves but discovered “I think I’m more like my grandfather. I just like enjoying driving.”

But he remains hugely supportive of Andretti Autosport – especially with a Formula One program looming as a future possibility.

“I think it’s awesome,” Marco said of his father’s goal to be on the F1 grid. “It’s a potential reality right now. Every day, there’s always something that happens that, ‘Oh wow, this could happen.’ It’s been exciting. I know it’s been my grandfather’s dream. It’s putting years on his life for sure.”

While he might not share his ambition for team ownership, Marco will have one up on Michael this year – May 29 will mark his 17th Indy 500, one more start on the 2.5-mile oval than his father.

“Which is crazy to me,” Marco said. “So when he tries to tell me something, I say he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Though he was kidding, their father-son relationship often was tested years ago by in-race squabbling that eventually led to Michael removing himself from his son’s pit stand. They since have learned to work well together, and for the second consecutive year, Michael Andretti will be calling strategy for his son at the Indy 500.

“As a kid, we butted heads a lot,” Marco said. “Back then, we’d get animated on the radio – passionate on the radio – I think it really distracted a lot of people around us, and they would make mistakes because they were nervous. Now they laugh and smile when they hear us going at each other. Because they know we just want to win and are having fun and we know how to turn it off as quick as we turn it on, so we’ve been pretty good together, actually.”

Just like the Andrettis and the Brickyard. Indianapolis is virtually synonymous with the family name, and Marco was reminded on his first walk into Gasoline Alley this week that there is no place he would rather be in May.

“I actually thought it was going to take me a while, but I feel right at home,” he said. “I feel really comfortable, right up to speed. Now I’m learning to embrace everything because I think it can be a grind when (the Indy 500 is) a continuation of a season. But for me, I look forward to every part of it.”

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Cooper Webb


For the fifth time in 10 rounds of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season, the three riders at the top of the championship standings shared a podium and while those points tell one story, the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit tell a slightly different tale.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Detroit
Cooper Webb is peaking at the right time. – Feld Motor Sports

Chase Sexton has been all but perfect during the past 45 days with podium finishes in each of his heats and Triple Crown features. His only stumble during this period was a 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis Main. Last week, Sexton was perfect with wins in both his heat and the feature, although he needed a little help from an Aaron Plessinger mistake to take the top spot on the podium at the end of the night.

Cooper Webb finished fifth at Houston and was beginning to worry ever so slightly about his position in the points. Prior to the race in Tampa, he told NBC Sports that it was time to win and like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence, Webb went out and captured it. Following that race, Webb has swept the podium and earned the red plate two weeks ago in Indianapolis. At Detroit, he added two more points on Eli Tomac as the season begins to wind down.

Tomac struggled with a stiff neck at Indianapolis and after a modest third-place showing in Detroit, he revealed he was still suffering a little. Webb and Sexton have been able to close the gap on Tomac in the past 45 days, but one of the main reasons he is so close in the points was a pair of wins that started the year. Seattle is going to be important for the defending champion because Tomac cannot afford to lose any more momentum with seven rounds remaining.

MORE: Chase Sexton inherits the win in Detroit

It appeared Jason Anderson was turning things around. He earned his fifth heat win at Detroit, which was also his sixth consecutive race (including features) in which he scored a top-five. A fall in the Detroit Main dropped him a lap off the pace and sent him home with a season-worst finish of ninth, causing a ripple effect in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Justin Barcia was a huge part of the show last week in Detroit. He swapped positions with both Webb and Tomac in the middle stage of the race, which allowed Sexton to close the gap. Barcia finished fourth in that race to earn his third consecutive top-five. He’s been outside the top 10 only once in the first 10 rounds.

Adam Cianciarulo had a great start to the Main. He led a couple of laps before losing a lap and slipping back to eighth in the final rundown. That run was strong enough to elevate him three positions in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit.

450 Rankings

Driver Percentage
1. Chase Sexton
[2 Main, 6 Heat wins]
87.00 1 0
2. Cooper Webb
[2 Main, 1 Heat win]
86.71 2 0
3. Eli Tomac
[5 Main, 6 Heat wins]
84.57 3 0
4. Jason Anderson
[5 Heat wins]
80.71 4 0
5. Ken Roczen
[1 Main, 1 Heat win]
80.50 5 0
6. Justin Barcia
[1 Heat win]
79.07 7 1
7. Aaron Plessinger 77.14 6 -1
8. Adam Cianciarulo 69.75 11 3
9. Christian Craig 68.86 10 1
10. Justin Cooper 63.90 9 -1
11. Justin Hill 58.57 15 4
12. Dean Wilson 51.50 12 0
13. Colt Nichols 51.25 13 0
14. Shane McElrath 46.86 17 3
15. Josh Hill 46.79 16 1
16. Benny Bloss 45.31 18 2
17. Jared Lesher 39.00 NA
18. Joey Savatgy 38.63 14 -4
19. Cade Clason 37.50 21 2
20. Grant Harlan 35.54 23 3

Supercross 450 Points

The NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings look at the past 90 days in the 250 class in order to have a balanced comparison between the East and West divisions and Hunter Lawrence has been all but perfect this year. At Detroit, he earned his fifth win of the season and kept alive a streak of podium finishes in six rounds. He tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 250 wins one week before the West riders take to the track for back-to-back races at Seattle, Washington and Glendale, Arizona.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Detroit
Nate Thrasher is settling into a comfortable role as ‘best in class’. – Feld Motor Sports

The Lawrence brothers are dominating the points in each of their respective divisions, which means the remainder of the field is battling to be best in class.

In the East, that rider is Nate Thrasher, who beat Hunter in a head-to-head matchup in their heat only to finish second in the main when the majority of points were awarded. Thrasher seems to have accepted his position in the championship standings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying for wins.

Haiden Deegan showed a lot of aggression in his heat last week. He threw a couple of block passes at his teammate Jordon Smith and set up a series of events that kept Smith from making the big show while Deegan settled into second in the preliminary. Deegan was unconcerned about how he raced his teammate and would not let a little controversy keep him from celebrating his second career podium in Detroit.

Supercross 250 Points

Jeremy Martin just keeps clicking off solid results. He won his heat last week by making a pass on Deegan and Smith while they were in the heat of their battle. Martin finished fourth in the Main, which means he continues to have only one finish worse than sixth in any of the features or mains.

Smith fell one position in the points standings, but the damage was even worse in SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit. Crash damage in his heat contributed to a last-place finish in that race, for which he earned minimal points. He was not able to advance from the Last Chance Qualifier after stalling his bike in heavy traffic.

250 Rankings

Rider Power
1. Hunter Lawrence – E
[5 Main, 5 Heat wins]
90.43 1 0
2. Jett Lawrence – W
[3 Main, 3 Heat wins]
90.30 2 0
3. Nate Thrasher – E
[1 Main, 3 Heat wins]
84.00 5 2
4. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat win]
79.80 9 5
5. Haiden Deegan – E
[1 Heat win]
78.21 7 2
6. Jeremy Martin – E
[2 Heat wins]
78.00 8 2
7. Jordon Smith – E
[3 Heat Wins]
76.77 4 -3
8. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main]
75.30 3 -5
9. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 75.20 11 2
10. RJ Hampshire – W
[4 Heat wins]
74.50 17 7
11. Max Anstie – E 74.43 6 -5
12. Tom Vialle – E 72.07 12 0
13. Max Vohland – W 71.56 10 -3
14. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
69.22 14 0
15. Chris Blose – E 67.43 18 3
16. Chance Hymas – E 67.10 15 -1
17. Enzo Lopes – W 66.00 20 3
18. Michael Mosiman – E 65.80 16 -2
19. Pierce Brown – W 65.78 13 -6
20. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage