Marco Andretti Explains How the Indy 500 Pole Was His to Lose


The difference between Andretti’s pole lap and Simon Pagenaud’s from 2019 was slightly more than 1 mph, and while it might not sound like much, there were less than two-hundredths separating Andretti and second-place starter Scott Dixon.

Not only is Dixon a five-time IndyCar champion in his own right and a tough cookie to beat in any scenario, but the wind was blustery on Sunday, especially during Marco’s run. Andretti’s friend and teammate James Hinchcliffe said in an interview that it was probably the toughest Indy qualifying he’d ever experienced due to the strong gusts. Andretti told me that while he had a great race car, it was a matter of chance and fate—had he missed a single gear change, he would’ve lost that two-hundredths and we’d be writing a story about Dixon’s fourth 500 pole instead.

The front three rows for Sunday’s race consist of eight Hondas and precisely one Chevrolet—Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Rinus VeeKay. Honda has been strong in every practice and kept up the pace in qualifying, though Andretti fully expects the Chevrolets to show up when the green flag flies.

“They’re gonna show back up in race trim because it’s a lot more balance-dependent in traffic,” Andretti reckoned. There certainly are Chevy-powered teams out there who know how to set up a race car, Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing chief among them. Still, Andretti likes his chances and the polesitter has capitalized on their grid position to win the Indy 500 in five of the last 20 contests, including Pagenaud last year.

Without fans in attendance at this year’s 500, Roger Penske’s first as owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar series, it desperately needs viewership on NBC. That wasn’t a problem for last year’s race as 5.41 million fans tuned in, a 10-percent increase year-over-year, and the outlook is good once again in 2020. Restrictions have been lifted to allow local channels broadcasting access to the race, a weirdly uncommon exception to a longstanding practice meant to drive ticket sales. And with the name “Andretti” appearing in smalltown papers across the States once again, it just might give casual fans reason enough to tune in.

Marco seems cool, calm and committed to adding his family’s name to the BorgWarner trophy a second time, though more importantly, he wants his face on the historic piece of hardware for the first time. It’s anyone’s guess as to who might drink the milk come Sunday, but a lot can happen over 200 laps. Vegas has Andretti slotted immediately behind Dixon as the second favorite to win at +700 odds. After seeing his form so far, he seems like a solid bet to me.

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