11.21.2014 (via RACER.com
) - Robin Miller says…
After leading 30 laps and finishing third in the Indianapolis 500, Andretti stood fifth in the Verizon standings and was looking like championship material. The third generation driver had a second at Barber to go with an eighth at Long Beach and he’d qualified in the Top 10 three of four times on street and road courses.
Maybe, in his ninth season driving for his father’s team he was about to make that long-awaited breakthrough.
But, from the Midwest swing starting in Detroit until the west coast finales, things went south for the 27-year-old native of Nazareth. He managed only three eighths and a pair of ninths in another disappointing Marco-Indyseason that was represented in his ninth place in the rankings.
It’s a mystery how he can look like a world-beater one minute and just another guy the next but the lack of consistency has been Marco’s constant companion. He’s got the Andretti genes on ovals but road race/street course qualifying remains his biggest detriment. It looked like early in 2013 he’d made big strides but was back to his old self in 2014 – his average starting spot was 16th for the last eight races when forced to turn right and left.
If the season ran 10 times on the oval at IMS, he’d be a contender every year because he’s always in the lead pack. But, until he can get a handle on the bulk of the races, the Month of May will have to be his Holy Grail.
Marshall Pruett says…
History would suggest Marco Andretti is the seventh, eighth or ninth best IndyCar driver since his rookie season in 2006, and I’d have to agree.
Nine years into his IndyCar career, Marco has ended up seventh, eighth or ninth in the standings on six occasions – 66 percent of the time. It makes his ninth-place finish in 2014 less of a surprise, and more of a confirmation that it’s where he belongs.
Granted, I’m not saying his talent is limiting him to P7/P8/P9–we know he's better than that, but it is where he tends to settle at the end of most seasons. The anomaly, of course, was 2013, when he made a spirited run to fifth in the championship. As many of us chronicled at the time, he spent the off-season receiving coaching to address his shortcomings, and responded by landing on the podium at Round 1, another podium at Round 4, and captured seven top-6 finishes.
His biggest strides were made on strMarco-HondaLogoeet courses, yet in 2014, it looked like most of his hard work was undone. Those storming drives were rarities this year, other than a fine run to second at Barber and another third-place at the Indy 500.
If I’m honest, I don’t remember much of Marco’s season, and that’s not due to forgetfulness; it’s because it wasn’t particularly memorable. He was rarely that far off the pace, had Danica-like consistency with eight top-10s, but like his former teammate, the numbers are misleading: Six of those eight top-10s were finishes of eighth, ninth or 10th.
It all added up to a decent average—enough to place Marco ninth in the standings, but in a field of 21 full-time entries, being slightly better than the bottom half of the field isn’t what I expect from the 27-year-old. He finished one position behind his rookie teammate Carlos Munoz, which is another statistic that should serve as an embarrassment and a motivator.
One thing that wasn't Marco's fault took place in the engine bay: If there was smoke trialing from someone's exhaust pipes in 2014, it tended to be Marco's No. 25 Honda. Minus the explosions, he could have finished higher in the standings, but keep in mind that those ahead of him also had blowups or crashes that left points on the table. Regardless, engine reliability wasn't on his side.
Marco gave us a brief glimpse of what he can achieve when he humbles and applies himself. P5 in 2013 wasn’t a fluke, which makes his regression in 2014 yet another reason to be frustrated with his inconsistent output.