The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season has been full of surprises.
The resurgence of Graham Rahal, multiple race wins by Josef Newgarden and Sebastien Bourdais, and déjà vu for Juan Pablo Montoya at Indianapolis.
While there have been many more storylines throughout the season, perhaps the most overlooked one is the campaign that Marco Andretti has had for Andretti Autosport. While all eyes are on the five drivers battling for the title, the third-generation driver has a chance to put his name in the record books.
Every driver goes through rough patches in any given season; there’s a mechanical failure here, an accident there, and just simply falling a couple of laps behind the leader. Finishing on the lead lap of a race doesn’t earn you a medal, but doing it each and every single race throughout an entire season is incredibly rare.
The open-wheel championship season essentially began in 1956 with USAC – 59 years ago. In that time, only once has a driver managed to complete every possible lap in a racing season: Tony Kanaan in 2004, when he won the championship.
It’s happened one time, in nearly six decades of racing.
There was one instance in 1963 where a driver came up one lap short. A.J. Foyt came into the final race of the season with a perfect record, completing all 1,450 laps so far. Unfortunately he only completed 99 of the 100 laps at Phoenix, and finished 1,549 of the 1,550 laps that year. Still, it was a fairly decent season for Foyt, having won five of the 12 races that year. In fact, he finished in the top-five of every race except Phoenix, where he came home eighth. His average finishing position was 2.4 and he won the championship by 740 points.
Through 14 races this season, Marco is the only driver to complete all 1,947 laps. He needs 200 this weekend in his home state of Pennsylvania, then the 85 laps of the season finale at Sonoma. If he manages to complete all of those laps, he’ll have all 2,232 needed to join Kanaan (3,305) in the history books. For what it’s worth, last year Marco completed all 200 laps at Pocono, and all 85 at Sonoma. He finished in the top-10 in both races, which is what he’ll be aiming for again in these final two weeks.
Marco’s lap completion percentage is much better than last season, when he only finished 82% of the laps. In 2012 though, he completed 94% of the laps, and twice (2013, 2010) he managed to complete 97% of the possible laps. By comparison, Montoya has completed only 85% of the laps that have been run this season – and he’s been the points leader since the checkers at the St. Petersburg season opener.
This pursuit is just another example of how great of a season Marco has had. He has two podium finishes this year, with an 8.3 average finishing position. He’s currently seventh in the standings, 87 points out of the lead with two races (and double points at Sonoma) to go. In a year that has clearly been dominated by Chevrolet, Andretti has been leading the charge (along with Rahal) for Honda.
Still, Marco’s two full-time teammates (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Muñoz) have each won a race this year. Marco is as hungry as ever, and while he would love to achieve this record, I can’t imagine he would want anything more than to win in his backyard this weekend.