Marco Andretti is just barely on the fringes of championship contention and needs three perfect races to close out the season if he has any hopes to win his first IndyCar Series title.
The third-generation driver enters this weekend's doubleheader fourth in the standings and is 71 points behind leader Helio Castroneves. Andretti has had his most successful season to date, overcoming his struggles on road and street courses and securing a career-best 8.1 average finish through 16 races.
But the difference between good and championship-caliber is winning and Andretti has yet to visit victory lane this season. He came close at Baltimore, leading laps late with a damaged wing before sliding back to 10th and that his only made his appetite for victories even stronger.
"We almost pulled that thing off," Andretti told the Bellingham Herald on Friday. "Pace-wise, we weren't where we needed to be, but having said that, if I didn't break the front wing, we could have won the thing. I probably missed a shot at winning by a couple inches, if I just didn't tear the left front off in that big crash that happened in front of me. You've just got to try to keep your nose clean if you don't have your pace.
"But hopefully we roll off a lot stronger in Houston than we were at Baltimore. The team has hit the drawing board pretty hard, so hopefully we bounce back."
Andretti will have two chances to get to Victory Lane this weekend at the Grand Prix of Houston. If his Baltimore pace is any indication, Andretti could be a player in the closing stages of both races.
He also said he isn't fazed by the prospects of racing twice on a single weekend. He finished 20th in the first race at Belle Isle but hasn't finished worse than ninth in the other three double-header events this season.
"I'm the type of guy that, no matter how overwhelmed I am, I only need a day and I'm ready to go again," he told the newspaper. "When you're in-season, our team for whatever reason seems to click off a lot of good results when we have those back-to-back races.
"You kind of stay in your groove and stay in your game. I think with this step away, we've been able to recharge the batteries, but so has everybody, so it's going to be interesting."
Andretti is a long-shot but he can set himself up for an "anything can happen" scenario if he can pull off a sweep this weekend combined with some bad luck from Castroneves. Given the unpredictability of this season, it's not the most unlikely thing to possibly occur.