After spending parts of his off-season in Europe, training with a professional driving coach, Marco Andretti has looked much-improved on road and street courses throughout the first two races of the season.
He collected a podium in the season-opener at St. Petersburg and a top-10 two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. But with his teammates James Hinchecliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay winning those events, Andretti is finding that improved just isn't good enough.
"I really worked on consistency in the off-season so it's a decent start," Andretti said during his media availability on Friday at Long Beach. "But when I look and see that two of my teammates have won the first two races, I need to be consistently better.
"I think if we keep knocking on the door like we have been...like last weekend, we'll have another good shot at another podium. But we lost a lot of time coming out behind another car...We've been driving good so we have to keep doing that."
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is in many ways, the Indianapolis 500 of street course racing in North American open-wheel motorsports. The Andretti name is synonymous with that discipline, making Long Beach one of the more important stops of the third-generation driver's season.
"(Long Beach has many of) the same reasons why Indy is so important to us as drivers as well," Andretti said. "My family alone has a lot of history here -- a lot of wins between them. I think my dad won his first and last race here if I'm not mistaken. So for my family, this means a lot as well."
Unfortunately, the younger Andretti has not shared the same success as his ancestors. His best finish at Long Beach thus far is a sixth-place in 2009 and he's failed to finish in his last two starts.
But this is a different Marco Andretti.
His European training and success to start the season has him feeling confident that he will be faster than what he showed in Friday's practice session (P17). Ultimately, he believes he can compete for yet another podium in what's becoming the best start of his career.
"There is still a lot of speed out there for us to find, and I am feeling optimistic thinking about our potential," Andretti said. "We tried a lot of different things today but set-ups are always a tricky thing to figure out. It's great that the track is pretty similar to a year ago, so we can definitely put something together that will keep us competitive this weekend."