IndyCar at Texas: Rivals taking notice of the well-rounded Marco Andretti

Chris Graythen

Marco Andretti is starting to reach his potential as an IndyCar Series driver and the paddock is paying attention.

Marco Andretti is finally starting to become the complete driver he always appeared destined to become.

The Andretti family and team have retaken their spot as kings of the IndyCar world, having come off a successful month of May and Indianapolis 500, co-leading the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings with Marco and leading the Series (as a team) with three victories -- two by James Hinchcliffe and another with defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.

And yet, there was a sense of unfinished business as Marco met with the media on Friday morning prior to qualifying for the Firestone 550k at Texas Motor Speedway.

Andretti and Hunter-Reay are leading a strong contingent of American drivers who are gaining success and popularity in the sport, following a nearly two-decade stint where foreigners enjoyed most of the wins and championships.

Australian driver Will Power recently said that Americans should rally around their drivers in IndyCar, a notion Marco doesn't disagree with.

"It can't be a bad thing for us to at least be competing for the top spot," Andretti said. "Obviously, there is a lot of unfinished business for me. I want to start stringing some wins together and hopefully generate even more interest. It's been a decent start to the season but we've got to keep going. I don't see a negative anywhere."

That's because the youngest Andretti is tied for the IndyCar championship lead with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves. Ironically, neither championship leader has won a race this season -- and only one has scored more than one win and that's Hinchcliffe, who is ninth in the standings.

No one has really broken away from the pack and Marco would like to be that driver, starting this weekend at Texas.

"Consistency is what I've worked on in the off season," Andretti said. "I just want to be consistently better... I'm pleased with the start of the season but I'm not exactly where I want to be yet. We need to keep working. I think I'm a lot closer than where I was last year so that is helping, but like I said, not where I want to be yet.

"If we come out of here with a win, then we could start some big momentum and that's the goal."

His competitors are starting to take notice too, especially Castroneves, who believes Andretti is finally starting to reach his potential, after coming into the Series as an overly-aggressive 19-year-old.

"He is being very aggressive but conservative at the same time," Castroneves said of the suddenly 26-year-old Andretti. "That's why he's sharing the top spot with me right now. He understands that even if you don't have a winning car, it pays to be patient. He certainly has talent, you can't deny that...

"I think he finally understands the chemistry here and he is doing very well right now."

Andretti was fastest in first practice on Friday afternoon and winning the pole position on Friday afternoon would pay one additional bonus point -- enough to break the tie for championship lead. Expect Andretti to give it his best shot.

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