INDIANAPOLIS: It has been a long time between milkshakes for the Andretti family at the Indianapolis 500 but Marco, the latest member of the American motor racing dynasty, is hoping to change that on Sunday.
Despite all their success around the world, the only Andretti to win the Indianapolis 500 was Marco's grandfather Mario, who kissed the bricks and slugged from the traditional winner's bottle of milk in 1969.
Mario entered the race a total of 29 times but never won again, often because of bad luck and engine failures. He twice finished second, but those close shaves only served to add to the disappointment.
His son Michael, Marco's father, never won the race, despite 16 attempts. He finished second in 1991 and third in 2001 and 2006. Michael's brother Jeff and his cousin John also failed in their attempts.
Marco came agonizingly close to ending the family curse in 2006, his rookie appearance, when he led on the last lap, only to get pipped on the line. In the five years since, he has twice finished third.
He has not had a great start to this season, finishing outside the top 10 in each of the four IndyCar races this year but rather than be frustrated, the 25-year-old is supremely confident his luck is about to change after qualifying fourth in the 33-car field.
"I think this is our race to lose, I really do," he told reporters. " I'd rather be lucky than good at this place. But if we can show up good and get a little bit of luck, that's all you need."
For the race organizers, a victory for Andretti would be a win for the sport as well. The sport is still recovering from the acrimonious IRL-CART split in the 1990s that led to widespread disenchantment from fans and a home-bred winner would be a major boost.
It has been six years since an American last won the race and the odds are stacked against the U.S. this time with 24 foreign drivers in the field.
"In think it helps us in so many significant ways, not just in the U.S., as he's an American, but I think his name has international presence," IndyCar chief executive Randy Bernard told a news conference.
"Marco Andretti carries the Andretti name. Wherever you go in the world, Andretti is known in racing. Mario is one of the most well-known athletes in the world." AGENCIES