For the first time in his career, Marco Andretti has posted three consecutive top 10 finishes in the first three races of the season and sits within reach of the points lead heading into this weekend's Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300.
In Andretti's first seven seasons driving in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Andretti had a best average finish of 8.3 in 2009 with finishes of 13th at St. Petersburg, 6th at Long Beach and 6th at Kansas; while this season he has a 3rd place finish at St. Petersburg, and two 7th place finishes at Barber and Long Beach.
"This is what used to be the weakest part of the schedule for me, and I find myself just a few points out of the points lead," Andretti says. "I'm super thrilled about my progress in the off-season. Working on these weak points I think definitely has helped, but it's definitely good to see results translate through."
During the offseason, Andretti worked in Europe with driver coach Rob Wilson in order to improve his skill on the street courses, and so far his results show an improvement. At St. Petersburg, he ran near the front for a majority of the race and passed Simona de Silvestro late in the race to score a podium finish.
At Long Beach he had a good run in qualifying spoiled by a blocking penalty which sent him to the 25th starting position.
"It was definitely frustrating because the whole queue was backing up, but I just kind of singled me out. And (JR) Hildebrand wasn't even on a quick lap. (INDYCAR) should have looked at that. I didn't really impede his progress."
During the race, Andretti toughed out front wing damage and ended the day with a 7th place finish.
As far as heading into Indy, Andretti feels that momentum before Indy will be important for a good result in the Memorial Day Classic.
"Obviously, we've got to take one race at a time. The ideal situation is to be in the points lead going into the month of May, then just carry that momentum."
He also hopes to break the so-called "Andretti Curse" at the famed Speedway. "Indy has always been an ultimate goal of mine. I think it's always been a realistic goal. So we just need to capitalize on it. Unfortunately I already have a similar record to dad, which is the most laps led for a non-winner. That part of it's frustrating."
Andretti has a best finish of 2nd at Indianapolis in 2006, where he was passed by Sam Hornish, Jr. in the final run to the bricks. He has 90 laps led at the 500 and has led in all but two of his starts there and led the most laps last year until crashing out on lap 188.