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IndyCar Season Preview: Marco Andretti

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#26 Royal Crown Cola Dallara-Chevrolet, Andretti Autosport

Born: March 13, 1987

Home: Nazareth, PA

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Andretti finally scored his second career win at Iowa after a drought that dated back to 2006, and posted a series of solid road course finishes that included a third place at Motegi. For the third consecutive year, he finished eighth in points.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: The entire Andretti Autosport team suffered a series of well-documented struggles at Indianapolis that saw Andretti bump out teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay to qualify for the race. He also suffered five DNFs, including three accidents.

SEASON OUTLOOK: The main changes for Andretti’s team include a shift of primary sponsorship (Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group will choose to emphasize their Royal Crown Cola brand instead of previous backer Venom Energy) and a change of engines (Andretti will be one of the top Chevrolet teams). But within the Andretti Autosport organization, the no-longer-so-young driver will be looked to as a team leader, now that Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick are no longer his teammates.

This once seemed like a preposterous suggestion, as grandfather, mentor, and IndyCar legend Mario Andretti has questioned Marco’s desire in the past. But Andretti showed much greater maturity as a driver last season, and with Ryan Hunter-Reay will forge a new leadership path within the once-quarrelsome camp. Now he’ll get a chance to take a step to the next level. And if the Chevrolet engines prove better than the Honda or Lotus efforts, Andretti will be one of the top challengers for the championship.

– Chris Leone

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