By: Tanner Watkins
May 27, 2019 | 11:00 AM
The stage was set: Andretti Autosport’s No. 98 car was dressed in day-glow color just like in 1969, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s victory and the third-generation Andretti was starting in the front third of the field.
And the only thing missing? The one and only result that would have mattered.
Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 was perhaps the most frustrating, perplexing, anti-climactic race in the 32-year-old’s career. After starting a promising 10th, Andretti dropped four spots in the race’s first lap and 12 positions by the first caution on Lap 6.
From Lap 9 to a multi-car accident on Lap 177, Andretti was scored no higher than 27th place. When Simon Pagenaud took the checkered flag first on Sunday afternoon, Andretti finished the day an astonishing five laps down in 26th.
The team still isn’t sure what crippled the No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda, and following the race, Andretti didn’t mince words over the day’s result.
“I don’t know; we need to look at it, I need to look at it,” Andretti said about his car’s maladies. “But I picked a terrible day to have the worst race of my career.
“I don’t know. It’s pretty embarrassing. Today was, for sure, the wrong day to have a bad day. I wish I could say more, but we’re just not quite sure yet what happened with the 98 car. We came into the day behind from the start and didn’t have what we needed.
The 26th place result for Andretti is his second-worst finish in the Indianapolis 500, being beaten out only by the 30th place run in 2009. Andretti’s team did all they could to solve issues during pit stops – pitting a race-high 12 times while no other driver reached double digits – but it simply wasn’t a quick fix.
Now the only thing Andretti can do to put yesterday’s race behind him is to focus on this weekend’s Detroit doubleheader. After qualifying well in last year’s Detroit Grand Prix, Andretti may be the most excited driver to be heading north for two races.
“We’re now looking ahead to Detroit – we were on Pole (Race 1) last year and looking to come back strong.”
The good news for Marco is that he gets to move on in the championship season in just a few days. The bad news is we are 365 days away from the 2020 Indianapolis 500, and yesterday’s result will leave a sour taste that won’t be washed away by any race between now and May 24, 2020.
Header image by Chris Owens/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.