Last week, I was honored to take part in Media Day for the Verizon IndyCar Series. 21 drivers came through our room in a short 7 hours – recapping their 2016 seasons, telling us what they were looking forward to in 2017, and answering questions about their career, aspirations, and off-season happenings. Lots of jokes, some fun stories, and the giddy anticipation for racing to start up again in just 7 weeks.
As I made my 5 hour commute back home to Cleveland, OH afterwards, I was debating how I wanted to put this series of stories together. Should I group them by team, by career-length, by success, alphabetically? To be perfectly honest, I am still not sure what order I’ll release each one, but I was aware of one thing – the Marco Andretti interview resonated with me and really stayed at the forefront of my mind. And that told me where I should start.
I noticed off the bat that Marco was different – he seemed much more relaxed than usual when he walked in the room. He was smiling and his body language was very inviting and open. The first comment out of his mouth when he sat down at the head of our table?
“I keep saying I don’t need anymore character, I think it’s been built up enough. But I’m better now because of last year, so maybe I was wrong.”
Wow. Not what anyone was expecting. You could here everyone typing immediately to capture the quote, including myself. He then continued,
“I let the Indy 500 ruin the rest of the my season, mentally. I let it spiral out of control. I have to stop thinking about the past. You can’t fix those things.”
His desire to convey how much he has worked during this off-season, both on himself and with his team, was genuine.
Andretti has the talent. He couldn’t race in this series, given it’s current field, level of competition and variety of venues if he didn’t. And now he seems to have the mindset. He made mention of a conversation he had with his father – Michael who reminded him that when he (Marco) first came into the series, he was racing alongside Dixon and Franchitti and sometimes even out-racing them. Marco was young, his head was clear, and he was just driving the car… not over-analyzing everything. The third-generation driver now recognizes that he needs that clarity behind the wheel in order to achieve the goals he has set for himself on track.
“Last year needed to be my best and it was my worst. My approach was the problem.”
Marco’s composure, attitude, and ability to start the entire interaction with us, by taking blame for his own results rather than casting it on anyone or anything else was refreshing. It showed maturity that some racers never achieve in their career. That’s the mark of a true team player, a driver that wants to improve and be in this sport for the long haul. In Marco’s case specifically… he wants to meaningfully contribute to the Andretti legacy.
One of the most striking things he said was that he was going to make those that were not on his bandwagon, regret it. That’s a heck of a statement to make, but it came across as his determination to succeed.
He clearly wants to make his family proud, wants to help his team achieve better results, and has been working hard on how he can contribute. The need for self-reflection is not always an easy awakening to have, but once you have that realization there is no going back, only going up. I have no doubt that Marco is headed in that exact direction, so make sure you keep an eye on the No. 27 Andretti Autosport machine this season.
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Feature image: Joe Skibinski / IndyCar