Marco's alternative reality

Posted by Declan | 8/12/2009 | 37 comments »
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So Franck Montagny will be racing for AGR at Sonoma. The logical extension of this deal is a contract for next season replacing Danica as she departs for pastures new.
Something MyNameisIRL suggested recently.

With Simon Pagenaud also strongly tipped to make the jump from the ALMS to IndyCar with Gil de Ferran and Ryan Briscoe deep in a title hunt, it is clear that a sideways move to sportscar racing can be a savvy and fruitful career move.

Ryan Briscoe's tenure with Penske Porsche in the American Le Mans Series was the making of him. His transformation from wild and occasionally fast to fast and occasionally wild to simply fast was due in no small way to how he was handled by Roger Penske and Tim Cindric. His immersion in the slick and ultra-professional environment of Penske Porsche as part of a platoon of drivers allowed him to develop without the pressure and reponsibility of having to do it all by himself every week.

This is something that Marco Andretti should think long and hard about. His career is stalling, if not reversing before our eyes and he appears to be half the driver he was when he entered the series in 2006. Seasoned observers of sportscar racing have seen a side of him and examples of the potential that many of us still believe is there. I wrote about this in the off season when he was struggling to get to grips with A1GP as I found it hard to reconcile this Marco with the one who caused such a stir on his sportscar debut for AGR at Sebring in 2008.

The World Cup of Motorsports has been anything but rich pickings for Marco and Andretti Green Racing through the darkest months. The race in South Africa was the fourth outing for the 21 year old and the fifth for the team with a fortunate third place as their only result of note so far. The lack of speed from the team and the seeming inability of Marco to work around set up issues have done nothing to promote the idea that Marco has a future at the highest levels of global open wheel racing. This is even more puzzling considering his performances for AGR outside the realm of open wheel racing in 2008. John Hindhaugh of the American Le Mans Series Radio Network for one has seen glimpses of his potential:

‘Standing on the outside of turn one at Sebring - I mean it's not like I hadn't seen seriously fast cars through there before, McNish, Brabham, even Kristensen were always impressive through there but the word had gone around the paddock that Marco HAD to be seen. So I dutifully pottered over on the ALMS Radio Network golf cart pulled up and waited... not for long ...as the distinctive howl of the Acura down the back straight told me the boy Andretti was on his way. There it was out of Sunset (turn 17) and on the way toward me, headlights ablaze. Then it was gone! No really just like that, almost before I could take it in.’

Andretti had taken the daunting turn one completely flat out, showing and a commitment and raw speed rarely, if ever, seen at the storied venue.

A further chat with the ALMS safety crew positioned nearby revealed that Marco had ‘been doing that since his first flying lap’. He continued to display this astonishing speed and skill throughout practice and most of the race.



With de Ferran moving to IndyCar and increasing his presence in the ALMS to two enties, this is the perfect time for Marco to move sideways for a season. He should take the opportunity to learn to race and win again in a new and, arguably, less intense environment. Gil de Ferran has proved, with Simon Pagenaud, that he can spot and nurture potential and he would be an ideal mentor for Marco. The team structure would also allow him to make a smooth transition back into IndyCar full time as and when he was ready to do so. It would also allow Marco to still run in the Indy 500 if he so wished.

So come on Marco, surprise us all and make that call! :)

37 comments

  1. redd // August 12, 2009 9:29 AM  

    I saw Marco's commercial again. He was on the podium surrounded by hot girls as if he had won a race.

    It made me wonder why they didn't pick a driver who had won a race.

  2. Declan // August 12, 2009 9:31 AM  

    He didn't win the race, the guy who did the voice over did. :)

  3. Badgerman // August 12, 2009 10:16 AM  

    Gents...
    On August 27, 2006, Marco Andretti, at the time, became the youngest winner (19 yrs., 5 mo., 14 days) of a major open-wheel racing event (later to be replaced by Graham Rahal) as he scored his first career Indy Racing League victory at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. His win established him as the 2006 Bombardier Rookie of the Year.

  4. redd // August 12, 2009 10:22 AM  

    oops. apologies.

    I meant to say I wonder why they didn't pick a driver with a pleasant personality who'd won a race.

  5. Badgerman // August 12, 2009 10:23 AM  

    Good article too by the way Declan. I have thought for a long time that Marco's having been more or less thrust into the IRL, was premature and that he would have been better served by remaining in the IPS for at least an additional season, and should have also been exposed more frequently to the ALMS experience or the like. A step back at this point may be just the thing, the question is, can the lads ego swing with that... We shall see....

  6. Badgerman // August 12, 2009 10:25 AM  

    Yes, I'm sure Helio and that box of chicklets he has for front teeth would have been available.... He probably would have had no problem crying on cue either....

  7. Anonymous // August 12, 2009 12:18 PM  

    Marco won a race at Infineon by going off sequence and staying out without enough fuel to finish the race. He won under caution when another AGR driver brought out a yellow to end the race.

    Kinda puts an asterisk on that one, and since that's his only win, it's going to stay there until he wins another one straight up.

  8. Doug // August 12, 2009 12:19 PM  

    The move from IndyCar to ALMS and back to IndyCar worked for Briscoe only because he was with the Penske organization. It wasn't the car or the racing profile that helped him, it was his employer. If Briscoe had driven instead for the AGR ALMS squad, I don't think he would have developed into the disciplined driver that he is today. If Marco is to leave the IndyCar series for sportscars, he'd better be prepared for that departure to be permanent. It might not be, but there's absolutely no guarantee of it especially with his rather sparse resume. De Ferran's team would provide a near-Penske level of professionalism and discipline from which young Marco would benefit, but its going to be difficult for him to come back to the ICS once he leaves. It would be best for him to be in the 2nd De Ferran IndyCar and drive the occasional ALMS race rather than the other way around.

  9. Badgerman // August 12, 2009 1:06 PM  

    Re: Anonymous' asterisk.... Yes you are indeed correct, Brian Herta was Marco's spun out teamate, however if you want to bring chance into it, one could bring up a whole host of 500's won in the rain under caution and what about Danica's win in Motegi last year as Helio ran out of fuel... The truth is, aside from the side by side finish that was Kentucy recently, there haven't exactly been a whole lot of races won where the contestants were actually racing in a long time. Primarily it has been guys saving fuel, staggering pit stops and then simply out running everyone else.... The red cars anyway.... So, regardless of you referring to Marco's first and only win (in his rookie year) as asterisked, it was a win just the same. And besides, it made up for that cheap move that Eddie (Wide Car) Cheever put on Marco at Watkins Glen that same year which took him out of the race, a race that Marco was very much on pace to win.

  10. Anonymous // August 12, 2009 5:47 PM  

    With all this sideways talk about Marco, does anyone know or have reason to believe that de Ferran's team is considering offering an ICS or ALMS ride to him..? Like some of you I think a move out of AGR would be great for Marco and I would like to see what he could do on a team with good development/engineering skills and mature mentoring resources.

  11. Tabernerus // August 12, 2009 6:00 PM  

    I suggested something very similar recently on a forum as a great path for AJ Foyt IV. Since he's without a regular ride this season, wouldn't running a mix of ALMS and Grand-Am races (Prototype or GT) make him a much better bet to be competitive in IndyCar? Isn't Scott Sharp better position to succeed in the current series having honed his road racing craft in ALMS for two years? I really wish more drivers without the road racing background would try to get themselves into one of those series part time. Another great example: Ed Carpenter. Even driving a 911 in the GT class would help him work on the rhythm of road racing. Sure it's not that simple, but it's gotta help, right?

    So the short answer: I think Marco could definitely benefit. And I think de Ferran is pretty much the only other team that makes sense in that capacity.

  12. Dave Cornutt // August 12, 2009 6:52 PM  

    I don't know; I can't help but wonder how much the problem is Marco and how much it is the team this year. Except for Kanaan early in the season, it's not like any of the AGR drivers are setting the world on fire this year. I've noticed over the last several races that Marco doesn't practice or qualify well, but over the second half of the race, he moves towards the front. Remember him working the outside groove at Iowa?

    I think most of Marco's problem right now is the team engineers. When they go to a track, they aren't converging on the right setup fast enough. Marco winds up having to use the first stint in the race to sort the car out.

  13. Mike R // August 12, 2009 10:36 PM  

    I agree with Mr. Cornutt.

    While I'm no Andretti fan, when the AGR team was performing at a level that was comparable...or at least much closer...to Penske and TCGR, Marco was often near the front.

    I do think more time in a development series would have served him well, but the likelihood of him being willing to take a step back would be essentially non-existent.

    I doubt really that he's getting "worse" as a driver, but he may not be improving at all because of trying to compete with a car that is certainly being outclassed by the big 2.

  14. Anonymous // August 13, 2009 9:45 PM  

    Maybe Marco ought to try and get a ride in USAC, and he might actually learn how to race.

    You see, the REAL talent in this country is in USAC. Marco might get his ass handed to him there; but he'd learn how to race the proper way.

    And, I wouldn't worry too much about Franck Montegny (whoever the hell that is?). He was near the back today in Sonoma testing.

    At 31 years old, with ZERO oval experience, he ought to stick to full-bodied sports cars.

  15. Damon // August 14, 2009 4:32 AM  

    Anon,

    Let's wait and see what happens next weekend when it really matters before you judge Montagny.

  16. Declan // August 14, 2009 5:15 AM  

    Precisely.

    Montagny is quick and has oval experience from his Kentucky test last September. Don't judge him on one test in a car with 'unique' characteristics.

    Would you have made those comments after he finished second at Long Beach for Forsythe in the CCWS finale after topping the time sheets for two days in testing at Sebring at the start of 2008?

    If you don't know "who the hell that is" why make negative comments about him?

  17. Anonymous // August 14, 2009 1:36 PM  

    Bottom line at AGR... Michael and Marco have been spending too much energy chasing after Playboy centerfolds..not that I would not lead the good life if I had the chance. But to win against Penske and TCGR you have to eat, sleep, drink and s**t racing. I read Danica Patrick's Tweets and most are about taking her dog to the vet, cooking a fancy dinner ect. ect. Nothing about racing.

  18. Anonymous // August 14, 2009 8:48 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  19. Anonymous // August 15, 2009 9:16 AM  

    I love the anonymous comment on the Playboy lifestyle of the Andrettis. Their personal lives are a joke. They could take a lesson in life from Justin Wilson. Married to his one & only wife with a beautiful child....and can win in a DALE COYNE CAR !!!!!!! This is what being a REAL man is all about. I hope we never see an Andretti in victory lane again myself.

  20. Damon // August 15, 2009 11:18 AM  

    Real men don't hide behind a lame "Anonymous" tag either.


    Put your name next to your words.

  21. Anonymous // August 15, 2009 2:19 PM  

    The "Playboy" comment seems to have struck a nerve. It was not intended as any disrespect, their "private" lives are their business and if anything, I am jealous! But it takes a 24/7 commitment to beat Penske and Ganassi. Same thing with Danika. She is a sweety, her pictures on Twitter show her trying on sunglasses, showing off her new haircut, baking cookies. All wonderful,, but should she not be working with a coach on her road racing skills?

  22. Anonymous // August 15, 2009 2:57 PM  

    I'm pissed because I like Marco and Danica and want to see them WIN some races instead of all this finishing fifth or sixth behind the Penske and TCGR guys!! If that means Michael and Marco have to turn into monks and sleep at the race shop, so be it.

  23. Leigh O'Gorman // August 15, 2009 6:26 PM  

    Serious question though:
    has Marco driving for his Dad's team hurt his career?

  24. Mike R // August 15, 2009 6:46 PM  

    IMO, it has both hurt his career development, yet ironically it has also salvaged his career.

    If he'd been signed by a Ganassi or Penske (or anyone else who cared about his performance, for that matter), I think he'd be out of the ride based on performance...yet, mitigating against that idea is that those teams provide a caliber of equipment that is superior to everyone else (insert back and forth debate on "who's best", Penske or Ganassi). Better equipment, better performances. BUT he HAD Outstanding equipment with his dad, just not the engineering that is needed to make it perform at a comparable level.

    Kind of a Catch 22 situation, really. Is it the driver or the engineering staff who is responsible for competitive set-ups? It's a team effort. But the engineers can't make the right changes if they aren't getting an accurate assessment of what the car is doing.

    Went on WAY too long there, didn't I? That's how I roll...

  25. dylan // August 15, 2009 7:37 PM  

    I think Marco should move to another team in the IRL, but, he is a top 10 in points driver, even if Tracy and Will had full time rides, he'd still be in the top ten, as of now, so, He should stay, but, a move to DeFerran's IRL team might be good.

  26. Damon // August 15, 2009 10:06 PM  

    Leigh,


    Yes

  27. Sam // August 18, 2009 7:00 PM  

    I agree that marco is distracted by the playmates etc. I don't blame him I guess.....if he didn't have the last name Andretti do you think we would get girl's like his latest.........http://www.myspace.com/alannamitchell
    classy :) hot import nights...hahahaha...

  28. Anonymous // August 18, 2009 9:21 PM  

    Marco's tweet today said he was karting with JP Montoya. Now that's more like it! When you are getting your ass handed to you, go back to the basics, back to square one.

    Jack Nicklaus used to begin EVERY golf season by going to his life long coach and taking lessons. And they would start at square one with the grip and all the beginners details. This was the same process every year even after winning every thing in sight. A good lesson,,,,,

  29. Vince // August 19, 2009 5:26 PM  

    Marco will be fine. He's going to finish 5th in pts. He has only not finished, I believe, 2 or 3 out of 13 races. A huge step forward compared to last year.

    If he was in a Penske or Target car he'd be in the championship hunt.

  30. Anonymous // August 19, 2009 8:18 PM  

    Times have changed. I grew up in a world where second place was considered first loser (Mario in his prime.) Finishing fifth was not even talked about. But there is much more competition now. But still, an occasional second or third and maybe sniffing at first place once in a while would be cool.

    Maybe Roger will put him in a Penske car and see what he can do.

  31. Sarah Fan // August 20, 2009 5:27 PM  

    Could we be done soon with "Marco's Alternative Reality"? It's getting to be like a tedious reality show.

  32. Anonymous // August 20, 2009 8:46 PM  

    Naw Sara... keep it going.... Marco is young, nice looking, American open wheel driver with a LEGENDARY last name... in other words, a hot commodity that people are interested in. The plot even thickened more today with the announced split at AGR.

    Hopefully his dad can find him a major sponsor for next year.

  33. Badgerman // August 21, 2009 9:37 AM  

    Re: Anonymous' comment referring to finishing second place (Mario in his prime)....

    I guess all that so called finishing second is why both Mario and AJ were voted the two top drivers of the century.
    You crack me up anonymous.... I will say this though, I would be willing to bet good money that Mario could climb in an IRL car right now and open up a can of whup-ass on 90% of the current so called field of drivers.

  34. Anonymous // August 21, 2009 11:48 AM  

    Badgerman,

    You misunderstood my comment. It was my fault it was unclear. I was referring to the fact that I grew up during the 1970's when Mario was in his prime. I never saw him happy with a second place finish. After a win, he was as high as a kite! In those days, second place was considered first loser. It seems to be a different story today. But I want to see Marco WIN!

  35. Sarah Fan // August 21, 2009 7:39 PM  

    My mistake. This column HAS become it's own reality show. It's just on the web instead of TV.

    Where are you, Iannucci? Save us! Please!

  36. Anonymous // August 22, 2009 8:29 AM  

    Good !!! More More More...

    Keep it going!! I'm having fun now.

  37. blu-star // November 23, 2009 1:28 PM  

    Badgerman,
    Please get off the Andretti circuit... considering that some people have paid a very high price to get this youngster of 18 years on his road to crazy racing heaven to have his 15 minutes, you should get counseling and perhaps bring "Operation Now" to the track so your idols can see some real racing reality. Pimping Hondas (that can't hold the road at 95mph on a windy day) out to friends of the family, while personally driving Ferrari, not cool, when you are 18 yrs old and influencing others around you.
    MA was cerainly fast-tracked at 18 years old, skipping school, (51 days,according to one report) and then again fast-tracked into the PB mansion with the girls next door; very sad testimony,indeed. Didn't they have child protective services in PA when the kids were small?