Auto Racing

Marco Andretti hoping for more IndyCar magic at Iowa Speedway despite heavy heart

IndyCar Series drivers descend upon Newton for 12th installment of Iowa Corn 300 on Sunday

NEWTON — Marco Andretti has had his moments at Iowa Speedway.

The 7/8-mile oval was the scene of the last victory for the 29-year-old Verizon IndyCar Series driver. Though it has been seven years since he last stood atop the podium, Andretti receives a welcome reminder of arguably his best day behind the wheel in each subsequent visit to Newton.

“Absolutely, yeah, you always remember that when you go back,” said Andretti, who will race in the 12th installment of the Iowa Corn 300 Sunday a 1. “Actually, they have a pretty cool thing in the garages. For all the people that have won there, it says under your garage, it just says, ‘Iowa champions.’ They remember the past champions there. It’s cool.”

The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network.

In 12 career appearances at Iowa, Andretti has posted five top-seven finishes. In addition to his 2011 win, he was the runner-up in both 2007 and 2012 and third in 2008.

“This is a very challenging short oval that has the speed of a speedway almost,” Andretti said. “Because of the banking we’re able to carry a lot of speed. It always produces a nice little race. It makes it really hard to get right because the grip is very on edge, especially with the new aero kit. It makes it fun.”

The universal aero kit made its IndyCar debut this season, which incorporated a sharp-looking body design along with a more-challenging driving experience.

This is the first season Andretti has raced under Team Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian, and with it came a number change to No. 98. The Pennsylvania native is the son of 42-time IndyCar race winner Michael Andretti and grandson of legendary racer Mario Andretti, one of only two drivers to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR and the World Sportscar Championship.

The entire Andretti family is mourning the death of Dee Ann Andretti, wife of Mario and grandmother to Marco, who passed away on Monday at the age of 75, due to complications from open heart surgery a few weeks ago.

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“RIP Grammy Andretti,” Marco Andretti tweeted on Tuesday. “You will be missed !!”

The 2018 season has produced a couple of highlights for Andretti, which includes five top-10 finishes in 10 races this season. During the first leg of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on June 2, Andretti posted a season-best fourth-place performance after earning his first pole position since 2013.

“I’m happy with the bottom end of the performance,” Andretti said. “We’ve only been out of the top 10 when there has been issues, so I think our pace is okay. I want the highs to be better. I’m happy with some things. I’m happy with the pole and, like I said, our pace. It’s better than being slow and having to luck into those top 10s. We’ve sort of finished not to our potential a lot of times this year already. It’s a good and bad thing. It means we’re fast, but we still want the results.”

Andretti is currently 10th in the IndyCar Series point standings and was 19th in Saturday’s qualifying race. Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power earned the pole position, while American Josef Newgarden — currently fourth in points with 343 and the 2016 Iowa winner — was second during the quaifying race.

American Ryan Hunter-Reay is tied with Alexander Rossi in the point standings (348), has won at Iowa three times (2012, 2014-15) and was third during qualifying, while New Zealander Scott Dixon — who passed Michael Andretti for third in IndyCar career wins (43) on June 12 and has won twice this year and ranks first in points (393) — was sixth.

“I think it is the most competitive racing in the world,” Andretti said. “I think it is more competitive than Formula One. When you look at top to bottom, we have these cars wrung out, from the drivers to the teams, it’s a spec series, so from first to last sometimes is one second or less. … It’s one of those things if you sneeze you could start 16th. You need to get everything right and have the luck to be able to win.”

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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