INDIANAPOLIS Right now, it s the name that opens doors for Marco Andretti. Soon, he hopes, it will be his reputation as a driver that people cite first, then the family connection.
Marco is the latest entry in the Andretti racing log, an 18-year-old high school senior who is supposed to graduate in less than two weeks.
He won his Infiniti Pro Series debut in St. Petersburg, Fla., last month, and will race on the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for the first time tomorrow in the Futaba Freedom 100, an event in the Indy Racing League s top developmental series.
But he is an Andretti, so his sights are set on the Indy 500, a race his grandfather, Mario, won once, in 1969, and one his father, Michael, was not able to claim. A few practice laps today will cement his bond with the place.
I don t think words can describe the feeling, coming here and taking the car around this track, Marco said. I basically grew up here one month out of the year, every year. Just last year, I was finally old enough to get in the pits. Now that I m able to do some laps on this track, it is amazing.
While his dad is preoccupied with the three cars he has entered in Sunday s Indy 500 for Andretti-Green Racing, including that of pole-sitter Tony Kanaan, grandpa Mario is working as Marco s unofficial corner man for tomorrow s race.
This is going to be a lot of fun, but it s all going to be new to me because it s my first oval race, he said. That will be all different, and that s the only reason the nerves are a little uneven. I don t know what to expect. In these cars, you re fine by yourself, but when you get in traffic, it moves around a little more, and I m not used to that.
That other schoolwork has been put on the shelf while Marco goes through the learning process at Indy.
June 5 is my school s graduation, and I don t know if I can be there yet, he said. I took all my exams last week because I had to race at Mid-Ohio, and then this, so I missed the last two weeks of school.
My school is in class all week, but I m done with high school right now. I passed.
His first test at Indy comes tomorrow.