IndyCar: Marco Andretti not competing full-time in 2021

Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport, IndyCar (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport, IndyCar (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Marco Andretti has announced that he will not compete full-time in the 2021 IndyCar season, noting that his decision is not a retirement.

After 248 consecutive IndyCar starts going back to his debut in the 2006 season, a streak that ranks second among active drivers and third on the all-time list, Marco Andretti is stepping aside from his full-time duties as the driver of the #98 Andretti Herta Autosport w/ Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Andretti remains committed to his involvement in the #98 Honda entry, but in terms of his role as a driver, the 33-year-old Nazareth, Pennsylvania native currently plans only to compete in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 this May in what he called a “reset” of his racing career.

He hasn’t ruled out competing in additional races, including some outside of IndyCar, but nothing is set aside from what would be his 16th Indy 500 attempt.

Andretti posted the following on Twitter.

It reads:

"“Upon careful thought over the past couple of months, I have made the decision to make some changes to my racing activities and focus for 2021. I recently shared this decision and the changes that I want to make with my Dad and have spoken at length with him about it. I appreciate his openness and for allowing me the flexibility to map out my own course going forward.“I am fortunate to be in a position at Andretti Autosport to run the full INDYCAR season if I want to. But, instead, I have decided to change up my direction somewhat – to reset – to do something a little different – look at everything fresh and see where that takes me. And, to me, now seems like the appropriate time to do that.“I definitely am going to keep driving. I still have a deep passion for it and have unfinished business to take care of and some boxes that I want to check before I consider retiring as a driver.“First and foremost, I remain very hungry to win the Indy 500. It is our biggest stage and the place that I feel I bring the most to the table as a driver. I’ve come close there and am in the mix there it seems each year. Winning the pole there last year was awesome but that isn’t enough – I know that a victory there is in my future so we’ll try to get that done in the coming years. As such, I have committed to and am looking forward to running the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport this year. In addition to being squarely focused on the Indy 500, I might also take a look at running some other races on the INDYCAR schedule as the season progresses, in order to remain “car fit.” I have also offered to help the team with some testing and other activities along the way. And, I may look at different opportunities in all of motorsports.“My involvement in my Andretti Autosport entry will continue.“I also want to do some sports car racing – maybe even get the chance to do IMSA events with my cousin Jarett, which would be a lot of fun for me. I’ll be looking into other sports car opportunities as well in the coming months and welcome discussions in that regard. Marquee events like the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Le Mans would be on that list for sure.“I am excited for what the future holds for me both on and off the track and, again, am grateful to Dad and Andretti Autosport for allowing me the freedom to change things around as I’d like and to proceed forward a little differently this upcoming season.”"

Andretti Autosport chairman and CEO Michael Andretti, Marco’s father, added the following.

"“Marco and I have discussed this at length. I both support and respect his decision to take a focus on other areas of life, and maybe even other forms of motorsport. We were working on a full-season INDYCAR entry for him, but he decided he wanted to take a different direction and I respect him for making that decision.“I think for any multi-generational athlete, it can be really challenging to find your own ground and make your own name on top of your family’s. Marco has always had the courage to chart his own path and I’m proud of the career he’s built for himself and the person he’s become. I know this decision wasn’t easy.“But, like he has said, this is not retirement. He has some great accomplishments behind him and I think he still has many more ahead of him. He’s offered to help us out with some testing, I’m looking forward to having him back with us for the 500, and hopefully maybe a few more races through the season.”"

In his 248 career starts, Andretti has secured two victories, one in his rookie season at Sonoma Raceway and his more recent one in 2011 at Iowa Speedway. He has secured an additional 18 podium finishes, most recently a third place finish at Auto Club Speedway in 2015. He has also taken six pole positions, including for the 2020 Indy 500.

He has a career-high finish of second place in the Indy 500, which he recorded as a 19-year-old in his rookie season after being passed by Sam Hornish Jr. on the final lap. He has finished the race in third on three other occasions, most recently in 2014.

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Andretti Autosport have only confirmed three full-time entries for the 2021 season, most recently announcing that Ryan Hunter-Reay will be back behind the wheel of the #28 Honda. Alexander Rossi is set to return to the #27 Honda and Colton Herta is set to move from the #88 Honda to the #26 Honda.

Michael Andretti noted in October that the plan was still to run five full-time entries, and Marco’s continued involvement in the #98 entry indicates that the team will field that car throughout the entire season.

Oliver Askew would be an ideal candidate to replace Marco, given the fact that he competed for Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights program in 2019 and won the championship. He competed in IndyCar as a rookie with Arrow McLaren SP in 2020 but lost his ride after the season.

James Hinchcliffe is still expected to be confirmed by the team as a full-time driver after his part-time effort in 2020, which saw him replace full-time driver Zach Veach behind the wheel of the #26 Honda with three races remaining.

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The 2021 IndyCar season is scheduled to begin on Sunday, April 11 at Barber Motorsports Park, as the initial season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, set for Sunday, March 7, was pushed back to Sunday, April 25 as a result of coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions.