IndyCar: Marco Andretti discusses the likelihood of a return

Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta Autosport, IndyCar, Indy 500
Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta Autosport, IndyCar, Indy 500 /

Marco Andretti is not competing full-time in IndyCar this year for the first time since he made his debut in 2006. Could he make a return in the future?

Marco Andretti announced in mid-January that he would not be back for a 16th season of full-time IndyCar competition this year and instead drive the #98 Andretti Herta-Haupert Autosport w/ Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian Honda in only the 105th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, plus maybe a few other select races.

Andretti had not missed a race since making his series debut in 2006, giving him 248 consecutive starts leading into the 2021 season.

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That streak was the third longest in series history, and it was the longest streak to ever open up a career. Now leading that category (to start a career) among active drivers is Alexander Rossi, who has competed in 85 races going back to his debut in 2016.

We recently spoke to Andretti about his future plans and whether or not he could still make an appearance or two in the #98 Honda outside of the Indy 500 this year.

“Just logistically, it’s kind of tough to just jump in and out when you look at a series and the competition like it is, to just jump into a road course, kind of cold turkey,” Andretti told Beyond the Flag after discussing his new partnership with MTN DEW. “I don’t know if that’s an ideal situation.”

He did say that we might see the #98 car in a few more races, however. It just might not be him behind the wheel.

“So I think you might be able to see the #98 in a couple of other races, but I don’t know if it will be me driving,” he said. “I want to really put all my focus on the Indy 500, and I was really happy to strike a deal with Gleaners [Food Bank of Indiana], such a good cause. Just to be able to bring recognition, hopefully we’re fast and we can keep that branding out there for such a good cause.”

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As for returning to full-time IndyCar competition in the future, it’s not likely.

“I never say never, but I’m really focused on Indy,” he explained. “So I don’t know; it would have to be a pretty huge opportunity.”

With four races on the 2021 schedule in the books, he admitted that it was different to watch a race and not compete in it for the first time in over 15 years.

“It was different, but I’m the type of person that, when I make up my mind I make up my mind,” he said. “And the crown jewel is Indianapolis for me. I missed it but I didn’t. There are a lot of things, even being on the timing stand watching them do 100 laps in the Florida heat, I was like ‘They can have their 100 laps, it looks brutal!’

“You miss it but you don’t. I’m one of those when I make a decision, that’s what I want. So it’s been refreshing for me. It’s been kind of just a breath of fresh air to be able to focus and do what I want and kind of bring fun back into the sport and the pure driving back into the sport for me. I get calls from friends and cousins and can take opportunities, leave them — it’s been a lot of fun.”

Andretti is set to compete in the six-race inaugural season of the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) this summer.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” he stated. “Tony Stewart and I are really close friends, so when he saw my announcement, he was one of the first offers on the table for me there. I just jumped all over it. That’s a sandbox that I’m not comfortable with! It’s definitely the Cup guys who are going to be more comfortable there than me.

“That’s another thing that I’ve just been trying to challenge myself; get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think that will improve my driving all-around. I drove a 600 on the dirt with and without wing, and stuff like that; just stuff that I’m not used to doing. That’s been fun for me to bring back the purity of driving from that standpoint.”

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The 105th running of the Indy 500 is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 30, and NBC is set to broadcast it live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET. Practice began yesterday, and qualifying is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 22 and Sunday, May 23.