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Q&A with Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti took some time off from not golfing– he’d rather drive the cart — to chat with me on Thursday. Here’s what he has to say about this weekend’s race at Iowa Speedway, among other things:

What is it about Iowa Speedway that fits your driving style? (He has two top-three finishes there in three starts)

I don’t know about driving style. It really has been the same thing each year. I just think we come here with a decent setup, and I’ve gotta credit that to Dario (Franchitti) back in 2007. It’s the right place and the right time for us.

You finished second place two years ago even though you had the flu, would you trade illness for a podium finish or a win?

Hopefully we can do it without getting the flu. I had a little cough going every time I went into the turn. But this track really compresses your lungs with the g forces, it’s really physical.

What is the difference with the team between last year and this year?

On the car No. 26 side, I have a different engineer. One thing in the offseason, I pushed for was that the engineering staff needs to listen to what the driver is saying. We have the computer and stuff like that, but that should be the side tool, not the main thing. I have an engineer that believes in me. He believes that what I tell him is what the car’s doing, regardless of if the computer tells him it’s doing something. I know it because I can feel it, it’s under my butt, that’s what the car’s doing. We changed the team name, and we brought in Tom Anderson as a team manager. It’s been working well. He’s a really good guy, he’s really personable, he’s good at diffusing fires as far as pressure within the team, I think it’s just more relaxed.

Do you prefer ovals or road courses? This is the last oval for a while…

I prefer wherever the thing’s working for me, I’ve had the longest races on both, and the smoothest races on both. I’ve had the most physical races on both. I came into the game with nothing but road course experience, but I did really well on ovals. It’s two totally different things and I love them both.

It has been the same car since 2003, so why do drivers miss on setups?

It’s crazy, it is the same car. But at the same time, I’ll tell you what, a car comes over, and these things change, you can be so dialed in, and change one little thing in the car, they’re totally lost. They’re very finicky, then when you’re way out of it, you never stop fighting because one little change can make all the difference.

What about the next car, would you like having cars that are less setup- and, aero-reliant and depend more on the driver?

If you ask me, we’re already so close, let’s take a road course qualifying, a couple of tenths separates first from 12th, so if you mandate more and allow us to change less, it is in more in the game than just driving.

What do you think of the Delta Wing?

I don’t think we should run far from what we know. I’m always a fan of change. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of how the Delta Wing, I know it’s going to be low drag, they’re talking about only 300 horsepower, and if you ask me that’s not enough power. There’s the looks, which are different. And they say most of the turning comes from the rear, and as drivers it’s a totally different thing from what we know.

Do the IndyCars need more power instead?

We need to go back to the old days, personally. That’s what separates the men from the boys when you can throw more power at it, when the cars are too good or on the tracks that are that way, there’s no lifting in the corners. And that’s where you separate the men from the boys, how late do you lift?

Did push to pass make a difference at Indy you used it 10 of the 15 times there, do you think it will matter at Iowa?

I was never a big fan of it, if you ask me, when you’re dealing with over 650 horsepower and you add 5, it doesn’t make a big difference. Definitely when you’re on a track when you’re lifting, it’s more about trying to come off the corner with more throttle, it’s not about a burst of speed.

Is everyone in IndyCar too nice? Everyone seems to get along, wouldn’t it be better, to draw more attention if there were more rivalries?

Possibly. I think the most press we’ve gotten is when we’ve had something happen within the team. I don’t know. I think when we shut the visors we can be best of friends and we’re going to be trying to do whatever it takes on the track to beat each other. But you know, I think another big thing was the fight at Watkins Glen with Tony.

What was racing in the 24 hours of LeMans like? You weren’t in it as long as you would’ve liked, obviously, but how was it to get a taste of driving there in those cars?

It’s always a treat, I was so fortunate to be a part of that and the 500, those cars are so fun to drive. They have so much downforce and it really sticks to the track. And that circuit is the coolest track I’ve ever been on. Aside from that, we weren’t competitive. There aren’t many races that I go into that you know you can’t win. As a competitor it’s not fun, and this was one of those races. I just used it as a test session, really. But it was a pleasure to have the opportunity.

There’s a story about you taking off with a golf cart when you were 5, and your dad saw that and liked the way you handled it. Do you still prefer driving the golf cart to actually playing golf?

I’m the one who’s trying to jump the tees with the golf cart. I stink at golf. I just bought a house that has 18 holes of golf on it and I don’t ever play. It’s just nice to look at.

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