Marco Andretti desperately seeking next victory

Marco Andretti needs a big weekend in Toronto to vault him back into the championship hunt. (Butch Dill/AP)

Marco Andretti has turned 6,124 laps since his last win, and it might as well be six million.

As a pro athlete from a famous racing family, Andretti understands the need to stay positive and focus on what’s ahead. He tries hard not to let the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” game eat him up when examining excruciating disappointments from the past and contemplating the points lost. But right now, with his last checkered flag rippling further and further away in the rearview mirror, Andretti is approaching his wit’s end.

“We just have to win,” the 27-year-old says. “It’s been working on me; it’s killing me.”

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Andretti wasn’t speaking specifically about the two races he’ll take part in during the Honda Indy Toronto this weekend, but he’d happily have the lone Canadian stop on the tour be the place where his season leaps forward. Andretti presently sits seventh in the championship chase and knows — with just four races remaining after he leaves Ontario — this is a make-or-break weekend.

“If we just get a win, it’ll get the monkey off our back and things will start clicking, ” he says.

At this point, a victory or two would be enormous not just for Andretti’s season, but his career. After winning his first race as a 19-year-old rookie in 2006, Andretti has claimed the podium’s top spot on just one other occasion. He was very consistent last year claiming two pole positions and earning a pair of podiums on road courses, which had previously been tough terrain for him. Andretti also led a total of 259 laps in 2013, yet still failed to notch his first win since 2011. This year has seen Andretti — now in his ninth IndyCar season — exhibit some good pace, but mechanical problems have scuttled a couple of outings for the Andretti Autosport team.

“We’ve been snake-bitten, big time,” he says.

While winning would put a huge smile on Andretti’s face right now, there was a time when even victory lane wasn’t a happy place for him. Given his family lineage — father Michael and grandfather Mario were both celebrated open-wheel wizards — it was no surprise Marco climbed into the cockpit, too. But early in his karting days, around the age of nine or 10, Andretti felt like racing had already become a job.

“I’d win a race and I’d say, ‘OK, I did what I had to do,’ instead of really enjoying what was happening,” Andretti recalls.

When he told his family he wanted a little break from the track, Andretti expected push back. Instead, he got a their blessing. Years later, he jokes that it may have been a bit of reverse psychology, but either way, once they made it clear racing wasn’t an obligation, it became his obsession.

“That was the difference,” he says, “I wanted to do it after that.”

What Andretti would also like to do is mimic even a sliver of the success his dad (and team owner) experienced in Toronto, where Michael won an astonishing seven times. At this point, Andretti feels any victory could be the one to break the levee and, ideally, lead to many more both this year and beyond. He cites teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti as drivers who, once they found the winning formula, were able to string together a cluster of successful seasons. It’s a trajectory he can very much envision for himself.

“I have no doubt about it,” Andretti says. “I just need that one more step and I think I’m going to be really tough to beat wherever we go.”

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