Marco Andretti hoping offseason work leads to wins

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BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (AP) - Marco Andretti thinks people have the wrong idea about his comfort level with the status quo.

The scion of one of the great racing families insists his desire to win isn’t at all diminished by the apparent job security of working for his father, Michael Andretti, at Andretti Autosport.

In fact, Andretti spent the offseason examining what was holding him back in IndyCar and worked with a coach overseas.

“Just one win every couple of years is not enough for me, obviously,” Andretti said Thursday. “I’m very competitive. I just want people to know I’m not going home satisfied. I’m not going home happy. And I shouldn’t. That’s often a misperception of me is exactly that. I’m not happy until we are in victory circle on a regular basis. We’ve been knocking on the door. We’ve been leading the wrong laps, though.”

Andretti certainly knocked on the door with a third-place finish in the season opener at St. Petersburg, his first top-five finish on a street course since Toronto in 2011. Perhaps he can check off one key goal of the offseason work: Improving in street races.

Andretti enters Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Alabama with renewed confidence after a performance that “almost felt like a win.”

The 26-year-old son and grandson of former greats Michael and Mario Andretti, respectively, isn’t trying to ride his famous racing name, but build on it. Why do people think he might be content to be just OK?

“Because I drive for my dad. Simple as that,” Andretti said Monday while eating barbecue and deviled eggs at a downtown restaurant. “Driving for dad, it can be the best possible scenario when we’re winning but if we’re not, the easiest thing to say is I’m there because of obvious reasons. My dad is probably my toughest critic in the world and people don’t know that. He’d be the first one to tell you, he might overcompensate the other way within the team. I’d be the first one on the street if he didn’t believe I’d perform.”

Andretti, who turned 26 last month, isn’t about to be out on the street but he did have a frustrating 2012 season.

He finished 15th in the points standings and had only one top-five finish and three top 10s in 15 races. That followed four straight seasons in the top 10 with an average of four finishes in the top five and 8.5 in the top 10.

Still, his only IndyCar wins came at Infineon Raceway in 2006 and Iowa Speedway two years ago. Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay said being an Andretti in racing is a large burden to carry, particularly for a young driver.

“It’s an immense amount of pressure he’s lived with since he was go-karting,” Hunter-Reay said. “He’s carrying the name of Andretti. He’s got a lot of weight on his shoulders. I think he deals with the pressure very well. It’s a pressure that not many people in racing have _ Andretti, Rahal and Earnhardt. Even then there’s an argument that Andretti is the biggest name in racing in the world.”

Andretti said he’s not feeling pressure from his father, because “he believes I can perform, and it all has to come together.”

After all, 39-year-old Dario Franchitti won four of five series championships starting in 2007. Franchitti drove in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series in 2008.

“Dad just keeps saying, `Look at Dario,’” Andretti said. “Dario was literally in his mid-30s or something when he started winning championships and he clicked off four in a row. I’d love to get as many wins as I can now but when stuff starts going right for me, I will be hard to beat every track we go to. The only way to do that is to stay in it. If you doubt yourself, don’t even show up.”

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