- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The cruel Twitter posts came fast and furious Friday as Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal participated in their final practice session for the Indianapolis 500.

“Would Graham Rahal have a ride in the series if his last name wasn’t Rahal?” read one.

“You mean to tell me, that Marco Andretti is being a cry-baby on the radio?!” read another, along with a sarcastic #surprised and #spoiledbrat.

It’s May, which means the faults and failures of Andretti and Rahal are in the spotlight at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where their famous fathers shined. Like royal watchers anxiously awaiting a wedding or a baby, open-wheel racing fans obsesses over when these two young crown princes of IndyCar will step up their games and fulfill their destiny as the American stars the series desperately needs.

Andretti is burdened by his last name. Mario Andretti, his grandfather, won 52 races and ranks second on the all-time list. Michael, his father, ranks third at 42 career victories.

Marco, in his ninth season in IndyCar, has two wins.

It’s no easier for Rahal. His father, Bobby, has 24 career victories, won the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and is a three-time series champion.

Graham has one win in 100 starts since 2007.

Rahal, who won his only race in 2008, points out that he just turned 25 this year and his father didn’t win his first race until he was 30.

“A lot of people don’t think about that, though, they just look at me and go, ‘Oh, well you won your first one at 19 and haven’t won since,’” he said. “I’m still one of the youngest guys in the series. That’s no excuse, and I hope I have a long, long career ahead of me. When you look at my dad’s success that he had - Indy wins, championships, race wins - he didn’t even get into an Indy car until he was 30.”

Rahal notes that the successful drivers in IndyCar right now are all in their 30s. Tony Kanaan, the defending Indianapolis 500 winner, was 38 when he scored his breakthrough win. Ryan Hunter-Reay was 31 when he won the 2012 title in his 10th season at the top level.

“At my age, he was in the same boat as me,” Rahal said. “He wasn’t really winning all the time. He was struggling, bouncing around between teams and stuff and all of a sudden, it’s all come together.”

Andretti was 19 when he made his IndyCar debut driving for his father at Andretti Autosport. He won as a rookie, then went four more years before he made his way back to Victory Lane. Now 27, he hasn’t won since 2011 and is mired in a 46-race losing streak.

His father thinks age may very well be the problem for both Andretti and Rahal.

“Part of it is they started so young and, in hindsight, maybe they were too young,” Michael Andretti said. “You look at it, they are 25 and 27? Geez, Louise. I think I was in my third year of racing at that age. But the pressure they are under? That comes with the territory.”

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