Marco Andretti captured his sixth top-five finish of the season today when he took the RC Cola Chevy to a fourth-place finish at GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Marco started the 85-lap race from the 11th position and remains fourth in the championship points standing, trailing the leader by 70 points .
“We had to (get into the top five) with a broken front wing, so I was really losing it in the third sector. But other than that, not a bad weekend – you got to keep fighting.
I know temperatures are hot right now all around – it’s that type of race when you have a lot of restarts, there’s going to be a lot of carnage because yellows breed yellows and that’s the way it works.”
Lap by Lap
The race began with a little drama as two of the leading cars made minor contact resulting in a little dust, as Kimball’s car spun.
Marco meanwhile attacked Pagenaud and was side by side with the Frenchman for several corners – racing for ninth – before a course caution slowed up the action.
A couple of laps later than the race was on again, and Marco raced by James Hinchcliffe but only after Sebastian Bourdais ran into the #25′s rear as the flag flew. Marco raced well through the next few turns and settled into P9.
A stalled car called out a second full course yellow on lap seven, and Marco prepared to re-start alongside Sato with Pagenaud and Kanaan up ahead. Kanann was the only driver ahead running on the harder black tires. Marco soon found good track space and put TK under pressure while Sato and EJ Viso battled just behind.
After the carousel segment Marco got a run on Kanaan into turn seven and took the #11 car on the inside. He then stayed solid in eighth through the rest of this first segment. A tagged De Silvestro stalled on turn seven a few laps later and a third full course caution was called on Lap 16.
When the pits were opened almost every car in the top sixteen took a pit stop – of the leading cars only Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay stayed out on track. Marco held position thanks to a swift #25 RC Cola crew. Just ahead Pagenaud and Rahal swapped spots, and in the re-shuffled order Marco was racing in 12th.
Marco was quick on the re-start and rode some luck as cars made contact alongside while three wide. Rahal and Pagenaud got into each other, with Rahal taking a spin in traffic. For the RC Cola car there was a little rough and tumble including minor contact with Will Power, who Marco got by for a little while. Power took his spot back by pushing Marco out tight to the wall.
Lap 26 and we were green flag racing. A little bunched as the lap began and more dust flew as the cars raced into turns one and two. Marco, on softer red tires for a second time, was finding this set less racy and by lap 29 was defending from Ryan Briscoe in ninth.
One more yellow on lap 31 due to track debris and Marco prepared for another start side by side with Pagenaud, Castroneves and Carpenter a row ahead in a race led by Wilson, Dixon and Power. Briscoe and Davidson were the cars behind. Marco went for it, keeping out ahead of Pagenaud and within three corners took Carpenter too for sixth. Ahead now Marco was racing Castroneves and Franchitti. Another spot was gained as Wilson – racing on an alternate strategy – took his second pit stop.
At the halfway stage the race finally had an extended green period and the field began to spread out a little. Marco had been told about minor wing damage but also that he was one of the fastest three cars on track. Into lap 41 Marco was reeling in Castroneves lap by lap, as Power and Wilson duked it out for the lead eight seconds up ahead. On Lap 43 Marco made his move, and took the #3 car on the inside of turn seven.
Let’s go @MarcoAndretti !!!
— Todd Alvis (@toddalvis) August 25, 2013
The leading cars – Marco included – took green flag pit stops with 40 to go. The #25 RC Cola Chevy crew once again got the job done well and Marco kept his race position ahead of Castroneves and Pagenaud. He came back out on track in eighth with work to do to catch Dario Franchitti almost six seconds up ahead. Five cars up ahead were out of sequence in comparison to the main pack. Marco held position mindful of Castroneves and Pagenaud still within striking distance.
— Ellylion48 (@Ellylion48) August 25, 2013
With thirty laps to go the race was running in a nice rhythm, Marco running P5 and holding off Castroneves. The gap ahead was still there, Franchitti out of sight several corners up the track. Marco’s new concern was teammate James Hinchcliffe powering on fresh red tires. 25 laps to go and the lean green GoDaddy machine blew past on a charge. Lap 63 and those black tires were shot. Marco called in for service one final time. One last set of sticker reds and he was back out. The rest of the leading pack took their stop a lap later, as a yellow flag flew out on track. The cause this time was Newgarden’s stalled #67 car.
The sixth caution bunched up the pack ready for a racy final segment, though Marco had lost race position during the pit cycle, with Castroneves and Pagenaud faster in the box. Marco restarted P8 alongside Pagenaud once more with Castroneves and Hinch up ahead, Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the mirrors. Ryan had had a tough race from the moment the call was made to stay out during the first pit stop cycle but was now back in the top ten. The restart was tight and three wide for a moment, with Marco, Hinch and Helio rubbing paint into turn one. Pagenaud and Kanann were the beneficiaries of the bunching, and Marco held strong in P7. Marco kept close to Kanaan while Castroneves and Ryan tucked in right behind. Marco, Helio and Ryan would all take Kanaan on lap 74 and the field spread out once more. A dramatic pit stop incident between the two leading teams saw Scott Dixon called in for a drive-through penalty. Will Power was suddenly out front and looking good for his first win in over a year. Wilson, Franchitti and Pagenaud followed a second or two apart. Yet just when the race was looking set yet another yellow flag was flying. Things had gotten a little crazy back in the field as at least six cars made contact and three stalled in the apex of turn seven.
Dash to the finish
Marco would line up alongside his teammate James Hinchcliffe on row three for this final restart. Row two was Franchitti and Pagenaud while up front Will Power and Justin Wilson would lead the field into the final five laps. Marco was quick off the blocks tucking into fifth and raced up the hill after Pagenaud, who he would catch and take on turn seven. Next up on track was Dario Franchitti and with two laps left Marco had just one push-to-pass to use. Pagenaud and RHR were still keeping close into the final laps. Marco stayed strong to make his sixth straight top ten finish and keep competitive in the championship.
Very proud of @MarcoAndretti!!! Keep it up, we will get that win finally this season!!
— Breanna Branch ™ (@treegirl1006) August 25, 2013
See you all next week!
Saturday afternoon qualifying at the Sonoma Raceway and it was clear that Marco’s half of the qualifying groups was fast. Getting the #25 RC Cola Chevy into Q2 took a strong effort from Marco Andretti and the #25 crew. In Q2 the pace stayed fast with the Ganassi cars setting the pace with an early lap from Dario Franchitti of 78.475 setting the standards. Marco’s efforts in Q2 proved fruitless, and his grid position was set at P12, alongside Bourdais and a row behind teammate James Hinchcliffe. Marco said afterwards: “Disappointed. I had higher hopes for the RC (Cola) Chevy today. We were loose and just couldn’t get the lap together we needed. Not the starting position we had hoped for but we’ll fight tomorrow and make the best of it.”
Marco Andretti first raced an Indy car at Sonoma Raceway in 2006 when he captured his first career victory. He returns to the 12-turn circuit this weekend ranked fourth in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. Marco has recorded 12 top-10 finishes in 14 starts so far in the 2013 racing season. “We haven’t been real strong for the past couple of years at Sonoma, but I think we can turn it around this year and be a contender. We will have a couple of tests under our belts going into the race weekend which will help us get to where we need to be. It would be great to get a second win at Sonoma for the RC Cola team.” MARCO ANDRETTI
— Scott Kiggans (@skiggans) August 23, 2013
— Sonoma Raceway (@RaceSonoma) August 7, 2013
— Jim Nolan (@jpn6163) August 12, 2013
— Townsend Bell (@TownsendBell99) August 1, 2013