Motorsports Insider: Marco Andretti has done everything but win this season

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Series updates Sprint Cup Contract extension: Penske Racing has signed Brad Keselowski and Miller Lite to contract extensions through the 2017 season. It’s the second contract extension for the defending Sprint Cup Series champion in less than two years. Miller Lite has sponsored Penske’s No. 2 since 1991. Best of the rest: For two consecutive weeks, Jamie McMurray has been the best of the non-Chasers. He was fifth at Loudon and 11th at Dover. Pole milestone: Dale Earnhardt Jr., with a pole last week at Dover, tied his high for a single season with two. He last did it in 2002. Nationwide Penske lead: Roger Penske, who finally won a Sprint Cup championship last year with driver Brad Keselowski, might claim an owner’s title in Nationwide. The No. 22 car has a 34-point lead over the No. 54 with five races to go. Camping World Truck Unchanged: Matt Crafton came in 11th last week, but he kept his 41-point lead over James Buescher. Down time: The series takes two weeks off before resuming Oct. 19 at Talladega. IndyCar Houston experience: Dragon Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais knows what it’s like to win in Houston. He won the 2006 and 2007 races at Reliant Park in the Champ Car Series. In Pink: James Hinchcliffe’s No. 27 will be pink on Friday in support of breast cancer awareness month. NHRA Drought over: Antron Brown won last week at St. Louis in Top Fuel, his first win since May, climbing to sixth in the standings. Closing in: John Force’s win in Funny Car last weekend closed the gap on leader Matt Hagan to six points. Hagan has been the leader since June. Quotable “Truthfully, it was the first thought that went through my mind when I crossed the finish line. It wasn’t long after I thought about the impact of winning in the Chase.” — Jimmie Johnson, on his Sprint Cup-record eighth win at Dover

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Marco Andretti has done just about everything to put himself in position for a run at a championship.

He’s won poles. He’s been a consistent top-10 finisher. He’s avoided accidents and engine trouble.

He just hasn’t won.

That’s not a deal-killer in his quest for the IndyCar Series championship. But time is running out for that.

The IndyCar Series heads to Houston for two races this weekend, the final stop before the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

If Andretti, who sits third in the driver standings, is going to make a move for his first series title, he’s got to do it now — with the memory of a disappointing 10th-place finish at Baltimore fresh in his mind.

“We almost pulled that thing off,” he said. “Pace-wise, we weren’t where we needed to be, but having said that, if I didn’t break the front wing, we could have won the thing. I probably missed a shot at winning by a couple inches, if I just didn’t tear the left front off in that big crash that happened in front of me. You’ve just got to try to keep your nose clean if you don’t have your pace.

“But hopefully we roll off a lot stronger in Houston than we were at Baltimore. The team has hit the drawing board pretty hard, so hopefully we bounce back.”

That would not be new for the 26-year-old from Nazareth, Pa.

He was 20th in the first of a doubleheader race at Detroit, then came back and was sixth in the second race.

He was 20th at Milwaukee and came back for a ninth-place finish the next week.

Since then, he hasn’t been out of the top 10, with highs of fourth place in a doubleheader race at Toronto and at Sonoma, Calif.

“I’m the type of guy that, no matter how overwhelmed I am, I only need a day and I’m ready to go again,” he said. “When you’re in-season, our team for whatever reason seems to click off a lot of good results when we have those back-to-back races. You kind of stay in your groove and stay in your game. I think with this step away, we’ve been able to recharge the batteries, but so has everybody, so it’s going to be interesting.”

Can he do it without a win?

Andretti doesn’t want to try.

“The consistency’s there. We just need some Ws,” he said. “I think we have a shot at the championship this year. But we need to come out with some very strong points going into Fontana.”

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407 Twitter: @calexmendez

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