Marco Andretti dropped a bombshell on the NTT IndyCar Series Friday with the announcement that he was stepping aside from his full-time role racing the Andretti Autosport No. 98 Honda for 2021, and has instead confirmed plans to race only at the Indianapolis 500.
“Upon careful thought over the past couple of months, I have made the decision to make some changes to my racing activities and focus for 2021,” said Andretti. “I recently shared this decision and the changes that I want to make with my dad (Michael) and have spoken at length with him about it. I appreciate his openness and for allowing me the flexibility to map out my own course going forward.
“I am fortunate to be in a position at Andretti Autosport to run the full IndyCar season if I want to. But, instead, I have decided to change up my direction somewhat — to reset, to do something a little different — look at everything fresh and see where that takes me. And, to me, now seems like the appropriate time to do that.
“I definitely am going to keep driving. I still have a deep passion for it and have unfinished business to take care of and some boxes that I want to check before I consider retiring as a driver.
“First and foremost, I remain very hungry to win the Indy 500. It is our biggest stage and the place that I feel I bring the most to the table as a driver. I’ve come close there and am in the mix there it seems each year. Winning the pole there last year was awesome but that isn’t enough — I know that a victory there is in my future so we’ll try to get that done in the coming years. As such, I have committed to and am looking forward to running the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport this year.”
Andretti added that he is keeping open the possibility of running additional IndyCar races, as well as exploring the possibility of some sports car outings with his cousin Jarett, who recently confirmed plans to race in IMSA LMP3 this season.
“In addition to being squarely focused on the Indy 500, I might also take a look at running some other races on the IndyCar schedule as the season progresses, in order to remain ‘car fit.’ I have also offered to help the team with some testing and other activities along the way,” Marco said. “And, I may look at different opportunities in all of motorsports. My involvement in my Andretti Autosport entry will continue.
“I also want to do some sports car racing — maybe even get the chance to do IMSA events with my cousin Jarett, which would be a lot of fun for me. I’ll be looking into other sports car opportunities as well in the coming months and welcome discussions in that regard. Marquee events like the (Rolex 24) 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Le Mans would be on that list for sure.
“I am excited for what the future holds for me both on and off the track and, again, am grateful to Dad and Andretti Autosport for allowing me the freedom to change things around as I’d like and to proceed forward a little differently this upcoming season.”
Marco’s father, team boss Michael Andretti, emphasized that the final decision had been his son’s.
“Marco and I have discussed this at length,” he said. “I both support and respect his decision to take a focus on other areas of life, and maybe even other forms of motorsport. We were working on a full-season IndyCar entry for him, but he decided he wanted to take a different direction and I respect him for making that decision.
“I think for any multi-generational athlete, it can be really challenging to find your own ground and make your own name on top of your family’s. Marco has always had the courage to chart his own path and I’m proud of the career he’s built for himself and the person he’s become. I know this decision wasn’t easy.
“But, like he has said, this is not retirement. He has some great accomplishments behind him and I think he still has many more ahead of him. He’s offered to help us out with some testing, I’m looking forward to having him back with us for the 500, and hopefully maybe a few more races through the season.”
Marco Andretti has two career IndyCar wins in 226 races over the past 15 years, the last coming at Iowa in 2011. He claimed the pole for last year’s Indy 500, his sixth career pole, although he finished a disappointing 13th in the race.