Marco Andretti sat on the pit wall Saturday morning at Charlotte Motor Speedway discussing his first-ever NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying run with crew chief Patrick Donahue.
Andretti, who’s making his NASCAR debut this weekend, qualified 30th for Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 on the speedway’s 2.280-mile road course at 99.222mph in a Chevrolet — a little more than 3mph off A.J. Allmendinger’s pole winning speed of 102.235mph, also in a Chevrolet.
“I wish I had tested here. This is a tricky little place,” Andretti said prior to Saturday’s event.
He tested his Big Machine Racing Chevrolet at the 3.27-mile Virginia International Raceway and admitted he left the track “really confident.”
“But I don’t have a rhythm yet,” said Andretti, who only had 30 minutes of practice before qualifying at the Charlotte road course. “I don’t have confidence yet. I’m leaving way too much room on the track and so I think it’ll take me most of stage one to just really get laps and get confident and get going.”
The 35-year-old Andretti, who won IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 rookie honors in 2006, claimed this year’s Camping World SRX Series championship, but the SRX events were on short tracks. Still, the third-generation driver won that title in a stock car, and he cited two similarities between the SRX entry and his NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolet.
“They’re both pretty heavy and a lot of roll,” said Andretti, who stepped away from racing full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series last year.
“But right now, I think I’m just really trusting on where the car is going to end up on roll and stuff because this [track] has a lot less grip than VIR. It’s just a new way of thinking that I have to just adapt, and I don’t have enough time right now, but I will by the end of the race.”
Saturday’s 67-lap NASCAR Xfinity race is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., ET, on NBC.