Race Weekend Central

Marco Andretti’s Up-and-Down Day in His 1st Start at Daytona

The Andretti name carries with it one of the most illustrious histories of any name in motorsports. The Andrettii name returned to the World Center of Racing this week for the ARCA Daytona 200 as Marco Andretti made his superspeedway stock car debut.

Although Andretti has made limited starts in both the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series over the last two years, Friday (Feb. 17) night’s race marked his maiden ARCA Menards Series start. After qualifying 25th, Andretti began the day at Daytona International Speedway with plenty of work cut out for him.

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Andretti didn’t have to wait long for his first encounter with chaos, as a wreck among the leaders broke out ahead of him on lap 3. Through the calamity, Andretti escaped unscathed and advanced nearly 10 running positions as many of his competitors, including fellow headliner Shane van Gisbergen, fell by the wayside early in the going.

After avoiding early disaster, much of Andretti’s day was defined by cycles from the back toward the front. For much of the night on into Saturday morning, Andretti would bounce between 10th and 20th on track. 

Through an eventful first half of the race,  Andretti kept his car clean until he became entangled in a bizarre accident occurring as the halfway break caution came out. 

As the final lead lap cars passed the halfway mark to trigger the caution, it appeared as though some cars in the lead pack failed to check up as the caution came out. 

The seeming miscommunication resulted in several cars being collected in an accident, although most of them, including Andretti, didn’t suffer irreparable damage. 

Despite unfortunate circumstances setting him behind the odds, Andretti remained in the race to contest the second half with a car still capable of staying in the lead draft.

It appeared evident as the race progressed that Andretti was becoming more comfortable in the draft, as he became less prone to the type of moves that sent him toward the back for much of the early portion of the race. 

Where before he may have pushed the issue and tried to form an ill-advised second or third line, Andretti became more content to ride behind others with his now aerodynamically-challenged car. This approach began to pay off as he slowly ascended the running order. 

Once the field settled out into single-file formation building towards the finish, Andretti shook out in eighth place and appeared to be on his way to a solid finish.

However, after dodging bullets early and often, luck finally ran out for Andretti when damage suffered in the lap 40 incident caught up with him, causing the right front tire on his car to cut down and send him into the turn 1 wall. Andretti’s night ended just four laps short of the finish.

Officially credited with a 25th-place finish, Andretti’s result in his Daytona debut was certainly not reflective of how competitive he was. From his maiden ARCA start, Andretti received valuable lessons as to the nature of superspeedway racing and how he may improve at it in his next start.  

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