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Marco Andretti: Qualifying is Critical to Barber Success

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Coming off a disappointing run at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Marco Andretti topped the second practice on Friday at Barber Motorsports Park with a lap of 1 minute, 7.7134 seconds (122.280 mph).

Andretti knows heading into Saturday’s qualifying session it will be important to back-up the lap and start well in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“We just need to do it when it counts tomorrow,” he said. “You know, it’s very important to qualify well here, so I’m pleased that we have the pace to hopefully be able to do that. But yeah, I mean, so far, so good. We just need to replicate it tomorrow.”

Previously, passing has been at a premium on the 17-turn road course, with only about four good opportunities to make moves happen. Andretti has been in the back half previously before, starting outside the top-10 the past two years.

“The only way to do it is to get like a start like I had last year, passed like nine cars on the first lap. But you need a lot of luck for that to happen, as well. That’s not the way we want to do it,” he said. “We want to be able to control the race and hopefully start up there because that would definitely make my Sunday easier.”

Though laying down the quickest lap for a pole isn’t something done so easily.

“The balance here is finding the balance between the high and low-speed corners because a lot of things that help you in some corners hurt you in others, so it’s tough to get the best of both,” he said. “We have a pretty good handle on that right now.”

Andretti knows he could use a good run this weekend as following a seventh at St. Petersburg, electrical results in Long Beach saw him not finish. This week could be the perfect spot for a turnaround with three top-fives previously at Barber, and only two finishes outside the top-10 in seven starts.

As a team, Andretti Autosport needs a good run, though, as Andretti wasn’t the only DNF.  Each of their four entries failed to finish with a mechanical problem. As a whole, though, they’ve proven to have pace in Alabama previously based on Ryan Hunter-Reay scoring back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014.

Past success did not translate to results last year with no top-10’s among their four drivers, but Andretti isn’t worried.

“I think our cars are a lot better than 2016 here,” he said. “Actually, so far this year, knock on wood. But particularly here, we had a decent test in 2016, then came back and lost pace for the race weekend. But what I like about it is we had a good test and we came back for the race weekend and the car was still good. That always shows you that we’re in the ballpark, and now we just need to stay there.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.