An Andretti wins 1st Indy 500 pole for family in 33 years

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Marco Andretti is shown after winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS – Marco Andretti was 2 months old the last time his venerable racing family led the field to green at the Indianapolis 500. In this strange pandemic-plagued season, he ended a 33-year Andretti drought by winning the pole.

That darned “Andretti Curse” has haunted three generations of racers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1969, when Mario Andretti won his only Indy 500. Now his grandson, with a lightning-fast and fearful four laps around the speedway, has cleared the first hurdle toward an elusive victory.

Mario Andretti was 1 for 29 in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," with just three career poles, his last in 1987. His son, Michael, never won a pole and his best finish in 16 tries was second in 1991. Jeff Andretti went 0 for 3. John Andretti was 0 for 12 and Marco currently is 0 for 14.

In his 15th attempt, he will attempt to end that stupid family curse once and for all.

The last of nine drivers Sunday to make a qualifying run, Marco Andretti logged a four-lap average of 231.068 mph to bump five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon from the pole. Andretti worried about the wind all morning and relied on advice his grandfather has long given the racers of the family to find the courage to hold it wide open for four laps around one of the most famous tracks in motorsports.

“The wind will scare you, but it will never crash you," Marco Andretti said, quoting his grandfather after his run.

He seemed to have tears in his eyes and his hands appeared to briefly shake as driver after driver congratulated him on pit lane. Then came a strong embrace with his father, owner of the six Andretti entries in the rescheduled Aug. 23 race.

“Obviously I was emotional. We put so much into it. This place means so much to us as a family,” Marco Andretti said. "We’ve just been through so many ups and downs at this place. Obviously my (late) cousin John is riding with me, my grandfather from home.