Motorsports - Andretti eager to end family's Indy500 'curse'

It was media day at the Indianapolis 500 on Thursday and Marco Andretti knew the question was coming before it was even asked.

What about the Andretti curse?

For Marco, grandson of former Formula One champion Mario Andretti and son of IndyCar champion and team owner Michael, the family name is both a blessing and curse when it comes to racing at the famed Brickyard.

American motor racing royalty, the Andrettis have ruled over open wheel racing in the United States with a string of victories that has linked generations.

Yet for all their success, the Andretti clan can count just one Indy 500 victory as the Brickyard has produced nothing but heartbreak for the family since Mario's triumph in 1969.

"I can tell you, when you are out front leading this race you are always thinking about it (the curse)," said Marco Andretti. "You just hope there is not an element that is going to take you out of it.

"As a family, as a competitor it is frustrating, 70-plus drives and one victory but as human beings we are lucky we're all healthy and still have a great shot at winning this race.

"We never really address it as a curse but there have been plenty of dinner conversations talking about how it just slipped away from all three of us."

According to folklore, the Andretti clan's bad luck at the Indianapolis 500, billed as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," began when Mario was kissed on the cheek by car owner Andy Granatelli following his 1969 triumph.

Mario raced in 29 Indy 500s and Michael 16. Mario's nephew John Andretti contested 12 Indy 500s while Jeff Andretti, Mario's youngest son, could not break the curse in three attempts at the Brickyard.

Michael Andretti, who had 42 IndyCar wins during his driving career, led more laps than any other driver never to win the Indy, crossing second once and third twice.

"It is a story, 70-plus starts and one victory is frustrating," said Marco. "Just looking at my career I could have won three of these already.

"I think if we are victorious and able to win one all of our frustrations as a family are going to come out in that moment."

Las Vegas oddsmakers apparently give little credence to the Andretti hex having installed Marco as the betting favorite for Sunday's race.

Driving for the team owned by his father, Marco will start on the outside of Row One, his best starting position in a 500.

"I've never wanted something so bad in my life," said Marco, who finished runnerup in his Indy 500 debut in 2006 and crossed third in 2008 and 2010. "Nobody could more pressure on me than I am already putting on myself.

"It's always nice to be one of favorites but I'm not foolish, I'm not over confident, I think we have a great shot at winning but we have to go out and do it."