Ryan Hunter-Reay could at last be in position to challenge for the IndyCar championship but his teammate Marco Andretti (BELOW) can certainly score multiple wins, too.
requirement of a champion. He isn’t
prone to unforced errors, so all that’s
needed is the transformation of a few
second- and third-place finishes into
victories. Underlying that is early
evidence that Team Penske and the
Chevrolet engine will be ahead of the
curve for at least the first part of the 2012
IZOD IndyCar Series season, if not all of
it. If Will Power stumbles, Briscoe is in
line to take this championship.
Critics point out that last year’s
numbers weren’t good for Briscoe – no
wins, no poles, just four top-five finishes
and 45 laps led. They’ll tell you he probably
took a pay cut for 2012 after Penske barely
managed to piece together sponsorship
to keep Briscoe’s car rolling for 2011.
They’ll tell you he’ll be the first one out if
Penske ever downsizes back to two cars.
What they won’t tell you is this: While
not a savant like Power, Briscoe is clean,
reliable and steadfast. He rarely crashes
– during the past three years, he’s been
running at the finish of 46 of the 51 races
– and doesn’t over-drive. Three wins,
maybe four, are all it takes. The missing
pieces in the Briscoe puzzle are well-timed aggression and simple luck. He’s
got everything else.
The word “potential” has been following
Marco Andretti since he first advanced to
IndyCars in 2006. It haunts him, as does
can win, and watch his numbers pop.
another word that’s intertwined with
potential: Andretti. Since the kid with a
face strikingly similar to a young Mario
Andretti came into focus, we’ve attached
that carrot/shame of potential to our
descriptions of him. It’s as if we know
how good he can be, we’re waiting for
him to prove it – and when he doesn’t,
we blame him. Truth is, Marco is all of
the things we expect of him. Blessed
with familial talent, high-def vision and
cat-like reflexes. What he didn’t have in
the past, some argued, was race craft. He
wasn’t being properly taught to race.
Nonsense. It was as plain as the speed
chart what he didn’t have, and that’s the
equipment to win races. Andretti
Autosport had fallen so far behind Penske
and Ganassi that even Marco’s victory
last year at Iowa was remarkable.
Here’s where the Marco ship should
right itself. Michael Andretti’s decision
to follow Penske to Chevrolet will be the
right move in the early stages of the car/
chassis segue. Marco should have the
upper hand – or, at the very least, a
competitive ride. Give the kid a car that