INDIANAPOLIS - Shortly before he left his home in Nazareth, Pa., for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Marco Andretti watched a documentary that showed his grandfather Mario at the famed track.
"It was him and [radio announcer] Paul Page. They were walking down the start/finish line and he said, 'You know, I always said I hated this place,' " Andretti recalled his grandfather saying. "And then he paused for a while and said, 'I lied.' That pretty much tells it all. We've been through a lot here, but we live for it."
Five drivers from the Andretti clan have combined to make 80 starts in the Indianapolis 500. Mario Andretti's 1969 victory remains the lone win and the family has been answering questions about the "Andretti Curse" for decades now.
It was Michael Andretti who had it the worst, leading 431 laps in 16 career starts and never getting a chance to drink the celebratory milk.
But it has not been any easier for Marco, the third-generation driver who has suffered his own share of heartache at Indy. He was passed by Sam Hornish Jr. on the final straightaway in 2006, when he raced as a 19-year-old rookie with his father in the field. Hornish won the race, and Marco and Michael finished second and third.
He says he gave away the 2008 race, which was won by Scott Dixon. Andretti finished third.
There was another third-place finish in 2010, and then he went into last year's race convinced it was "mine to lose."
"And we lost it," he said Thursday with a shrug.
He was upset with his car all day, even as he led a race-high 59 laps. Then an ill-timed caution shuffled Andretti back into the field after a pit stop. He was struggling with his handling and crashed out of the race 13 laps from the finish.
So the curse has been passed down, even as Andretti does his best to put his own positive spin on the suffering.
"I believe that as a family, having one win in 70-something tries, that's frustrating as competitors," he said. "But I think we're blessed as a family because we are all healthy. And I am still young, knock on wood, and I'll have a lot of shots at this race."
He then paused before continuing: "But we want to win, damn it."
Andretti has another shot on Sunday when he starts third, on the front row for the first time in his career. Funny thing is, he wasn't even focused on qualifying and the best starting spot of his career came as something of a surprise.