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Former IndyCar regular Marco Andretti forging a new racing path in NASCAR’s ARCA Series

Marco Andretti (98) Andretti Herta prepares to qualify for the NTT IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 21, 2022, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. (Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Three years after stepping back from IndyCar, Marco Andretti is returning to what’s essentially a full-time racing schedule.

Andretti, who decided to drive only the Indianapolis 500 in 2021 after 15 underwhelming seasons, pieced together a diverse schedule this year that begins with his debut in NASCAR’s entry-level ARCA Series on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Andretti has 13 ARCA races planned and seven more in the Truck Series, plus the Indianapolis 500 again.

“I just want to do it by winning some stuff and not just going there on my merits,” said Andretti, who raced the last three years in Tony Stewart’s all-star racing league and won the 2022 championship. “I know there’s a lot more to learn, and I want to learn it.”

He called turning laps around the famed, high-banked Daytona track a bucket list item and said it could lead him down a new racing path after two victories in 251 starts in IndyCar. It’s an exciting time for the grandson of racing legend Mario Andretti.

Marco Andretti’s last race at Daytona came in 2012 on the road course as a last-minute substitute. He finished 10th in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and understands the trepidation that typically accompanies ARCA races, especially at Daytona.

“I want laps, I want to survive and, if we’re there at the end, we’re going to be one of the ones to beat,” he said. “I want to stay out of the stuff, get experience and get laps.”

His confidence surely got a boost Thursday when he topped the speed chart in the final practice.

“I think we orchestrated it right,” he said. “I kind of got a little cheeky and left a gap and then closed the gap just to see (what would happen). When you’re nose to tail, it’s hard to make time on everybody around you. So leaving a gap and closing the gap I was able to get a little bit more.”

Andretti already has four NASCAR races under his belt, including an Xfinity race in 2022 and three Truck Series events last year. But he will now see his most extensive seat time in stock cars.

“(Speedway) racing is more circumstantial. I can’t wait until the rest of the season where it’s more in my hands,” he said.

He also will spend the month of May in Indianapolis. He announced last month that he will drive the Indy 500 for Andretti Global, which is owned by his father, Michael. Marco Andretti will attempt to make his 19th Indianapolis 500. He landed the pole position in 2020 and has four podium finishes at the iconic oval.