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Marco Andretti opens 2013 with St. Pete podium

Mar 24, 2013, 8:00 PM EST

Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti AP

Welcome back, Marco Andretti. Perhaps a new number (25 from 26) and livery (blue and red for RC Cola) could be the recipe for an improved season.

The Andretti Autosport driver, already starting his eighth IndyCar season but having only just turned 26, turned in a sterling performance to open his 2013 account. From seventh on the grid, Andretti registered his best St. Pete finish and first top five on a road or street circuit since Toronto in 2011, when he finished fourth.

“I don’t want to speak too soon,” Andretti admitted, cautiously. “There’s still a long way to go in the season. I’m definitely pleased to reap some of the benefits for how hard I’ve been working, not only physically, but as you say, where I’ve been lacking. For me it felt like a win, but we’ll take this. I think if we can have days like this all year, we can be in contention for a championship.”

He had to muscle past Simona de Silvestro to secure the podium, as her tires were going off toward the end of the race. The move for third was a clean one through Turn 14 just before the white flag.

Andretti has opined throughout the offseason on his struggles on street courses in particular, and also how disappointing it was to play a supporting role out of the spotlight in 2012 within the team as Ryan Hunter-Reay won a championship and James Hinchcliffe took over the high-profile GoDaddy account.

“It’s a tough feeling going home with the defeat I had last year, knowing your teammate beat you and stuff like that,” he said. “But you also need to look at the bright side of it. You’re driving for the championship team. You know you have the equipment to get the job done.

“So on that side of it, you need to take that confidence and go. I mean, my mentality changed this year because instead of looking back and saying, ‘Oh, man.’ If you’re thinking about how terrible last year was for me, then we talk about confidence, you’re not going to have that confidence.”

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