Marco Andretti admits that his disastrous 2012 season harmed his reputation, although he is optimistic that his podium in last weekend's IndyCar season opener at St. Petersburg signals a return to form.
Andretti finished a career-worst 16th in last year's standings, a result further magnified by the fact that teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay won the title.
"I've always felt pressure, but to not be in victory circle last year killed me, especially when my teammate was winning the championship," he said. "Obviously, as a friend [of Ryan Hunter-Reay] and for my dad [team owner Michael Andretti] the championship was great, but honestly, it lowered my stock. We were not winning.
"But I need to take the positives out of it and know that this is a championship-winning team, and I can do the same. I can sit back and say 'coulda, shoulda, woulda' all day, but I need to look forward or else I'm in the wrong mindset."
Andretti's disappointment with his 2012 results drove the 26-year-old to dedicate the off-season to addressing the areas where he felt he was falling short, with street circuits being an area of particular focus. His efforts appeared to pay immediate dividends on Sunday, when he made a couple of late passes to secure third on the St. Petersburg street circuit, and he said that the job now is to build on that result.
"Hopefully, we can be part of this snowball effect that people speak of, and we can just keep clicking off a lot of great results," Andretti said. "I've made improvements where I need to improve, but sometimes you don't know why they come. You just got to keep working hard and hopefully it can snowball."
Michael Andretti said last year that he was sympathetic to Marco's plight, but felt powerless to help him.
"I've had situations where my teammates were blowing me off and I couldn't figure out why," he said. "It really gets to you. He's in a tough situation and he knows it, and he knows he's the only person who can get himself out of it.
"I think if he gets out of it, he's going to be a stronger driver because of it."
After Marco's podium last weekend, Michael said that he is convinced that his son's winter effort has paid off.
"He drove really well all weekend," he said. "You could see all the work he put into it over the winter. He was on pace all weekend, really drove a good race.
"I'm excited about that for him. He deserves it – he really worked hard. Hopefully this is a sign of good things."