Notes: Marco brimming with newfound confidence

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It appears that Marco Andretti didn't just work on his driving over the off-season.

Just go back to the IZOD IndyCar Series' most recent round at Long Beach. The third-generation driver was stuck with a 25th place starting position after being penalized for what INDYCAR saw as a blocking penalty during qualifying. Andretti still managed to rise through the field until he sustained front end damage.

Unbowed, he was able to climb back into the Top 10 and came away with a seventh-place finish — saving the day for Andretti Autosport, who saw their three other drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, and E.J. Viso, run into trouble.

"The old me might have gotten really frustrated and ended up not with a decent result, basically taking my head out of it before I was out of it," Andretti admitted on Wednesday. "Instead, I'm like, 'OK, we've got what we got, let's try to get the most from it.' …Basically, I've just learned to fight. I've learned to be a good fighter."

That collected approach has brought him to fourth place in the championship as the series heads into Sao Paulo, Brazil this weekend. After a third-place run in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Andretti has finished seventh in the last two events. But like any good fighter, Andretti wants a statement-making knockout, especially before the Indianapolis 500.

"Depending on where everybody else finishes, we're a podium away from leading the points is the way I look at it," said Andretti. "If we're able to do that, it would carry huge momentum into Indy. So instead of looking at [Indy] as a championship itself, I look at it as, you know, this could be a huge year for us if things shake out right.

"This is a very confidence-driven sport. Right now, I think we're all right."

Andretti is one of just three drivers with Top 10 finishes in all three events far this season, with the others being points leader Helio Castroneves (second, third, and 10th) and Justin Wilson (ninth, eighth, and third).

As reported by NBC Sports Network's Robin Miller on SPEED.com last week, Panther DRR has confirmed a plan to scale back following the Indianapolis 500 due to funding issues.

Dreyer and Reinbold Racing will retain a core group of employees as it develops, in their words, "a strategy to compete in one or more motorsports series in the immediate future and take advantage of new opportunities in the racing and automotive world."

Panther DRR's No. 22 Chevrolet, driven by Oriol Servia, is confirmed to compete this weekend in Brazil and at both this year's and next year's running of the "500."

"We have to thank our great network of partners that have supported us and we want to continue to perform at our highest level for them," said team co-owner Robbie Buhl in a team statement. "We'll be working hard to bring in additional sponsors as we rebuild after Indy this year and look to next season."

The decision to scale back will not impact Panther Racing, which entered a technical alliance with DRR shortly before the 2012 Indy 500.

Anyone who's seen the IndyCars race in Sao Paulo is well aware of how chaotic the track's Turn 1-2 complex — known as the S of Samba — can be.

There's been multiple incidents in recent races at the complex (who can forget the first-turn crash in 2010 with Mario Moraes taking a ride on the top of Marco Andretti's car), and with that in mind, track builder NZR Consulting has made a tweak to it that is designed to make the corners both quicker and safer.

“The biggest change is that we’ve moved the curbing in Turn 1 and 2, particularly in Turn 2, where they have been moved quite a bit to the driver’s right,” NZR's Tony Cotman told IndyCar.com's Arni Sribhen. "[Turn 2 is] about 10 feet wider now and the curbs that are there have been lowered, so the corner will be quicker, without question.

"The goal was to help improve things for double-file restarts and particularly in the rain. We’ve seen how difficult it can be over the years.”