INDIANAPOLIS – Marco Andretti knows how much heartache his family has suffered at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He needs no reminders that IndyCar could use an American superstar, and with his famous last name, he is quite aware of the hope that maybe he can be the one to elevate this attention-starved series.

None of that matters to Andretti as he heads into the Indianapolis 500.

He believes he can win today’s race — “it’s going to be our race to lose,” he said — and he wants it, badly. But Andretti wants it for himself, for his own career, and not because of what it would mean to his family or for IndyCar. Mario Andretti won in 1969, and no Andretti has done it again.

“That’s not my approach to the event. My approach is I want to win our Super Bowl,” Andretti said. “I put that pressure on myself. I don’t want to do it because he did it and my dad didn’t, that’s all bonus. Do I think we can? You’re darn right.”

The 96th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is the most wide-open race in a very long time. Engine competition for the first time in six years and the introduction of a new car have widened the pool of potential winners, and there’s no clear favorite.

“I think we’re going to see the best race we’ve had in at least a decade,” said Roger Penske, winner of 15 Indy 500s and the team owner of pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe.

Penske is undefeated this season, as Helio Castroneves and points leader Will Power have combined to win the first four races. And with Chevrolet power, Penske drivers have swept all five poles so far this season.

So it seemed to be business as usual on pole day, when Chevrolet clearly had the edge. The team put nine drivers inside the top 10, and all six of the full-time entries were from Penske and Andretti Autosport.

Then came Carb Day, and the Hondas came to life.

Chip Ganassi teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon led the leaderboard, with Andretti landing third on the final speed chart as the fastest Chevy driver.

“Maybe some sandbagging?” Franchitti wondered as Andretti slid into the seat next to him following their final on-track session before the race. “Do you really think we’re all going to show what we can do?”

Andretti has been one of the few constants this month at Indy. He’s been consistently fast, and was thought to be a threat for the pole. He wound up fourth, right behind teammates James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

IndyCar is seeking a new star now that Danica Patrick has fled to NASCAR, and will miss her first Indy 500 since 2005. She was the de facto face of the series, and IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard knows he needs somebody else to step up and fill her void.

He knows that an Andretti win would be a very good thing for the series.

“Wherever you go in the world, Andretti is known in racing,” he said. “This is Marco’s stance. I’ve never seen him so confident. It’s like a new Marco to me.”

But Bernard doesn’t care who wins today so long as it is a great race with tremendous story lines. The promoter in him craves a spontaneous moment that captures the audience.

Indy got that emotion last year when J.R. Hildebrand crashed coming out of the final turn while leading. It opened the door for Dan Wheldon to sail by for his second Indy 500 win, and made for a fascinating display of raw emotion.