They did not threaten Team Penske’s two rabbits on Saturday; however, Andretti Autosport has momentum entering the 101st Indianapolis 500.
Led by 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, they managed to place two of its entrants in the top-ten in the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
For RHR, Saturday’s third-place result was his best outing since placing fourth in the season–opener at St. Petersburg.
“We’ve had a pretty tricky beginning of the year I guess you could say,” said Hunter-Reay after the checkered flag. “It’s been one thing or another, really. Some misfortune, bad luck. Some we brought upon ourselves, but it’s been one thing or another.”
Starting eighth, the DHL Honda pilot quietly ran among the top-ten throughout the 85 laps, but was able to avoid the errors that hampered others. Ultimately, the veteran was able to secure a place on the podium overtaking Penske’s Helio Castroneves.
“Helio’s strategy didn’t end up working out for him in the end because he was on primaries at the end; kind of a sitting duck for us that had pace on (optional tires),” explained Hunter-Reay.
Defending Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi also enjoyed a solid weekend at the Brickyard, running as high as sixth, before settling for eighth at the conclusion.
“We had a really good start, but we chose the wrong downforce level,” said Rossi. “We got it balanced out on the last stint, but it was too late to run up the (leaderboard).”
While the NAPA Auto Parts Honda driver was without any significant maladies during Saturday’s action, the former Formula One test driver struggled during the long green flag stints, eventually losing some spots.
Although the results for Hunter-Reay and Rossi were a far cry from the team’s massive breakdowns at Long Beach and Phoenix, Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato proved there are still some kinks in the armor.
Having to start at the back of the grid on Saturday, Sato never had a signficiant impact, but gained twelve positions to come home 12th.
“It was a tough race, but I think we fought back quite strongly,” said Sato. “We’ve got good momentum for the Indianapolis 500, and I’m looking forward to starting practice on Monday.”
Andretti’s hopes were dashed when he came into contact with Tony Kanaan on the opening lap, a move stewards judged as avoidable and the third-generation driver was issued a drive-through penalty. Mired near at the tail of the order from that point, Andretti posted a 16th-place result. The 2006 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, later apologized to Kanaan on Twitter for the shunt, claiming he was more focused on his rear-view mirrors, than he what was ahead of him.
“Wasn’t the way I would have liked to have started the race,” admitted Andretti. “I knocked into TK, and it was an uphill battle from there. I ruined both our races.”
Andretti Autosport’s effort expands from four cars to six when IMS converts to its traditional 2.5–mile oval layout on Monday. Joining the regular drivers will be multi-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso and Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires veteran Jack Harvey.
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