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Andretti Autosport Sticks with Honda

After a myriad of rumors swirled throughout the past month, things are not changing at Andretti Autosport as they will once again be powered by Honda in 2018 and beyond, as part of a multi-year agreement.

The news was revealed on Thursday through a video on social media.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been weighing this decision for a while now,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “We’ve had strong relationships and have marked milestones with both manufacturers, but we’re pleased to continue our Honda partnership. We have a great history of success with Honda and I have no doubt that together, our collection of achievements will continue to grow.”

Last month, talks started that there was a possibility of the pair separating, despite winning three Verizon IndyCar Series championships and five Indianapolis 500s together. Discussion only picked up more once it was leaked that Takuma Sato may leave AA to drive a second-car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, as Sato has always been associated with Honda-only teams. 

The rumors are understandable with the organization failing to reach expectations, with only one victory in 15 races this year, and Alexander Rossi the highest-ranked driver in points, currently seventh. 

“We’re extremely happy to continue our successful partnership with Michael Andretti and Andretti Autosport,” said Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Development. “As Michael stated, his team has played a major role in our success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including victories at three of the last four Indy 500s. In addition to success at Indianapolis, 47 of Honda’s 225 Indy car victories through the years have been scored by the Andretti Autosport. Together, we’re looking forward to adding to this already impressive total in the future.”

With only two races remaining in 2017, the team has signed Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti for next year, with confirmation forth coming surrounding the “remaining drivers in the coming weeks.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Mario Andretti Talks Upcoming IndyCar Season at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Racing legend Mario Andretti visited Daytona International Speedway on Sunday for the 59th running of the Daytona 500.

Andretti, who won the “Great American Race” in 1967, was in attendance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his only NASCAR win.

When he sat on the stage of the press conference room, a tribute video featuring his win started to play, allowing the retired Nazareth, Pennsylvania driver and media members a moment to reminisce about his historic victory in the No. 11 Holman-Moody Ford.

While the focus of his presser was about the notoriously loose racecar he brought to Victory Lane and the impact he had on the racing world with the 500 win, it also gave POPULAR SPEED an opportunity to ask about the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series campaign.

Andretti Autosport made numerous engineering changes and added new team members in the offseason to prepare for the 2017 season.

Last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi has a new engineer for his No. 98 Honda. Jeremy Milless comes over from Ed Carpenter Racing to work with Rossi and Eric Bretzman, Chip Ganassi Racing’s former technical director, joins AA as the team’s new director. Notably, Bryan Herta, who was paired with Rossi, remains with the team and is now partnered with Marco Andretti.

It’s also worth noting Marco, Mario’s grandson, seemed remarkably enthusiastic for the upcoming IndyCar season as he smiled throughout the series’ “Prix-View” test at Phoenix International Raceway last month. Entering his 12th full season, the 29-year-old only has two career wins and is coming off a dismal 2016, where he finished 16th in the Championship standings and failed to earn a podium result.

“Alexander really came to life by winning the 100th running of the IndyCar race last year,” Mario said. “He’s a really strong member of the team. He says, ‘I hope that what we’ve done during the offseason, the engineering and some of the changes, some of the [new engineers] we’ve acquired, will make a difference.’

“You know, the hope is high. We have to be thinking positively,” he added.

AA’s only win last season came from Rossi’s shocking fuel-mileage victory at Indy. The team was a step behind Ganassi, and everyone was well behind the dominating Team Penske, but the Andretti organization believes they’ve made ground on the field’s top teams.

“There’s always somebody you think is going to be better than you, and that’s what raises your game,” the 77-year-old Andretti said. “The Penske team is always a team to contend with.

“They’ve always been a marquee team throughout their history. If you feel you’re good enough to beat them, then you’re in pretty good shape, and that hope is there.”

With Penske adding Josef Newgarden to its four-driver lineup and Simon Pagenaud coming off the 2016 title, the consensus among IndyCar fans and media is that Penske is still the series’ top dog.

But with Ganassi switching from Chevrolet to Honda and a lack of sponsorship for Scott Dixon being a distraction for the team entering the season, AA might be able to capitalize on its issues.

Ganassi was second-tier to Penske in 2016, but after “stagnant” changes within the organization as Dixon put it, AA could visit the winner’s circle more often than Ganassi this year.

“That’s the skin we have in the game with my son Michael [AA team owner] and having four cars,” Andretti said. “Every team is doing their utmost, and they just hope that it’s enough.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Alexander Rossi Hoping For Better With Andretti in 2017

PHOENIX — Excluding his victory in the 100th Indianapolis 500, Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi summarized his rookie season in the Verizon IndyCar Series with one word — “horrible.”

Rossi, 25, finished the season 11th in the driver standings. He was the only Andretti racer to visit Victory Lane all of last year. But he believes the team will be better in 2017 because of personnel changes in the organization’s engineering department.

Longtime Chip Ganassi Racing technical director Eric Bretzman comes over as Andretti’s new technical director and former Ed Carpenter Racing engineer Jeremy Milless will work with Rossi’s team for the upcoming season.

“Eric was Scott [Dixon’s] engineer for about five or six years … my engineer now was Josef [Newgarden’s] engineer at Ed Carpenter the past couple of years,” Rossi told POPULAR SPEED. “They both bring a wealth of resources in terms of understanding the car. They know what Chevy was doing so hopefully we have more information than we had in the past couple of years.”

Rossi believes Team Penske will still be the cream of the crop in 2017 but also thinks Andretti will have enough speed to outrace Ganassi this season.

“We know there’s going to be a big battle going up against Penske, but our goal on the team this year is beat Ganassi,” Rossi said. “… Show our power and come out on top as a team and have a completely different year than we did last year.”

Now having a full year’s experience in IndyCar, Rossi said he’ll be better prepared for the upcoming campaign. He also said the addition of former A.J. Foyt Racing wheelman Takuma Sato would benefit Andretti’s atmosphere.

“We’re going to get to work in a week and a half in Phoenix and do a test, and I think that he’ll provide a lot of insight,” Rossi said. “I know he’ll bring a lot to the table from an approach perspective. He was one of the fastest Honda drivers last year. Anything that he can bring will be a positive boost to the whole team.”

Rossi called his Indy 500 win the “saving grace” of his first year in IndyCar. He is signed for three more years with Andretti and hopes a new aero package will improve his performance going forward.

“We have a lot to redeem ourselves from in 2017, and like I said, we’ve made positive steps,” he added. “We’ll have a very different package than what we had last year. We’ve put in a lot of effort, and hopefully, it shows in St. Pete.”

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.