Learning process continues for Allmendinger

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Sunday may have marked A.J. Allmendinger’s first open-wheel race since the 2006 season, but that didn’t stop the Team Penske part-timer from being his own worst enemy after his day took a bad turn on pit road.

Allmendinger had done well leading up to his final stop of the afternoon on Lap 63, having ran in the Top 10 for much of the race. But the former Champ Car star stalled his No. 2 IZOD-backed Chevrolet and needed a re-fire before he was able to get back in the fight. Unfortunately, the damage had been done and he was forced to swallow a 19th-place result in the end.

”I’ve got to be a lot better than that; 19th isn’t going to cut it, whether this is my first time or not,” Allmendinger told the Associated Press’ John Zenor afterwards. “Without the stall, we probably should have been about 10th or 11th, which is OK, but we still want to be better than that.”

‘…It’s all about trying to get better. It’s just frustrating. I want to be great right away, whether it’s realistic or not.”

But team owner Roger Penske knows that the learning process is ongoing with ‘Dinger, who has been announced to race at Long Beach in two weeks’ time for additional preparation going into his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 in May.

”Finish this and just learn, learn, learn,” radioed The Captain to Allmendinger during Sunday’s event. “You are doing fine.”

In addition, Helio Castroneves gave props to Allmendinger and, in particular, his gaining of three positions during the race’s wild and wooly start.

“I thought he did a great job, especially at the start,” Castroneves said according to Matt Weaver of SB Nation. “He was pushing very hard. He did a great job throughout the whole weekend…To come here after seven years, to have only two tests before the first race and be right up here with [the leaders] shows just how talented he is.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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