Stewart: Track position critical, but “not absolutely everything” at Indy

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After winning a well-received pole for tomorrow’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ryan Newman said that track position will be more important than ever before at Indianapolis. But his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and boss Tony Stewart had a slightly different take on the subject.

“This is one of those tracks where track position is important, but it’s not absolutely everything,” said Stewart, who will start fifth tomorrow and looks to add a third Brickyard 400 crown to his resume.

Stewart can make that argument pretty convincingly. Both of his Brickyard wins had him starting outside the Top 10 – 22nd in 2005 and 14th in 2007.

“You have got to have a car you can race with,” he continued. “If you can get it to qualify well, normally it will race well too. Just having a car that is balanced is the biggest thing.”

But this year, he won’t have to deal with too much traffic at the drop of the green flag thanks in part to some tweaks made to his No. 14 SHR Chevrolet between this morning’s final practice and the afternoon qualifying session.

“I feel like we have a car we can race with tomorrow,” said Stewart. “So far, so good. I am really, really happy with the changes that [crew chief] Steve Addington and our guys made between ‘Happy Hour’ and qualifying. It gives us a good idea what we need to do for the race because that is exactly what we were working on during practice.”

All things considered, Stewart expects to be a threat once again at the track he loves more than any other.

“I think we have a pretty good shot at this thing tomorrow,” he said. “There’s about 10 really good cars right now in the field. I feel like we are right there in the hunt. We just have to put the whole day together tomorrow.”

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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