Allmendinger takes 2nd NNS win of year at Mid-Ohio

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A.J. Allmendinger withstood a green-white-checkered finish to win his second NASCAR Nationwide Series of the year – both on natural-terrain road courses – in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

A caution with less than two laps to go triggered the first of potentially three GWC attempts and led to worries that his No. 22 Penske Racing Ford would run out of fuel. The final lap saw Aussie pilot Owen Kelly spin out of fourth place and Nelson Piquet Jr. run out of fuel after rolling off fifth on the last restart.

But ‘Dinger, who led 73 of 94 laps, was able to keep ahead of the mayhem and hold off pole sitter Michael McDowell to claim the checkered flag.

Sam Hornish Jr. finished third and was able to take over the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead by 13 points over Elliott Sadler (finished sixth) and Regan Smith (finished 15th).

Austin Dillon, the points leader going in, looked set for a solid Top-10 finish despite having to start from the rear after missing qualifying because of his duties replacing the injured Tony Stewart at Michigan.

But multiple incidents on late restarts eventually took their toll, and Dillon was saddled with a 21st-place result instead; he is now fourth in the standings, 15 points behind the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion.

Stewart’s original replacement racer, Max Papis, came home fourth with Brian Vickers rounding out the Top 5 finishers.

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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