Michigan Update: Kurt Busch hunting for critical win

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Trying to solidify his chances of earning a Chase berth, Kurt Busch is putting together a strong afternoon and leads the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway at the halfway point.

Busch took the lead for the first time at Lap 32 as he and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of lapped traffic momentarily holding up pole sitter Joey Logano. His first stop of the day at Lap 42 was a slow one and cost him several spots when the cycle played out, but his Furniture Row Racing crew made up for it by netting him several positions on stop No. 2 under caution at Lap 72.

Shortly after the restart at Lap 76, Busch dispatched Denny Hamlin (who had stayed out under the yellow) to take the lead and at Lap 100 of 200, Busch had opened up a two-second lead on Brad Keselowski, another winless driver that’s battling to make the Chase. Logano has stayed steady and was running third at halfway, followed by Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick.

A potential threat for the win went away in the first half of the event, when Jimmie Johnson suffered engine problems and was knocked out of the race. Johnson had to start from the rear of the field after crashing his primary car in final practice, but had managed to move into the Top 10 in his backup car before his motor went south.

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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