Andretti close to driver, engine announcements

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Expect Wednesday’s announcement of the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile the first of several upcoming for Michael Andretti, the Andretti Autosport team, and the Andretti Sports Marketing arm, in 2014.

The team locked up 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay to a contract extension prior to the last race of last season. And Marco Andretti, obviously, also isn’t going anywhere.

As for the status of James Hinchcliffe, E.J. Viso and potentially Carlos Munoz, Michael Andretti said: “We’re hopefully announcing some things soon – there are some things I think we can do this weekend.”

Andretti is spending today in Dallas for sponsor meetings, then heading to Los Angeles for this weekend’s season finale in Fontana, Calif.

The other domino is whether Andretti Autosport will switch to Honda from Chevrolet for 2014, which appears likely at this point. I asked Michael whether Chip Ganassi’s move the other way caught him off guard.

“We knew something was going on, but I was surprised it was announced then (at Houston two weeks ago),” Andretti explained. “It’s put me in a bit of a weird position. But it’s been an interesting last couple weeks. We’re close to making a decision, hopefully announcing soon, and all options are on the table.”

Andretti is seeking further duties for his ASM promotional arm – a separate team and staff under the Andretti umbrella. The group lost Baltimore, another ASM-promoted race, for 2014. But whether it’s in Formula E, which the team has announced its plans to participate in, or with other possible new venues, Andretti is optimistic of finding something to fill the gap.

“We’re actively looking at other venues, and things to do,” Andretti said. “We were disappointed in the loss of Baltimore for sure. But it’s important for our staffing to be utilized. We’ll be announcing other things we’ll be doing, maybe not just IndyCar.”

It’s easy to forget because the team has been so snakebit with luck the second half of the season, that Andretti’s quartet of 2013 drivers have been quick and probably better as a collective unit than they were during the 2012 title-winning season.

But James Hinchcliffe’s podium two weeks ago in Houston Race 2 was the team’s first since Hunter-Reay was second in Iowa, back in June. Heading into the season finale, Hunter-Reay (second, 5.1 average), Marco Andretti (fourth, 9.0), and Hinchcliffe (fifth, 9.1) have three of the five best qualifying averages in the field, but not the results to match.

“It’s so weird,” Michael Andretti explained. “One of the highlights of the year for us was being on the front row at Pocono. From start of that race to now, it seems like the wheels came off.

“We’ve been competitive in every race, but you wouldn’t know it, because all our guys have bad luck,” he added. “That’s the way it goes. To win a championship, you have to have the breaks go your way. We could have won the championship this year with Marco or Ryan if they had the breaks Ryan did last year. People are saying we’re uncompetitive, but we’re not uncompetitive. We just wanna finish it off with a win to cap our bad luck.”

Power, Newgarden, Dixon fastest in first of 2 IndyCar practices today at Barber Motorsports Park

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Will Power was fastest in Friday’s first of two IndyCar practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Power covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in 1:07.5987 minutes at 122.488 mph in the 45-minute practice session.

Even though he spun off the course during his session, Phoenix winner Josef Newgarden still managed to be second-fastest (121.919 mph at 1:07.9141 minutes), followed by Scott Dixon (121.296 mph/1:082627), Max Chilton (121.251 mph/1:08.2882) and Ed Jones (121.215 mph/1:09.5692).

 

Sixth through 10th were Simon Pagenaud (121.208 mph/1:08.3122), Jordan King (121.113 mph/1:083661), Graham Rahal (121.059 mph/1:08.3964), St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais (121.029 mph/1:08.4131) and rookie Zach Veach (121.014 mph/1:08.4216).

Here’s the full speed chart:

Incidents:

* Early in the session, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi ran off the track and into the grass, striking a small sign, but was able to get back on-track. However, Rossi was only able to complete 10 laps, relegating him to 20th-fastest in the 23-car field.

* Moments later, it appeared the rear brakes locked up on Newgarden heading into Turn 5, spinning him into the gravel trap. He was able to get going and returned to the pits for service and was back on-track with less than four minutes remaining in the session.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The second practice session of the day will begin at 3:50 p.m. ET. A third practice will take part Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET. The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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