Andretti leads final practice at Fontana

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The last practice pacesetter of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season is Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport.

The driver of the No. 25 Dr Pepper Chevrolet clocked in a fastest lap of 218.755 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway under the lights. Helio Castroneves was second ahead of Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan and polesitter Will Power. Points leader Scott Dixon was sixth.

All of the top four were in the 218 mph range before the rest of the runners dropped off into the 213 to 217 mph range.

Alex Tagliani (eighth) and Oriol Servia (13th) each ran the most laps, 41, while Tristan Vautier managed only one before pitting with half the session complete, with apparent mechanical issues for his No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Pippa Mann (30 laps) and Takuma Sato (35) returned to the track after missing qualifying due to their accidents in practice one. Both drivers were in their primary cars, after repair work from the Dale Coyne and A.J. Foyt Racing crews.

The 30-minute session provided an opportunity to test varying lines for the MAVTV 500, which will go green at 6:10 p.m. PT instead of the planned 5:50 p.m. Glare and obscured sight lines entering Turn 3 necessitated the decision, which was announced earlier Friday by INDYCAR.

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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