Ryan Hunter-Reay looks to win once again. Photo: IndyCar

IndyCar 2017 team preview: Andretti Autosport

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MotorSportsTalk looks through the teams competing in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Although Andretti Autosport dominated the month of May at Indianapolis and scored the victory in the 100th Indianapolis 500, it was the lone bright spot in an otherwise challenging campaign. An engineering and partial driver reset beckons for 2017.

Drivers (Engineer, Strategist)

26-Takuma Sato (Garrett Mothershead, Paul “Ziggy” Harcus)
27-Marco Andretti (Nathan O’Rourke, Bryan Herta)
28-Ryan Hunter-Reay (Ray Gosselin both)
98-Alexander Rossi (Jeremy Milless, Rob Edwards)

Manufacturer/aero kit: Honda

Sponsors: Panasonic (No. 26), hhgregg (No. 27), DHL (No. 28), NAPA Auto Parts, CURB Records (No. 98)

Rossi has a year's worth of IndyCar experience. Photo: IndyCar
Rossi has a year’s worth of IndyCar experience. Photo: IndyCar

What went right in 2016: The month of May at Indianapolis. Otherwise, not much in a year the team would otherwise rather forget.

What went wrong in 2016: Pretty much everything other than the month of May at Indianapolis, and Sonoma when the team finally found a spark in performance. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s efforts at a handful of oval races, in particular, were wasted. 

Marco Andretti is among those who need a bounce back year. Photo: IndyCar
Marco Andretti is among those who need a bounce back year. Photo: IndyCar

What’s changed for 2017: Lots. Eric Bretzman should guide the team as new technical director. Alexander Rossi has both a year of experience now under his belt along with both a new strategist and race engineer. Marco Andretti reunites with Bryan Herta, now on his box. And Takuma Sato replaces Carlos Munoz as fourth driver. Michael Andretti moves off the strategist box. There’s a lot to meld here but also the usual upside of potential.

What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: Greater consistency in both qualifying and races and a return to victory lane in other races. Hunter-Reay’s dogged determination is the hallmark of his career and he should be back to scoring at least one win. Rossi will seek further podiums and wins, while Andretti and Sato will look to break out of the proverbial midpack and match their ability level with some results.

Sato joins Andretti Autosport. Photo: IndyCar
Sato joins Andretti Autosport. Photo: IndyCar

MST PREDICTIONS

Tony DiZinno: It’s hard to see more than two of the four drivers here winning based on recent performance, and with how few tracks the Honda package has a clear advantage. That said, I could see both Hunter-Reay and Rossi winning this year, and if the cards fall right on strategy, Andretti or Sato could steal a win. Hunter-Reay and Rossi will enter the top-10 in points and the other two will be back on the podium this year after challenging 2016 seasons.

Kyle Lavigne: Andretti Autosport had an astounding juxtaposition of results in 2016. They had the dominant package at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but could barely get out of their own way at Iowa Speedway. Ryan Hunter-Reay scored strong results at St. Petersburg, Detroit, and Road America, but most of the road and street races left a lot to be desired.

All told, fixing their street course program may be the most important aspect to their 2017 season. It proved to be their Achilles’ heel in 2016 and dramatically set them back in the championship.

If they perform like they’re capable of on those circuits, Ryan Hunter-Reay could again become a championship contender while Alexander Rossi could become a regular front runner. Takuma Sato has has always been fast and may challenge for podiums, but questionable driving decisions and a multitude of crashes have hampered his career and it’s hard to imagine him breaking that habit this late into his career. Marco Andretti will be happy to leave 2016 behind and should bounce back in 2017, especially on the ovals.

Luke Smith: Andretti is one of the hardest teams to peg given its varying form throughout 2016. Consistency and stability are what Michael Andretti will want from his team this year; quite whether it will arrive is another story.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will be the lead man once again, and should nab a victory or two. Alexander Rossi needs to prove himself this year after – Indy 500 victory aside – a so-so debut campaign. Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato are both in recovery mode after horrible 2016s, but I don’t see things changing a great deal for them. If either can hit the podium, it would be a big breakthrough.

Dakar Rally Stage 13: Carlos Sainz has second overall victory in sight

Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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Editor’s note: Check out expanded video highlights of Stage 13 Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Carlos Sainz is nearing his second Dakar Rally victory while Nasser Al-Attiyah strengthened his bid for second by winning Friday’s 13th stage of the endurance race.

Sainz finished sixth in his Team Peugeot ride and holds a lead of 46:18 over Al-Attiyah’s Toyota.

“I tried to play it safe, even if there were plenty of tricky parts,” said Sainz, who won the Dakar Rally in 2010 but had failed to finish the past five races because of mechanical problems. “Since the start, there has been a lot of drama in this race and it’s not over until we’ve crossed the finishing line. It’s not a crazy Dakar, but it’s very difficult. I hope everything will go OK (Saturday).”

Defending race winner Stephane Peterhansel is in fourth overall, trailing by 1:28:08 after crashing and finishing 20th in the penultimate stage. The Frenchman has a record 13 overall wins in the Dakar but is unlikely to earn another despite rebounding well from a crash in the seventh stage that had knocked him from the overall lead.

In other divisions, Eduard Nikolaev (trucks), Matthias Walkner (motorcycles), Ignacio Casale (Quads) and Reinaldo Varela (SxS UTV) are on the cusp of capturing overall wins entering the final stage.

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STAGE 13 RESULTS, CARS

  1. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toyota, 5:02:22
  2. Argentina’s Lucio ALvarez, Toyota, 5:13:38
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, Toyota: 5:15:28
  4. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, X-Raid, 5:17:29
  5. Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, X-Raid, 5:21:46

OVERALL 

  1. Spain’s Carlos Sainz
  2. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, 46:18 behind
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, 1:20:00 behind
  4. France’s Stephane Peterhansel, 1:28:08 behind
  5. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, 2:46:32 behind

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TRUCKS

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, 5:59:02
  2. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:59:52
  3. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, Tatra, 6:05:08
  4. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 6:26:47
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 6:31:56

OVERALL 

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev
  2. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 3:53:59 behind
  3. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:21:05
  4. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, 9:01:18
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 10:04:29

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MOTORCYCLES

  1. Australia’s Toby Price, KTM, 4:48:33
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, Honda, 4:50:36
  3. France’s Antoine Meo, KTM, 4:51:17
  4. Austria’s Matthias Walkner, KTM, 5:00:05
  5. Spain’s Juan Pedrero Garcia, 5:03:45

AMERICAN RIDERS

15th: Mark Samuels (Honda), 5:19:40

18th: Shane Esposito (KTM), 5:27:14

37th: Andrew Short (Husqvarna), 5:58:14

68th: Bill Conger (Husqvarna), 7:16:00

OVERALL 

  1. Austria’s Matthias Walkner
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, 22:31 behind
  3. Australia’s Toby Price, 27:45
  4. France’s Antoine Meo, 50:17
  5. Spain’s Gerard Farres, 1:01:19

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QUADS

  1. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 5:55:16
  2. Paraguay’s Nelson Augusto Sanabria Galeano, 5:58:34
  3. Chile’s Ignacio Casale, 5:59:19
  4. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 6:02:22
  5. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 6:02:23

OVERALL

  1. Chile’s Ignacio Casale
  2. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 1:37:16 behind
  3. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 2:05:12
  4. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 4:25:26
  5. Peru’s Alexis Hernandez, 4:34:37

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SxS UTV

  1. France’s Patricie Garrouste, Polaris, 6:29:40
  2. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela, Can-Am, 6:39:39
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, Polaris, 7:33:17
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, Polaris, 7:41:200

OVERALL 

  1. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela
  2. France’s Patricie Garroueste, 53:28 behind
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, 10:02:12
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, 10:06:01

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SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

Champions in all five classes will be crowned Saturday after the 14th and final stage concludes in Cordoba, Argentina.

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