Electrical issues ruin Marco Andretti’s day at Milwaukee

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Pole sitter Marco Andretti appeared to have a car good enough to contend for a win early in the Milwaukee IndyFest, but an electrical failure on his No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet zapped his hopes and also put him farther behind in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

The third-generation driver had paced the first 61 laps of the 250-lap race until Andretti Autosport teammate and eventual race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay overtook him at Lap 62. Six laps later, things got worse for Andretti on his first stop of the afternoon as the fuel probe failed to release from his car, costing him track position.

Then on Lap 98, the bottom fell out as Andretti suddenly lost power and rolled onto the apron between Turns 1 and 2 before coming to a stop on the backstretch to bring out the yellow. The car was taken back to pit road and after sorting out the electrical problem, Andretti rejoined the race 42 laps off the pace to try and get as many championship points possible. He eventually finished 20th.

“We came here for a win and had a car to do it,” said Andretti, who is now third in the standings at 50 points behind leader Helio Castroneves. “We fell back after a delay in the pits and then had an electrical issue – I didn’t have any idea of what happened at the time. The voltage went straight down and I lost all kinds of power; I couldn’t shift, the clutch didn’t work. We came back for all the points we could.”

His problems were the low point in an otherwise great day for Andretti Autosport. In addition to Hunter-Reay’s win, drivers E.J. Viso and James Hinchcliffe both corralled Top-5 finishes with Viso in fourth and Hinchcliffe in fifth.

“We know we’ve had the speed because we’ve seen it at almost every event this year, but I think we hadn’t quite been able to close the deal,” said Viso, who led 10 laps en route to his best career finish at Milwaukee. “We have been struggling a bit thus far, and I think we’re due for some podiums and wins. Hopefully, this is just the start.”

Hinchcliffe called it “incredible” for Andretti Autosport to put three of their guys in the Top-5, but also wished his No. 27 GoDaddy Chevy was a touch better dealing with traffic on the Mile.

“…I think that would have helped us get around the lapped cars and we could have challenged the guys we were actually racing for position with,” he said.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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