Andretti Autosport goes 0-for-Fast Six for first time in 2013

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Here’s one for you: name the last race before the Honda Indy Toronto race one where all of Andretti Autosport’s cars missed the Firestone Fast Six.

If you guessed any race this year, you’re wrong. The last time the last round of IZOD IndyCar Series qualified didn’t have any of the fearsome foursome, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti or E.J. Viso, was Sonoma in 2012.

Hunter-Reay will start sixth as a result of James Jakes’ engine change penalty, but had his charge on Friday halted again, ironically, by Takuma Sato. Sato contacted “RHR” in the pits last week at Pocono, costing the defending series and race champion pivotal points. Friday, during Q2 of IndyCar’s knockout qualifying, Sato’s contact with the Turn 1 wall cost Hunter-Reay the chance to improve his fastest lap.

“It’s frustrating. We had a great car today; we led the first practice,” said Hunter-Reay. “I’d like to thank the guys, the crew on the No. 1 DHL team for giving me a great car. I’d like to thank (Takuma) Sato for knocking us out of the session again today. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll be fighting again tomorrow, we’ll be fighting again on Sunday.”

Andretti will start 10th, while Hinchcliffe and Viso failed to advance out of Q1 and will start alongside each other on Row 7.

“You always want to do your laps in the end, but I’m sure I’m in the same boat as everyone else, so I can’t use that final red flag as an excuse,” said an introspective Andretti. “We tried something for the second qualifying round that didn’t really help, so it’s a bummer for the Dr Pepper crew.

“I think the race tomorrow will come down to attrition,” he added. “Mistakes will be made during the race, but hopefully not from us. Hopefully there isn’t too much carnage, but there might be with the first standing starts. I think the fans are going to be in for a good show.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.