Honda disadvantage at Indy made Marco Andretti ‘angry’


When the 2015 Indianapolis 500 concluded, Juan Pablo Montoya was its victor and Marco Andretti “was angry.”

But the son of Michael Andretti wasn’t mad because Montoya won. He was ticked off that Honda had lost in a glaring fashion.

The final results showed Marco’s No. 27 Snapple Honda finishing in sixth, one spot behind the No. 15 car belonging to Graham Rahal.

The two drivers had the only Honda-powered cars in the top 11.

Honda was able to celebrate six wins over the course of 2015’s 16-race schedule. But Andretti knows there’s asterisks on some of them.

“Some we won, weren’t… one was a pack race (Fontana), anyone’s game,” Andretti told media last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, including NASCAR Talk‘s Nate Ryan.  “Pocono was a lot of people out. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) drove a hell of a race.”

Two others, Honda’s only wins among the first 10 races of the season, were a result of rainouts at NOLA Motorsports Park and one of the Detroit duals.

The Indy race could serve as the perfect microcosm for the first half of the season. Frustrations over Honda’s seeming disadvantage to Chevrolet have resulted in the former citing Rule 9.3 in the IndyCar rulebook, which will allow Honda to make changes to its aero kit for short tracks, road courses and street courses in 2016.

The modifications are based on two tests IndyCar made with the 2015 aero kits. What was the difference?

“I’ve heard numbers around 400 pounds of downforce,” Andretti said. “It’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Three to four tenths there… if we make some of it up. With some wins they pulled out this year, we hope it’ll be twice as strong.”

During the long offseason Andretti has tested for 2016 at Mid-Ohio and Road America, and is scheduled to at Phoenix today pending weather. Andretti says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about what he’s seen so far.

“That’s all I can say without my engineer killing me,” Andretti said. “Most (is being made up) on the road course side. I can’t say we’re totally equal on speedways. There’s a bit of politics involved.”

That’s something the two-time IndyCar winner doesn’t want anywhere near Indianapolis Motor Speedway come the month of May and the 100th running of the Indy 500 a race an Andretti hasn’t won since 1969.

“I don’t want politics to hinder my chance at winning that race, you know?” Andretti said. “It’s the 100th Indy 500… that could be the face for the next 100 years. To be at a disadvantage there would be disappointing.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)