Andretti Autosport targets 5 cars at Indy 500; Frijns still possible later

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Andretti Autosport has run five cars each of the last three years at the Indianapolis 500, and the goal remains to do five cars in 2016 as well, for the 100th running.

Andretti Autosport CEO and team principal Michael Andretti confirmed that’s the goal for Andretti to do five this year, as well, with the usual one-car addition.

“We’re working on it. We’re working on five,” Andretti told NBC Sports during Indy Lights testing at Phoenix International Raceway.

“We were close on one deal that just fell apart, unfortunately. But there’s a few other irons in the fire. The goal is get to five.”

Although the opportunity for one of Andretti’s Formula E drivers, Robin Frijns, to join the field for other selected races in a fourth car has passed with the Bryan Herta Autosport/Andretti Autosport partnership and arrival of Alexander Rossi, Frijns could still appear in races later this year.

Andretti said this was “very possible” when speaking to my colleague Luke Smith at the most recent Formula E round in Argentina.

“It’s possible, yes, that we could do that,” Andretti said of a would-be fifth car for Frijns later this year.

“He’s the real deal. Unfortunately we’re on last year’s car, which has hurt us a bit. Simona (de Silvestro) has had a tough time getting a hold of these cars. So he’s been carrying the team in terms of points. It’s been a little difficult. But there are a lot of exciting things we’re doing for the future.”

Andretti is also hoping that Hondas, which were not competitive last year at Indianapolis, can measure up to Chevrolet this year.

“I’m a little worried about Indy. We struggled last year,” Andretti said. “I’m so disappointed in (the sanctioning body) that they didn’t allow the (Rule) 9.3 there. The field was split last year and no reason why it’s not gonna be split last year. I was so disappointed they did that.

“But I really like Jay (Frye, new President of Competition and Operations). I think Jay listens, which is nice. And so far what he’s done, he’s done a good job. Happy so far, obviously early days.”

Andretti Autosport at Indianapolis 500 last three years with five cars:

  • 2015: 6-27-Marco Andretti, 15-28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 19-29-Simona de Silvestro, 20-26-Carlos Munoz, 21-25-Justin Wilson
  • 2014: 1-28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 3-25-Marco Andretti, 4-34-Carlos Munoz, 6-26-Kurt Busch, 28-27-James Hinchcliffe
  • 2013: 2-26-Carlos Munoz, 3-1-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 4-25-Marco Andretti, 18-5-E.J. Viso, 21-27-James Hinchcliffe

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”