Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Rossi endure tough Detroit qualifying

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DETROIT – Carlos Munoz did the business to qualify fifth for Saturday’s first of two Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans races, but his three Andretti Autosport teammates had a tough outing in Friday’s qualifying session. A separate Munoz post will follow tomorrow ahead of Saturday’s race, the seventh of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay blamed Sebastien Bourdais for an accordion effect stack-up in Q1, which then triggered Marco Andretti blaming teammate Hunter-Reay for getting balked in the same session.

Andretti then reportedly refused to talk on IndyCar Radio, with Dave Furst reporting Andretti said his teammate “effed him.”

Meanwhile Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi will start 17th, in-between the inside positions of Hunter-Reay (15th) and Andretti (19th), after a qualifying session that surprised him.

In the only pre-qualifying practice, Andretti was ninth, Munoz 10th, Hunter-Reay 15th and Rossi 19th.

While Andretti Autosport was able to orchestrate a strategy where Munoz went from 20th to the win in the first of two races last year, and Andretti himself ended second, they may have to pull a similar strategy this year.

“There’s an accordion affect in qualifying sometimes. You get yourself into a gap, you make your home in that gap and then everybody’s just got to go,” Hunter-Reay explained, via the team post-qualifying release.

“Bourdais, for some reason, went five seconds off the pace on that first lap. I have to understand why he did it; I’ve got to understand why it was necessary. I’ll go talk to him and figure it out – he has plenty of experience so it’s strange that would happen.

“But it cost me, and it cost Marco. It’s going to be hard in traffic tomorrow. The track a bit rougher than it was last year, but we’ll talk about it as a group and figure something out for the DHL team.”

Here was Bourdais’ quote: “It’s just disappointing. The car was really good on blacks (primary tire) and I felt like we could have done something, but on the reds (alternate tire) it just went away from us as soon as I left the pits. There was nothing under me, no rear stability and the car felt like it was floating. Unfortunately, there is no testing so you can’t work with the reds. It’s just frustrating. The Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team will just have to regroup, hit the reset button and see what we can come up with for tomorrow’s race.”

Meanwhile, here was Andretti’s official quote: “Qualifying was really frustrating, 19th wasn’t the result we came here for today. We’ll have to get creative and do our best to work the UFD / Snapple car to the front tomorrow.”

Rossi was more surprised than frustrated that the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda didn’t make it out of Q1.

“(Qualifying) really surprises me,” he said. “Based on where the teammates were in practice, I thought we’d be looking pretty good in qualifying. I felt really comfortable in that session in the NAPA car, compared to where I was in practice. It’s disappointing. To be a group toward the bottom again, is not great. We need to keep working.”

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”