NEWTON, Iowa – Andretti Autosport’s Iowa Speedway hot streak came to an end this weekend, with “six” remaining the team’s magic number.
After six wins in a row on the 0.894-mile bullring, the team could only finish in that number position on Sunday as a best result, with rookie Alexander Rossi in sixth for his second best finish of the season only behind his win at the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Rossi, in the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda, was the best of Andretti’s four cars throughout the weekend from start to finish – he ended sixth after starting 17th.
“Starting 17th made our life hard. I think we were unlucky in terms of the yellows when they came out because our strength today was in the second half of our tire life,” Rossi explained, post-race. “We had really, really good tire life and everyone else was struggling. We were able to stay out but we were never able to take advantage of that. None-the-less a good result from where we started and we’re looking forward to Toronto.”
Meanwhile teammates Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay had frustrating experiences – the team never seemed to find the right setup on the slightly altered Iowa track, owing to more severe bumps in Turns 3 and 4. Andretti and Hunter-Reay both spun in first practice although Andretti completed an incredible save to not hit anything.
Munoz started 15th and finished 12th; Andretti was 14th after starting 19th while Hunter-Reay had arguably his most diabolical weekend since Detroit 2014, when he crashed on two occasions and also had an electrical failure.
After starting 20th, “RHR” was first out on Sunday with a Honda engine letting go and his dreams of a third win in a row at Iowa literally went up in flames.
“That was the most out-of-shape I think we’ve ever been,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt after the failure.
Munoz and Andretti were blunt and succinct, not mincing words about the struggles being real.
“Man, that was the longest race of my career in IndyCar,” Munoz said. “We struggled a lot for grip – I didn’t have any confidence in the car. We were just chasing the car the whole race, changing and never could get the balance in the car. We have to now think about Toronto. This was a tough race for the whole team.”
Andretti added, “Another disappointing result. I had to come from the back and it was hard to pass. We gave it all we had. We took a risk on strategy, which of course didn’t pay off – so here we are with a 14th-place finish.”
Following this result, Rossi now sits best of the Hondas in points – seventh – while Munoz is eighth, Hunter-Reay 13th and Andretti 16th in the championship standings.