The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was setting up very nicely for Andretti Autosport. Although Takuma Sato struggled in qualifying, teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi made the Firestone Fast Six. Marco Andretti, too, excelled in qualifying, taking the tenth spot and the grid.
Race day started off well, too. Hunter-Reay and Rossi rocketed around pole sitter Helio Castroneves off the start to run in the top five, and they ran in top three for much of the race, only dropping back during pit stop sequences.
But, the day unraveled from there for the entire team. First, Marco Andretti slowed on lap 17 and pulled off the circuit due to a sensor failure. Then, it was Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi slowing with less than 30 laps to go, both with engine issues. Then, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay’s turn, with his car coming to halt as he closed in on leader James Hinchcliffe in the final laps. Hunter-Reay problems appeared to be electrical as he said the car eventually restarted, but he never rejoined the fight.
While optimism is still high, there is disappointment that they couldn’t capitalize on their potential, as Hunter-Reay explained. “It really hurts when it’s that close to the end and I was closing on (Hinchcliffe); we were going to have a good showdown there at the end,” he said of his issues. “That’s why this sport can be so rewarding and so cruel, there’s nothing you can do. Frustrating for sure but today it was out of our hands.”
Similarly, Rossi lamented a lost opportunity to fight for the win. “I thought we had a really good shot at winning. The pace of the car was really good all day and we were able to recover from a little bit of a tricky pit stop sequence on the first stop, so it’s unfortunate because the NAPA Auto Parts car was awesome. We’ll just have to fight back at Barber. Honda has done an amazing job so it’s unfortunate,” said last year’s Indy 500 winner.
The team’s struggles saw Hunter-Reay fall to eighth in the championship, just ahead of both Sato and Andretti, who sit ninth and tenth, while Rossi sits 19th.
Following Kyle Lavigne.