Photo: IndyCar

Andretti, Honda extend IndyCar partnership on multi-year deal

Leave a comment

Andretti Autosport has ended the summer saga of whether it would change up its engine partner in the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2018, by announcing an extension of its existing tie-up with Honda on a multi-year deal.

Andretti was known to be in talks with Chevrolet about a possible switch for 2018, only for bosses at the team to opt against ending the partnership with Honda that has been in place since 2014.

Despite the speculation, Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr told NBC Sports at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last month that HPD expected to continue with its current lineup of teams.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been weighing this decision for a while now,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti.

“We’ve had strong relationships and have marked milestones with both manufacturers, but we’re pleased to continue our Honda partnership.

“We have a great history of success with Honda and I have no doubt that together, our collection of achievements will continue to grow.”

“We’re extremely happy to continue our successful partnership with Michael Andretti and Andretti Autosport,” St. Cyr added.

“As Michael stated, his team has played a major role in our success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including victories at three of the last four Indy 500s.

“In addition to success at Indianapolis, 47 of Honda’s 225 Indy car victories through the years have been scored by the Andretti Autosport. Together, we’re looking forward to adding to this already impressive total in the future.”

Andretti poked fun at the summer saga by releasing the official decision via a video on social media, with dominos falling and then leading to Honda.

Andretti Autosport also confirmed Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, no surprise as both drivers were already under contract.

The omission of Alexander Rossi is because Rossi has not signed with any team as yet, contrary to a report earlier this week that he had – and Rossi “liked” a tweet earlier this week that refuted that he was solidified at Andretti. With Andretti staying with Honda, it does provide the option for Rossi to stay, as the question for him isn’t whether he stays in IndyCar but where in IndyCar he drives.

Takuma Sato will not return to the team, Andretti confirmed to the Indianapolis Star, for a second season – Sato and his management group having opted to move before an engine decision was finalized. Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports in July that he and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, where Sato is poised to return to, had “warm feelings” for Sato.

It’s possible that beyond the four cars Andretti Autosport runs this year that a fifth could be added for more races than just the Indianapolis 500.

“With powertrain confirmation now in place, Andretti will turn its focus on setting the team’s 2018 stable of drivers,” the team statement read.

“With Series and Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and third-generation racer Marco Andretti already contracted through the next season, the team will confirm and announce its remaining drivers in the coming weeks.”

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

Leave a comment

Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.