Andretti, Honda extend IndyCar partnership on multi-year deal

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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.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)