Andretti ‘relieved’ to sort engine situation; closing on driver news

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Michael Andretti’s team has its engine situation sorted for the foreseeable future following a summer of speculation and question marks over whether Andretti Autosport would continue with Honda, as they now have, or would switch to Chevrolet.

The formal announcement came out Thursday morning ahead of this weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, the second-to-last race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Andretti and the team debated hard on a switch but have ultimately determined Honda as the best course of action ahead.

“It’s a big relief. It gives us a chance to focus on next year,” Andretti told NBC Sports Thursday in the paddock. “I’m excited that we got things done this early. Now the fun stuff starts.”

The “fun stuff” is sorting the rest of the driver lineup beyond long-term drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, who’ve been in Andretti Autosport IndyCars since 2010 and 2006, respectively.

Alexander Rossi may well continue but is examining his options within the Honda sphere. Several other young guns with various degrees of recent IndyCar experience have been hinted as possible additions to the team in place of Takuma Sato, who has not been formally confirmed to depart to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, but will not return to Andretti Autosport next year.

On Rossi’s status, Andretti said, “I think he’s done exactly what I thought he’d do (in his second year). He learned a lot last year. He’s put it to good use this year. A lot of places, he’s been our best car. I hope we can keep him in the family.”

Andretti also plans to continue with four full-time entries, which would leave one open seat if Rossi re-signs, or two if he doesn’t. A fifth car has been rumored but whether it pans out beyond its usual one-off run at the Indianapolis 500 remains to be seen.

“At this moment we’re looking at four cars. We’re close on the one. I feel good that we’ll have something to announce at Sonoma,” he said.

Fernando Alonso, who drove in a McLaren Honda Andretti entry at this year’s Indianapolis 500, did not come up in this Thursday conversation. On Wednesday Andretti retweeted Alonso’s cheeky reply back to an @IndyCar tweet which suggested the two-time Formula 1 World Champion would enjoy racing in IndyCar. Ultimately, Alonso will not be a realistic IndyCar topic of discussion until his F1 future with McLaren Honda is sorted one way or another.

Andretti’s exploration of Chevrolet was real but ultimately didn’t pan out. Instead, he feels optimistic Honda will be able to improve enough in the years to come to see the team back in full-season title contention, and believes the elimination of manufacturer aero kits will play to Honda’s favor at certain points.

“We were seriously looking at it; there’s both sides of it. You couldn’t go wrong either way,” he said. “Chevy was great to work with when we were with them. But in the end the continuity with Honda ended up being the thing that helped make up our mind.

“I think they’ve done a fantastic job with their motor the last three years we’ve been with them. That was something they were very strong on. The (aero) kit caught us out sometimes; when the kit wasn’t as good as the Chevrolet, the horsepower kept us in the game. They’ve done a really good job with the engine.”

As ever, there’s no shortage of activity within the overall Andretti Autosport framework. The team’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season wraps with the quartet of Colton Herta (under the Andretti/Steinbrenner Racing team name), Nico Jamin, Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman.

Its Volkswagen Beetle GRC program in Red Bull Global Rallycross is in search of its third straight championship, its FIA Formula E Championship prospects are enhanced with BMW’s increased manufacturer involvement and Andretti could have at least one more program percolating in another series entirely.

“We’ve stepped up all our programs this year. That makes you feel good that the work over the offseason has helped. We feel we know the weak spots to fix,” Andretti explained.

“The Lights guys have been more competitive this year. There’s been mistakes but this is the series for that to happen; Colton’s 17 and has done a great job, and so have Nico, Dalton and Ryan.

“GRC, we have to try to win the championship this year. Formula E, we’re making big changes there over the winter. As BMW gets more integrated, it will make us stronger. We should be much more competitive next year.

“There’s a couple other series we’re looking at… sports cars is one of them, there’s another we’re looking at and hope to announce something soon.”

In the interim, the Andretti Autosport IndyCar program will look to end the year on a high, in the final two races of the aero kit era and before the next chapter in Andretti and Honda’s respective histories are written.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage