Photo: IndyCar

Andretti Autosport breaks long drought on road/street courses

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Andretti Autosport’s struggles on road and street circuits over the last two years have been well documented.

In fact, the last time the team won on a permanent road course was back in April of 2014, when Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Barber Motorsports Park, with Marco Andretti finishing second in what was a 1-2 for the team. Carlos Munoz then delivered the team’s most recent win on a street course a year later, in a rain-shortened Detroit race one, leading Andretti in a 1-2 finish there.

However, their only wins since then have come at the Indianapolis 500 (Alexander Rossi in 2016, and Takuma Sato in 2017), with road and street circuits being especially problematic for the Michael Andretti-led squad.

For instance, at last year’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, all four cars qualified 15th or worse – Rossi was 15th, Munoz was 16th, Andretti 18th, and Hunter-Reay 19th – with Rossi the only one to finish inside the top ten in eight.

Owing to the offseason personnel adjustments that have seen the team make strides in their setups, plus a good test at Watkins Glen several weeks ago, this weekend was a far different story.

Rossi was fast all weekend, securing the pole on Saturday and overcoming a fuel issue to lead the most laps and win on Sunday, while Hunter-Reay ran solidly all race long to finish third.

Even though Marco Andretti (16th) and Takuma Sato (19th) languished at the bottom of the order, the results for Rossi and Hunter-Reay are the team’s best on a road course since Hunter-Reay’s aforementioned Barber triumph.

The turnaround is quite noteworthy, as Hunter-Reay discussed afterward.

Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third at Watkins Glen, leading four laps in the process. Photo: IndyCar

“It’s nice to see the turnaround the team has had. Last year as a team here, we all qualified (15th) or worse. We were the worst team in the paddock last year. Heck of a turnaround. Great job on that. Happy for the (No. 98) team. Alex did a great job,” Hunter-Reay said of the performance.

This also serves as a shot of momentum for the team ahead of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma in two weeks, with Sonoma Raceway being one of the team’s better tracks, as Rossi described.

Alexander Rossi celebrates with his team in Victory Lane at Watkins Glen. Photo: IndyCar

“We had a strong test there. We were very strong there last year. It’s probably one of our strongest tracks outside of Indianapolis,” Rossi asserted. “I have high expectations. We need to really make sure that, again, we tick all the boxes throughout the weekend. Hopefully we can climb a couple spots in the championship.”

However, for Hunter-Reay the victory does not relieve any pressure in any way, as he still does not have a road/street course win since that Barber victory, and has not won a race period since Pocono in 2015.

“(2014) since our last road course win, that’s too long. No pressure relief at all. Got to get on it,” Hunter-Reay finished.

With their results, Rossi moved up to sixth in the championship standings, with Hunter-Reay jumping up to ninth. Takuma Sato now sits ninth and Marco Andretti 13th respectively.

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Former 5-time ALMS and Le Mans-winning team owner Dave Maraj killed in accident

Photo courtesy Dave Maraj Facebook page
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Well-known sports car team owner and automobile dealership owner Dave Maraj was killed Saturday night in a boating accident in Florida, according to SportsCar365.com.

Maraj’s Champion Racing teams won five consecutive American Le Mans Series championships from 2004 through 2008, and also captured the overall win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2005, the last American team to do so in the iconic sports car race.

IMSA President Scott Atherton released the following statement mourning Maraj’s passing:

Dave Maraj. Photo courtesy IMSA.

“All of us at IMSA are shocked and saddened by the news of Dave Maraj’s passing. As a team owner in the American Le Mans Series, Dave and his Champion Racing organization were the epitome of professionalism and excellence, as their five series championships and 24 Hours of Le Mans victory will attest.

“Dave was a tremendous competitor and a great friend to all in the paddock throughout his time in our sport. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dave’s family and friends and to all of his associates at Champion Motors.”

Maraj was a very successful automobile dealership owner, most notably Champion Motors and Champion Porsche in Pompano Beach, Florida, the latter considered the No. 1 Porsche dealer in the U.S.

Details of how Maraj died have not been released.

Maraj sold his racing operation after the 2008 season and devoted himself to his Porsche and Audi auto dealerships, as well as competitive sailing.