IndyCar 2017 driver review: Marco Andretti

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Marco Andretti improved a bit from 2016 but still had a year shy of expectations, ending 12th.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2016: 16th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 11th, 0 Top-5, 3 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 17.4 Avg. Start, 12.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 12th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 8th, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 16 Laps Led, 13.4 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

The latest season reset for Marco Andretti came after a career-worst 2016, but like after his last career-worst year of 2012, Andretti took a look in the mirror and sought to correct things that weren’t going right. There were also team adjustments – for Andretti specifically, namely moving Bryan Herta over to his timing stand to become race strategist – aimed at lifting him back out of the upper midfield into the upper crust of the field.

Did it all work? Sort of. Andretti improved upon every measurable stat from 2016, but Andretti still ranked 12th in points, fourth among four of the Andretti Autosport drivers as Alexander Rossi (11th to seventh), Takuma Sato (17th to eighth) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (12th to ninth) slotted into higher positions in the standings.

At Andretti’s traditionally strong circuits – St. Petersburg, Barber, Indianapolis, Iowa and Sonoma – he banked three of his best season finishes. He book-ended the year with sevenths and added an eighth in the Indianapolis 500, but he never quite looked the measure of his teammates in May. His best result came in Toronto with fourth but even then he finished behind Rossi, and one spot ahead of Hunter-Reay, and all of those three drivers benefited from lucky caution timing.

The challenge here was in-weekend consistency. Andretti was a top-three regular on a number of Fridays in practice in road and street course races. But far too often, he and engineer Nathan O’Rourke worked to push harder in qualifying and going just outside that ideal setup window backfired. Andretti failed to make a Firestone Fast Six for a third consecutive season; come St. Petersburg next year, it will be four years since the last time he made the top six in qualifying on one of these circuits. That again made Sundays a day of playing catch-up.

Sato had Andretti on pace, Rossi had him on consistency and Hunter-Reay had him on grit. Andretti remained a regular race finisher, if nothing else. His two DNFs were not his fault, with a mechanical issue in Long Beach and getting collected by Mikhail Aleshin in Phoenix.

Now 30 and married, Andretti has a lot going for him and does remain focused on his task at hand. Still, he’s now hit 12 seasons complete with 200 career starts, and for the his first time in his career he finished out of the top-10 in points in successive years. He’ll have another opportunity to change the narrative with the new universal aero kit in 2018.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.