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IndyCar: Andretti Autosport 2018 Review

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Editor’s note: MotorSportsTalk continues to review how each organization in the IndyCar Series performed in 2018 and also takes a look ahead to 2019.

Thus far we have featured Juncos RacingMeyer Shank RacingCarlin Racing, Harding Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser SullivanDale Coyne Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Team Penske.

Today we feature Andretti Autosport (one more reviews remain after today: Chip Ganassi Racing on Monday):

Andretti Autosport 2018 Season Review

Andretti Autosport was back in championship form after a tough three years in the aero kit era.

They won five races, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (2) and Alexander Rossi (3), and five poles, between Hunter-Reay (1), Rossi (3), and Marco Andretti (1).

Rossi and Hunter-Reay ended up second and fourth in the standings, while Andretti eeked out a top 10 – he finished up ninth. Zach Veach also enjoyed a solid year, his first full IndyCar season.

This team has been a powerhouse under various iterations. They were Indy 500 winners and champions under the Team Green banner in the 1990s, and again in the 2000s under the Andretti Green moniker, and have remained so under Andretti Autosport branding since 2010.

And after a couple lean years, at least in terms of championship prowess – they did win the Indy 500 three times between 2014, 2016, and 2017 – Andretti Autosport is back in championship form and should contend for another title in 2019.

 

Alexander Rossi

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Team: Andretti Autosport, No. 27 Napa Auto Parts Honda
Years in IndyCar: 3
Career wins and podiums: 5 wins, 12 podiums
2018 final standing: 2nd
2018 final stats: 17 starts, 3 poles, 3 wins, 8 podiums, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 1st (Long Beach, Mid-Ohio, Pocono)

SEASON WRAPUP: Rossi turned himself into a bonafide title contender in 2018, with three wins as he pushed Scott Dixon all the way to the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

Rossi has everything you need to be a champion. He’s fast. He’s aggressive. He’s calculated when he has to be. He is very much the real deal…and another Indy 500 win may be beckoning as well.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Rossi just needs to do more of the same, and maybe rein himself in just a tad so he doesn’t give away any points (like he did at Detroit Race 2). Still, Rossi should be a title contender again in 2019.

QUOTE (following Sonoma, where he finished sixth): “Hats off to the whole No. 27 NAPA Team. It was a great day for Andretti Autosport with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) winning. It’s very unfortunate what happened in Turn 1 on Lap 1. It’s a situation I’m sure we’ll all replay a lot of times but, at the end of the day, it’s been a good 2018 and I am very appreciative for all the support we’ve had this year. We came pretty close and we’ll work on the things we need to be better on and come back stronger next year. (Scott) Dixon’s the benchmark. He’s the five-time champion for a reason so he deserves it 100 percent and we’ll work very hard to come back and try to beat him next year.”

 

Ryan Hunter-Reay

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Team: Andretti Autosport, No. 28 DHL Honda
Years in IndyCar: 15
Career wins and podiums: 16 wins, 41 podiums
2018 final standing: 4th
2018 final stats: 17 starts, 1 pole, 2 wins, 6 podiums, 10 top fives, 11 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 1st (Detroit Race 2, Sonoma)

SEASON WRAPUP: Ryan Hunter-Reay had a strong 2018 season, but he also might be wondering what might have been.

He was back in championship form, with one pole, a pair of wins, and six podiums, and he stayed in the title picture through the first half of the season. However, six finishes of 16th or worse blighted his title efforts and he settled for fourth in the standings at season’s end.

Still, he had his best year since his 2012 championship season. And the soon-to-be 38-year-old is not slowing down at all, so another championship or Indy 500 victory could be in his future.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Hunter-Reay should definitely be a title contender again in 2019. And if he can somehow avoid DNFs, he might be one of the favorites.

QUOTE (following Sonoma, where he won): “Today was great. I felt like the race just didn’t want to end. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the whole day out front. Any time I needed the pace to put it down, we leaped out to a lead. I was able to maintain that. Hats off to this team, DHL, AutoNation, Honda – everyone involved. Honda really gave me great drivability, reliability. The Firestone tires were great. Shout out to Kerry Doughty, CEO of Butterball, fighting cancer at home right now. His name was on the side of our car today – this is a special win for him and we’re honored to have him with us in spirit. Also, a big shout out to Robbie Wickens – I want to dedicate that win to him and his fight. It was great to see the video message from him today and, hopefully, he will be back with us as soon as possible.”

 

Marco Andretti

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Team: Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda
Years in IndyCar: 13
Career wins and podiums: 2 wins, 20 podiums
2018 final standing: 9th
2018 final stats: 17 starts, 1 pole, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 2 top fives, 8 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 4th (Detroit Race 1)

SEASON WRAPUP: Marco Andretti got better in his second year under the tutelage of Bryan Herta, finishing in the top 10 in the championship, scoring a pole (Detroit Race 1), and netting a pair of top fives.

Andretti continues to rebuild a career that has hit several stumbling blocks, though he remains one of the more talented drivers on the grid. His style also seems more fitted to the 2018 universal aero kit than the previous Honda aero kit, which may have also contributed to an uptick in form.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Andretti will be desperate to end a winless streak that goes back to 2011 (at Iowa Speedway). He’ll also seek that elusive Indy 500 win.

QUOTE (following Sonoma, where he finished fifth): “I’m very pleased to be this quick on a road course here. Not a bad finish for the last race at Sonoma, I would’ve liked it to have gone a bit better. I think if we went with (Firestone) reds early on I think we could have kept (Simon) Pagenaud behind us. (Alexander) Rossi was amazingly quick and we tried to make it easy on him out of the pits and give him a shot. It was pretty cool of them, they knew I gave them the position, and they gave it back there at the end, so we were able to come out with a top five. Congrats to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) for closing out the year with a win. We’re ready for 2019.”

 

Zach Veach

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Team: Andretti Autosport, No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 200 podiums
2018 final standing: 15th
2018 final stats: 17 starts, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 2 top fives, 5 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 4th (Long Beach)

SEASON WRAPUP: Zach Veach’s rookie campaign was unspectacular, but he got better as the year went on and he earned the trust of his teammates when it comes to setup knowledge – when Rossi won at Pocono Raceway, he was keen to compliment Veach, who tested at Pocono earlier in the month, for gathering valuable setup data.

It’s surprising that Veach’s best result came early in the season given that he got much better as the year went on, but he never was quite able to get on the podium despite the improved form.

Still, it was a fine rookie campaign and a strong foundation on which he can build.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Veach will aim for his first career podium and win in 2019. Finishing in the top 10 in the standings isn’t out of the question either.

QUOTE (following Long Beach, where he finished fourth): “(Fourth) feels like a win, to be honest. The crew was pushing me pretty hard at the end to try to get on the podium but… after St. Pete, after Phoenix, we’ve just been chipping away on it and we took a big swing at it today. I’ve got to thank my Group One Thousand One guys, honestly. I kind of made a mishap in qualifying to put us 16th. Today we had great strategy, great stops. They got me to where I could capitalize on it so this is more for them than me.”

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Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.