INDIANAPOLIS — Andretti Autosport had 21% of the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 field. Seven of 33 starters with five of them coming from a top 10 starting spot in what was sure to be a track position race.
That much proved true. Two of the three front row starters finished 1-2. The other?
Marco Andretti started from the pole. Turned the fastest practice speed in 24 years on Fast Friday. Was the first “Andretti” on pole in 33 years here. Other than Carb Day, they were in the top three of every practice session.
The car as dialed in. Unfortunately, he never led a lap.
“We had high hopes coming into the race today after being fast all month,” said Andretti. “But we didn’t have it today. We didn’t have the pickup we needed on the restarts. That left us a sitting duck, and we weren’t able to gain ground on pit stops to make up for anything. Everything combined left us 13th.”
Andretti, went with too much downforce on his No. 98 Honda and it hurt him.
His other teammates, well pit road cost them. See, which we knew Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle in Racing would reward track position, the drivers also said it added an importance on pit road too. Bad stops would take the clean air away.
James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi all saw pit road take away top fives for each.
Rossi was their best pick. He came up from ninth early and looked to have arguably the second best car all race. But, he was penalized for exiting his pit stall and hitting Takuma Sato in a controversial penalty that dropped Rossi from third to 21st.
The race was for Rossi to come back up through the field, but he found out what happens when you push too hard here and found the wall on Lap 144. He’d finish 27th.
“Up front, the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Andretti Honda was awesome,” Rossi said. “I thought we had the car to win, and had we stayed up front we could have made a run for it.
“But because of a pit lane penalty that we still don’t fully understand, we didn’t get to stay up front. We shouldn’t have been in a position to have to run in the back. There was a lot of dirty air back there, and we just lost it. Not how we were hoping to see today go.”
Hunter-Reay didn’t mince words when he talked about his day. He went up from fifth to second early. Then he had problems after.
“We came away with a top 10, but that doesn’t reflect the potential of the DHL Honda today,” said the 2014 Indy 500 champion. “We built a car to run in the front, and that’s where we should have been in the end. The car had the pace. I drove a clean race; we just didn’t get it done. Sometimes races are won and lost on the track, and sometimes they are won and lost in the pits. We had the first part covered, but unfortunately the latter is what wrote our story today.”
Hinch also had an issue on pit road. He was able to rebound to finish a team best seventh.
“It’s funny: You see, ‘Start seventh, finish sixth,’ and it sounds like a basic day, but it really wasn’t that for us,” the popular Canadian driver said. “We had a little problem on our second pit stop, couldn’t get the car in gear and went all the way to back of the lead lap.
“From there, it was just kind of damage control. That was before halfway, and I got on the radio, ‘Hey, look it’s a long race, and a lot can happen.’ Luckily, on that last restart, we just got a monster restart and picked off a couple cars. The No. 29 Genesys Honda was strong.
“It’s just so hard when you get further back in that line. We were ahead of Pato (O’Ward) and Josef (Newgarden) before that stop. If we had been able to keep that track position, there’s a chance we could’ve had a solid top-five run. All in all, really happy with the month for jumping in as the extra car. I can’t thank Andretti Autosport and Genesys enough. It’s been a lot of fun being back here and being back at the Speedway. I think for a partial season coming to a close here like that, it’s not bad.”
Colton Herta finished eighth, Jack Harvey ninth and Zach Veach 15th.
Seven cars, all with pace, but no top fives. That’s frustrating