2020 hasn’t been kind to Andretti Autosport. It’s hasn’t been kind to a lot of people. But, for this storied organization, 2020 has been among the worst of their careers.
Nine races into the NTT INDYCAR Series season, they had yet to win a race. They added a team in the offseason and added a car for Indy and added a technical alliance with Meyer Shank Racing. That’s five full time cars in house, a sixth counting the alliance and seven showing up to the Indy 500. Combined, they had one podium among them entering Mid-Ohio.
Yes, Marco Andretti gave them a breath of fresh air via his Indy 500 pole. Combined then, Andretti had five cars in the top 10 of the Indy 500 starting lineup.
None even finished in the top five. They had seven total top fives in nine races with young Colton Herta contributing four of them. In fact, five of their seven total top five finishes on the season entering this weekend occurred in the first four races. They had two over the last five.
Then Mid-Ohio happened.
Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay each scored a top five finish on Saturday. They backed that up with a Herta-Rossi-Hunter Reay 1-2-3 in Sunday’s 75 Lap race to give AA their first podium sweep since 2005.
“One-two-three for Andretti is pretty spectacular considering the year that we’ve had as a team, especially on the 27 side of things,” Rossi said. “So to get two podiums this weekend is obviously a good boost for us.
“I’m so happy for Michael and all the guys at Andretti Autosport and Colton and the 88 guys. Yeah, it was a big day for us. It’s something that we’ve needed, and it sets us on the right foot for the rest of the year, and hopefully we can build upon that and put this year behind us and have a much better 2021.”
Rossi says that it’s not like the finish is a fluke, but they’ve also not necessarily had the pace to compete for wins much before this weekend either.
“It’s been a combination of a lot of things,” Rossi continued. “I don’t think we’ve had the speed that we should have had at a lot of events. Obviously there’s been bad luck. There’s been some mistakes. It’s kind of been one thing after the other. But I think the big thing is everyone on the team has stayed motivated and committed.
“There was never like a lack of self-belief, if that makes sense. It was just trying to reset each time and come back and try and put your best foot forward. Yeah, I mean, it’s great for the whole organization. It’s the first time Michael has had a sweep of a podium since 2005 I think I heard. It’s awesome. I’m really pleased for him.
“Yeah, on our side, on the 27 side, to get two podiums in a row after the year we’ve had is welcome. Obviously it’s not a win. That’s okay, I guess, and we’ll just keep going forward and see what we can do at the Harvest GP here in a couple weeks.”
Part of the struggles this year for Andretti is also the fact that we’ve lost street courses and gained short ovals. Rossi agreed with that too.
“You know, having double-headers at short ovals is not great for us, but I’d say really that’s the only thing that’s been a negative,” he noted. “I mean, losing the street courses obviously, as I kind of mentioned, you mentioned, that’s also — it’s doubling up on our worst type of track and it’s taking way our best type of track. That’s obviously in play.
“But at the end of the day we’ve been good at Road America, we’ve been good at Texas, obviously we’ve been great at Indianapolis and we still didn’t get it done this year. There’s been a lot of things going on. The calendar is not to blame for it.
“I think it’s been a challenging year for everyone for obvious reasons on and off the track, and it’s just been a lot of different circumstances that we just haven’t had go our way. It’s not necessarily the fault of anyone’s. It’s just the way things go sometimes in racing and in life. If you look at the 88 car, like they’re having a pretty good year, I guess. But yeah, for Ryan and I, it’s been just relentless, one thing after another.”
Rossi says that while it’s certainly nice for the team to fight among each other for a win in the end, it’s also different too because you all have similar stuff.
“It’s tough just because you’re all on pretty similar stuff, right, so you’re all kind of able to do the same lap time and you’re just waiting for somebody to maybe make a mistake or go through the tires a bit quicker or whatever,” he said. “But ultimately it was one-two-three, kind of a second-and-a-half gap through the three of us through that final stint.
“We had to save more fuel than our teammates, I think, so that maybe hampered us a little bit, but ultimately Colton was on pole and he controlled most of the race, so I don’t think we were going to be able to get him.
“But yeah, it’s good because you know that if it comes down to it, you’ll always give each other a little bit more space than other guys that aren’t your teammates. It’s comforting when you’re coming down to it that you’re with guys that you know.”
While this finish was nice, Rossi is still ready to get this year over with and move onto 2021 with a fresh start.
“I kind of want it to be over, to be honest with you. I mean, I’m not going to lie. It’s been just one of those years. It just is waiting for the next shoe to drop, honestly.
“But no, I think it’s good that this weekend went the way that it did. We knew Mid-Ohio was going to be a good track for us. It has been the past couple of years. So the fact that, like we’ve said, we were able to get two podiums is great, and we’ll just do our best to keep making small steps forward through the rest of the year and make sure that our off-season is very productive so we can come out strong in ’21.”