ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — The pole winner has won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete just once (my 2007). That’s great news for Andretti Autosport because none of their five cars here this weekend earned the pole for Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Will Power earned his ninth St. Pete pole. He’s 0-for-8 in his previous eight starts from the pole here. The next four starting spots though, belong to Andretti cars or their alliance team.
It’s no secret, the first nine races of the 2020 season were dismal for Andretti Autosport overall. Combined, they had just six top five finishes and one podium between them. Four of the six top fives belonged to Colton Herta. Alexander Rossi’s third place effort in Road America 2 was their lone podium through Aug. 30.
But, once we got to Mid-Ohio though in September, everything has since changed. Herta scored a win in the second race of the weekend and was ninth in the other. Rossi, had dual podiums with Hunter-Reay being fifth and third respectively himself to give AA a 1-2-3 effort in Race 2.
At Indy, it was more strength. Herta was fourth and second respectively and Rossi second and third himself.
One podium in nine races followed by seven in four races after.
Now, it’s to St. Pete to where they’re looking strong again. Half of the Fast Six went to AA cars. Throw in Jack Harvey and you get four of the six with their alliance. They’ll start 2-3-4-5 in fact. They also went 1-2 in the lone practice session of the weekend too on Saturday as well.
“I think every round of qualifying we got better,” Rossi said on Saturday after qualifying his No. 27 Honda on the front row. “We started the weekend strong in practice, so I think that’s a huge difference- maker on these weekends when you only have the one practice session.
“It’s a really good effort for the team to do the offline development. We haven’t been to a street course yet this year, so to have three cars in the top six is a testament to that. I think we just have to keep chipping away at it, and we’re in a good position to go and get that first win tomorrow.”
Herta, rolls off third in his No. 88 Honda.
James Hinchcliffe is a sleeper to watch with him being second in practice earlier and fourth in qualifying.
“Obviously, very happy to make it into the Fast Six,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s only the second time we’ve had the chance to do that this year, and it was nice to have pace in practice and carry it over into qualifying – all three runs. In the final session, we thought we were stronger on blacks in Q1 and Q2, so we rolled the dice a bit. I think with the massive delay we had, it cooled off a lot, track temps went down. I think r eds would have been the right choice, but I stand by the decision we made. It was a strategic call to try and pull something out. But happy to be on the second row and happy that a bunch of my teammates are up there with us. Now we just have to put our heads down and have a good one tomorrow.”
AA is ending the year on a high note, which bodes well for 2021.