ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Sunday in St. Pete was a fitting day for the entire Andretti Autosport camp. After a tough start to the season, they started looking back to their old dominating days as of late.
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 the five of 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 at that.
But, once we got to Mid-Ohio though in September, everything had 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 was to St. Pete to where they were 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’d 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.
The pole winner has won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete just once (2007). That’s great news for Andretti Autosport because none of their five cars here this weekend earned the pole for Sunday’s race.
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.
Power had a shifting issue on Lap 5 and gave way to Rossi for the lead. Herta came by to second and Hinchcliffe in third. Harvey ran top five early too.
Then, by the midway mark or thereafter, Marco Andretti entered the fray and was up to seventh.
That’s when it all collapsed from there.
Rossi crashed in Turn 4 on Lap 69. He had led 61 laps up to that point. Andretti crashed with a flat right rear tire from contact by Takuma Sato on the Lap 75 restart. Hinchcliffe, spun by himself under that caution in the final turn while running second. He got his car going and hit Harvey while turning back onto the racing surface.
“In 16 years of racing cars, I’ve never spun out under caution before,” Hinchcliffe said. “Just my fault. The pace car was going really, really slow, and it was super hard to keep heat in the tires. Going through the last corner there, I was making an adjustment on the wheel and just had one hand on the wheel. Even at 30 mph, you’re going slower than pit lane speed, and the thing spun.
“It’s my fault, but we were on the radio trying to get the pace car to go faster because the cars were almost harder to drive at pace car speed than they were at race speed.
“But that’s on me. The worst part is that coming back on track, I did it dangerously and not only hit someone but hit a (Andretti Technologies) teammate. That’s an even bigger black eye.
“To have a podium car – the guys did such a great job all weekend on the Gainbridge entry, and I was really hoping to give them a strong result to end the year. I’m gutted for the whole team; I’m gutted for Jack (Harvey) – can’t be sorrier than I am for him. Not the way we wanted to end the year, but still some positives to take out of it. We had good pace in qualifying and the race. We had a podium car and just didn’t pull it off today, and that’s on me. Sorry to the team.”
A few laps later, Herta went off course and lost out on a podium.
Crazy. Couple all of that with Andretti finishing outside the leaders circle money and you get a rough Sunday.