MADISON, Ill — Andretti Autosport was no where to be found last month at the Iowa Speedway. Outside of a quiet pair of top 10 results from Romain Grosjean, the other 3 were mostly found 15th or worse.
That could cause some concern for Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 (6 p.m. ET, USA, INDYCAR Radio Network) for the group at the World Wide Technology Raceway. It’s another short oval that in more times than not, the results look a lot like Iowa’s.
However, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta both note that the racing surface here on the 1.25-mile track near St. Louis is better suited for them than Iowa’s .894-mile bullring.
“I think the biggest difference honestly is this surface is from the 21st century,” Rossi said of comparing WWTR to Iowa. “I think Iowa, the bumps are part of what makes it what it is.
“I think we as an organization really struggle with the ride control, maintaining kind of a good platform over the bumps where you really don’t have to deal with that. I think that would probably be the biggest.”
Herta agreed saying this is a more fun track to drive for himself.
“It’s honestly really a fun track, too, because of how different it is,” said the 7-time race winner. “So the balance is quite different on each end. It makes it very tough, especially in qualifying, where you have to be on the limit, understeer and oversteer undone.
“It does seem like the bumps are kind of what we struggled with in Iowa. A completely different racetrack. The angle of corners is completely different, different speed, so yeah.”
Also, each have had great past performances here. The each led laps a year ago and coming to the final couple of stints, they had the top 2 cars.
“We’ve been on the podium here. We had really good cars last year, and we’re hoping that translates,” Rossi continued. “We haven’t tested, so that will be a little bit of a mystery later on today.
“Ultimately I think this is a very different place than Iowa, so I’m not worried about our short oval car transferring from one place to another because we certainly wouldn’t have wanted to bring that car here.
“I think the team has done a pretty good job and we’ll be in good position come the end of the weekend.”
Rossi ended a 49 race winless drought 2 races ago in Indy. He was 4th in Nashville. Herta was one spot behind in 5th at Nashville too.
With how great these 2 are on the final 2 races of the schedule, Andretti Autosport could have a hand in who wins the 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series championship.
At Portland, Rossi finished 3rd and 2nd in each of his last 2 starts. Herta was 4th and 8th. Then in Laguna Seca, Herta has dominated each of the last 2 Monterey races in leading 83 laps in 2019 and 91 last year. Rossi qualified up front last year but was pushed off track early. He was 6th in 2019. Grosjean finished 3rd with his ride a year ago.
One could make a case that the Andretti trio could sweep the podium that day.
It’s not like any of the Andretti guys are going to just let a Penske or Ganassi car go by them. They’re still racing for pride here.
“Yeah, 100%. I think you can take advantage of that,” Rossi said on if they can go all out with nothing to lose when trying to pass a driver still going for the championship. “That’s one benefit, I guess, of not really — you don’t have to think about points. For us, it’s about the individual racers, and they have to be a little bit more cognizant of that.
“We definitely know that in the back of our heads and we’ll try to use that to our advantage. I mean, yeah. I think it’s interesting. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. I think you’re more aggressive with them because you know they probably have to back out. At the same time certainly you don’t want to be the guy that hits them.
“You’re almost more aggressive and more cautious. It’s hard to explain. But, yeah, I think you’re very aware of who they are and what they’re doing around you.”
“I don’t really change the way that I race them,” he says. “I like to think I’m not, like, smashing people off all the time so it shouldn’t really matter. I shouldn’t have to change anything.
“But it is always a balance. You definitely don’t want to be the guy that takes out the championship leader with three races to go. You kind of maybe keep that in the back of your mind.
“At the end of the day if you have to go for something, you have to do it.”