LEXINGTON, Ohio — A respectable showing for four Andretti Autosport cars could have been better if not for two of the Hondas coming together in an early incident during the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Despite the mishap, it was the first time since the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that all four Andretti cars finished in the top 12. That day, they were in the top 11.
Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda bumped Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda on Lap 18 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday. Hunter-Reay spun but saved the car. The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion said the incident cost him a top-five finish, but he bounced back to end up eighth.
“We had a good race going today and the DHL team was going to be top five no doubt, until we made contact with Rossi,” Hunter-Reay said. “That really set us back. We stayed at it and were able to salvage a race that was going to be absolutely terrible and managed to keep it inside the top eight.”
Takuma Sato’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda was the team’s top finisher in fifth. Rossi came in sixth, Hunter-Reay eighth and Marco Andretti’s No. 27 Honda ended up 12th.
Team CEO Michael Andretti (left) reportedly told Rossi to apologize to Hunter-Reay for the incident, though Andretti didn’t believe the move was intentional. Rossi talked about it from his perspective.
“I was on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and (Hunter-Reay) was on blacks (harder primary tires) – it was a 50/50 deal and it’s unfortunate that would ever happen to a teammate,” Rossi said. “We talked about it, we’ll move on and get back to working together in Pocono.”
Sato had the best starting position in third, but eventually gave that up. The winner of May’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is the team’s highest driver in the series points, in seventh place after securing his fourth top-five finish of the year.
“I think starting third and finishing fifth isn’t the perfect scenario, but we had an issue in the pits and then we lost a couple of places when we went back out on track,” Sato said. “At the least, it was actually fun. We overtook a couple cars and then regained and recovered the position.
“The four Andretti Autosport cars had a solid day under difficult circumstances and I think that we performed really well. Let’s just say, the rest of the season we just need to have a solid performance to bring back the championship points.”
Rossi is eighth in the points, 23 behind Sato. Hunter-Reay is in 12th, 61 points behind Rossi, with four races remaining. Rossi attributed his inability to attain a podium finish to a slower stint on the alternate red tires.
“We lost about 12 seconds on the reds (over the stint) and that was the difference for us between challenging for the podium and finishing sixth,” he said.
Marco Andretti thought he was in position for a top-10 finish, but was short-fueled on his next-to-last pit stop, which meant he had to conserve Sunoco E85 ethanol the rest of the race. His finish was two positions higher than where he started.
“We didn’t qualify as high as we wanted, so we knew we’d have a little bit of work starting from 14th, and we were running well and had made up ground,” he said. “Then, on the second-to-last stop, we had a short fill and didn’t get all the fuel into the car, which put us in fuel-saving mode.
“From there, we had to make huge fuel numbers to make it to the end. I’m not sure if we had the car to win, but I do know it’s hard to contend when you’re saving fuel – so that was our day made. We’ll get back at it in Pocono.”
Pocono Raceway is Andretti's home race and site of the ABC Supply 500 race weekend, the next event on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. The 500-mile race on the triangular oval airs live at 2 p.m. ET Aug. 20 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
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