DETROIT – Amid the craziness that ensued in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on Sunday, Andretti Autosport quietly snuck away with top-10 finishes for each of its drivers.
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fourth in the No. 28 DHL Honda, Alexander Rossi fifth in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, Marco Andretti sixth in the No. 98 AutoNation/Curb Honda and Zach Veach eighth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. It’s the first time all four Andretti Autosport teammates finished that well in a race since the 2014 Houston doubleheader opener, when Carlos Munoz was third, James Hinchcliffe fourth, Hunter-Reay seventh and Andretti eighth.
Rossi felt the Detroit weekend resulted in a pair of missed chances at wins and maximum championship points. In Saturday’s first race, he started on pole and led the early stages until cautions and changing weather threw a wrench in the strategy plans. The 27-year-old finished second to Josef Newgarden.
In Race 2, Rossi started next to pole sitter Newgarden on the front row. They became embroiled in the moment of the race when they came together, along with Hinchcliffe, on Lap 33 of 70 on the Belle Isle temporary street circuit.
Newgarden attempted to pass Hinchcliffe and Rossi tried to capitalize on the chance, but Newgarden lost control and slid into the tire barrier. Rossi braked hard but couldn’t avoid running into the back of Hinchcliffe, whose No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda became entangled with Newgarden’s No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
Somehow, Rossi escaped the incident unharmed and drove away, while Hinchcliffe and Newgarden sustained damage that eventually relegated them to finishes of 18th and 19th place, respectively. Rossi recovered to finish fifth but was frustrated about the two results of the weekend.
“This weekend was more missed opportunities, but at the end of the day the NAPA team did a really good job and we capitalized on the two guys in front of us having problems,” said Rossi, who overtook Simon Pagenaud for second in the championship and trails Newgarden by 15 points heading to the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
“A win continues to elude us here, but we had a fast race car and that’s good enough, I guess,” he added.
Hunter-Reay steadily moved up throughout the race from his 15th starting position to finish fourth. It was the 2012 series champion’s best showing since he placed third in the second race of the season at Circuit of The Americas in March.
“Somehow toward the end we picked up a puncture or leak and were losing pressure on the right rear,” said Hunter-Reay, who held off Rossi for position on a late restart. “Then we had to stop for the red flag, and the more you sit still, the quicker it deflates. It really dumped out (air) on that tire and was pretty much dead flat after the race. It was amazing we could salvage that.
“It wasn’t the qualifying we hoped for, but I think we salvaged a good weekend, all in all.”
Andretti made one of the biggest jumps of any driver in the field, advancing 13 spots from his 19th starting position to finish sixth. Like Hunter-Reay, he was able to make the yellow flags and pit strategy work in his favor.
“Today was all good, considering,” Andretti said after equaling his season-best finish. “I qualified so bad, and that can just make your race miserable and a bigger challenge right from the start. But the No. 98 AutoNation crew gave me a car that could pass on track.
“The car was good. Everybody did a great job just to hang in there. We salvaged a decent result.”
Veach had mixed emotions after nailing down an eighth-place finish for the second straight day at Detroit. The 24-year-old Ohioan started a career-best third Sunday but lamented a costly early mistake.
“Overall it was kind of a mess,” Veach said. “We wanted to get off the reds (Firestone alternate tires) as quickly as we could. The yellow came out of the first lap – we dodged into pit lane, as (many others) did. I went a little long on my marks (in the pit stall), which hurt us, and we had an issue getting the fuel probe in. So, we didn’t get any fuel in the car on that first stop and lost about six spots in pit lane.
“We just had to put our head down and push through that. Our pace was OK. I felt like I could have done a better job but luckily, we got to pass some cars and stay out of the mayhem. We’re taking home another top-10.”
The DXC Technology 600 weekend begins at Texas Motor Speedway on Thursday with a two-hour practice starting at 8 p.m. ET (livestream on NBC Sports Gold). Practice 2 starts at 3 p.m. Friday (live on NBC Sports Gold), ahead of NTT P1 Award qualifying airing live at 6:30 p.m. Friday on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).
Coverage of the 248-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval begins at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.