Editor’s Note: This is the second day of a four-day series of 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES team previews. Today’s rollout will feature Carlin at 10 a.m. (ET) and Andretti Autosport at 2 p.m. Visit INDYCAR.com often today through Thursday to get the lowdown on every team and driver! Click here for Monday’s previews.
Starting Lineup: Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda), Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda), Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda), James Hinchcliffe (No. 29 Genesys / Capstone Turbine Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Honda), Marco Andretti (No. 98 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana/Curb Honda of Andretti Herta-Haupert Autosport with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian, for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge).
2020 Lookback: Andretti Autosport scored one win and had three drivers in the top 10 in points. While many teams in the INDYCAR paddock would consider that a successful season, that’s considered a down year for this organization. Herta, 21, led the team with a win at Mid-Ohio-2 and finished a career-best third in the points standings. The five-car team showed bursts of speed throughout the season, including placing three cars in the top 10 in the Indianapolis 500 and ending the season on a strong note at St. Petersburg. Rossi led a race-high 61 laps before a costly mistake ended his day early. Herta and Hinchcliffe also contended for the win.
What’s New for 2021: After a part-time season for Andretti Autosport, Hinchcliffe is back home with the team he scored three of his six career wins with, joining forces with George Steinbrenner IV in the Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport entry. Herta, formerly in the Steinbrenner ride, will transition to the No. 26 Andretti Autosport entry, and Marco Andretti will step away from full-time competition to focus on winning the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Keep An Eye On This: Rossi ended the 2020 season exceptionally strong, scoring four podium finishes in the final five races, and he was on his way to a win in the season finale until he slapped the wall on Lap 69. Combine that late-season success with his ultra-high drive to get back to Victory Circle and impressive speed during preseason testing, and Rossi is poised to be title contender in 2021.
Season Outlook: Andretti Autosport, with a roster that includes 34 wins, two Indy 500 wins and a series championship, is sure to contend for its fourth Indianapolis 500 in the last 10 years and score its first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship since Hunter-Reay won the Astor Challenge Cup in 2012. Who will do it, you ask? Rossi finished second in points in 2018 and third in 2019 and will look to get back on the points podium. Herta kept the trend of an Andretti car in the top three in points in 2020 with just three finishes outside the top 10. Is he poised for a breakout year? Hinchcliffe is riding a wave of confidence coming off his best Indy 500 finish since 2016 as he gets back to full-time competition. Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay, the only series champion on the team, seemingly flies under the radar having finished in the top 10 in points in eight of the last 10 seasons.
Defying the Legends: With 18 INDYCAR SERIES wins, an NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and an Indy 500, Hunter-Reay will go down in history as one of the most successful American drivers in open-wheel competition. Tied for fifth among active drivers on the all-time wins list, Hunter-Reay is just four wins away from jumping into the top 20 of all-time race winners in the INDYCAR SERIES.
Starting Lineup: Max Chilton (No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet, road and street circuits and Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge)
2020 Lookback: Carlin entered the No. 59 Chevrolet the entire season, splitting the car between Chilton on the road and street courses and in the Indianapolis 500 and Conor Daly on the ovals. Chilton’s focus on road and street courses proved beneficial. Year over year, Chilton improved his average start from 18th to 17th and his average finish from 16th to 15th. Not to mention, he completed every lap of competition for the first time in his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. Daly showed impressive speed on the ovals, scoring his and the team’s first NTT P1 Award at Iowa-1 and scoring four top-10 finishes in five starts.
What’s New for 2021: The organization will remain largely the same year-over-year as Chilton continues to focus on where he’s best: the road and street courses and the Indy 500. The team has not yet announced who will drive the No. 59 at Texas Motor Speedway and at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Keep An Eye On This: Over the last two seasons, Carlin and Chilton have shown small improvements, and race fans can expect that to continue in 2021 as Chilton inches toward being a top-10 finisher. In 2019, the Brit chose to focus where he excels best: the road and street courses, but the organization continued to field two cars as it entered Charlie Kimball in seven races. In 2020, the team altered its focus to just one car, and the statistics show that was the right call as Chilton had his best season since 2018.
Season Outlook: Carlin ended the 2020 season at its best with Chilton scoring three top-15 finishes in the final four races, including 11th at the INDYCAR Harvest GP Race 1 and 12th in the season finale at St. Petersburg. Based on the team’s progression, it’s possible for Chilton to battle for a top 10 at the first two races of the season, at Barber Motorsports Park and in St. Petersburg.
Defying Focus: Chilton has entered the next phase of his focus on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. After recognizing his talent on the road and street courses and spending time honing his craft there, Chilton, 29, has started seeing a sports psychologist and spending additional time in racing simulators.