Andretti Autosport had a great start to the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on Sunday.
Alexander Rossi in the No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda started the race from 12th place and carved his way through the field to challenge Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Robert Wickens for the lead of the race in the closing laps before the pair made contact. Rossi was able to recover from the incident and went on to finish on the podium in third place.
Speaking following the race, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner commented by saying:
Normally they don’t allow Push-to-Pass on restarts. You’d normally have to do a timed lap before you did it, but because of the late call to go green that lap, they allowed it, and I actually got the call when I was in the middle of Turn 13 and 14. So I had a big jump on Rob [Wickens], and he got to the Push-to-Pass pretty late. The run was perfect for me going into Turn 1, and I knew there wasn’t going to be many other opportunities. Obviously [Wickens] had a good car all day, and they did a great job.
“I made the pop. He defended the position, which he has the right to do, but in doing so, in moving the reaction, he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner. It’s difficult with these cars and with how much we’re sliding around in the first place, even on the racing line. When you’re put in the marbles, it’s hairy. Super unfortunate. Like you never want to see that happen. I feel bad because I feel like I could have won and he could have gotten second. You never want to see that happen, but nevertheless, it was a great job by the whole team all weekend.
“I think that we showed that we had a car definitely to qualify up front yesterday, and we redeemed ourselves a little bit today. So a great work by the whole Andretti Autosport NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda team.
Ryan Hunter Reay started the race from pit-road after developing an electrical issue on the warm-up lap in the No.28 DHL Honda however, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion recovered well throughout the race coming home in fifth place just behind James Hinchcliffe and speaking following the race he commented by saying:
The bad luck seems to end up happening at just the worst times. The car has been awesome all weekend, so to have an electronic issue happen when we are coming to the green – man, the luck. We started the race from pit lane and ended up fifth, so a great job by the team. I was hustling my rear end off out there today. That 28 DHL Honda sure was quick and deserved a better finish than it had. We just need to have better luck, or no luck, and hopefully we can start finishing these things right up at the front. It was great to have all our friends from DHL and AutoNation here with us today, and a big thanks to the fans for making this such a great event.
Marco Andretti in the No.98 Ruoff Home Mortgages Andretti Herta Autosport Honda started the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg from 18th place. Andretti made his way to third place before finishing the event in ninth place, recording his 94th career top ten finish and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
In the beginning, we seemed to have pace on [Firestone alternate] reds. Then, sort of got caught on blacks in the middle and it gave up a bit of time. On the last third of the early-on stint, we started to lose pace on reds so we wanted to come in and cover. We sort of split the baby on that one. We came out of the pits in traffic which was unfortunate, but we drove the Ruoff Home Mortgage car to third from 18th. We had to have been the ones to pass the most cars today. Overall, we’re still top 10 and we had pace, and that’s better than lucking into a top-10 finish. Good things are ahead from the No. 98.
In his first race as a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series driver, Zach Veach in the No.26 Group One Thousand One Honda started the race from 15th place and ended the event in 16th having had to pit early in the race following early race contact.
Veach was however able to get some valuable seat time and speaking following the 110 lap race he commented by saying:
Today was just too messy, honestly. The biggest thing that hurt me was taking that year off of racing [due to injury in 2016]. Once you’re in these situations over and over again, you’re honed and jump into it – it’s easy to minimize the mistakes. There were just too many of them today from me to be proud of. I want to apologize to [Tony] Kanaan. He kind of left the doorway open and, I felt, invited me in and it didn’t work out for either of us.
“All in all, had to walk away P16… but a lot learned, a lot gained. I know we weren’t the fastest rookie, but with circumstances, finishing the highest rookie — that’s what this year’s going to be about. You’re going to have good days and bad days. It’s just all about consistency. The speed is there, it’s just all of the details I have to clean up. Most of all, I can take away patience. Just understanding how the races are going to fold out. And just how long the races actually are. The two races I did last year really don’t quantify how long these races are. The more I get under my belt, the easier it will get.