Andretti sees better 2018 season for team

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Andretti Autosport is looking to a better 2018 season as it winded up this year’s IndyCar season with three of its four full-time drivers finishing in the Top 10.

The universal aero kit has Andretti Autosport and other team paying attention to every detail of tuning their carts before the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida in March next year.

Although none of Andretti Autosport’s four drivers bagged the 2017 IndyCar championship, Takuma Sato handed the team its third Indianapolis 500 win in the past four years in May. Alexander Rossi also drove to an impressive win at Watkins Glen in September that planted his stake firmly in the ground as a contender.

Team owner Michael Andretti also believes the universal aero kit levels the playing field.


Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the Andretti Autosport Honda, races ahead of Helio Castroneves of Brazil on May 28. AFP PHOTO

“I think we’ve stepped up our game [in 2017]as a team, so that’s nice. Starting on even ground [with the universal kit], I’m hoping that with all the changes we made, that hopefully we’ll do a little bit better than our competition,” he said.

“I’m sure everybody up and down pit road is saying the same thing, but I’m hoping that, starting new, we’ll be able to find things that the other guys won’t,” Michael Andretti added.

Michael Andretti is a major proponent of retaining continuity within the team. From the engineering staff to the drivers, the only significant change for 2018 is rookie Zach Veach replacing Sato, who signed with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. All four of the team’s full-time drivers – Rossi, Veach, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay – have been locked into multiyear deals.

“Absolutely, that helps,” said Michael Andretti. “That helps a lot. I’m excited about the next few years that we’re not going to be talking about who is going to be in what car and all that stuff, and we’re going to be able to just focus on the plan of making our cars and our team better.”

Although manufacturer testing has begun, Andretti Autosport hasn’t been able to put a driver on track like fellow Honda teams Chip Ganassi Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Michael Andretti accepts the blame since his team was deciding whether to stay with Honda for 2018 or switch to Chevrolet when Honda had to select its manufacturer test teams.

“It’s a little frustrating that we haven’t been able to play with it,” Michael Andretti admitted, “but it’s a little bit of our fault because we made our decision so late [to remain]with Honda that they had to make their plans with somebody else in case we weren’t there. It hurts a little bit that we’re not involved in any of these tests, for sure.”

Andretti Autosport hasn’t had a driver finish in the top five in the standings since Marco Andretti was fifth in 2013. Its last champion was Hunter-Reay in 2012. With the new aero kit expected to necessitate a more technical type of driving, the team owner believes his drivers can move back to the top.

One place where Andretti Autosport has remained up front is on the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. With Rossi and Sato winning the past two Indy 500s, Andretti has a chance in May to become just the third team owner to win three in a row. Only Lou Moore (1947-49) and Roger Penske (2001-03) have accomplished that feat.

THE TIMES

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