RACE WEEKEND REPORT: St. Petersburg, Verizon
IndyCar Series

When the checkered flag dropped on the 2016
Verizon IndyCar Series season, one thing was apparent to Andretti Autosport,
the team needed a reset button. Six long months later, the quartet of Andretti
Hondas took the 2017 season’s green flag on the streets of St. Petersburg with
a fresh attitude and confidence in offseason progress.  


The field of 21 Indy cars took to the scenic
1.8-mile street course for two 45-minute practice sessions on Friday. Marco
Andretti finished the first practice session of the season in first position
and ranked his hhgregg Honda eighth on the combined time charts, after turning
33 laps. Alexander Rossi completed 30 laps in his NAPA AUTO PARTS / Curb Honda completing
a top-lap time of 01:03.3199 at the conclusion of the day. The DHL Honda of
Ryan Hunter-Reay sacrificed running time during Practice 2 due to changes to
the brake configuration, as the team worked to optimize the brake package for
Sunday’s race. Takuma Sato completed just 15 laps of practice time on Friday
due to an incident in Turn 12 where contact was made in Practice 2.



Saturday welcomed on-track action, as the
starting grid was set for Sunday’s 110-lap race. In the field of 21 cars, the
Andretti cars concluded the session all scoring spots in the top 15. Sato was
the top team qualifier and the only Andretti driver to enter the Firestone Fast
Six. The Tokyo-native secured the fifth starting position for his debut with
Andretti Autosport. Rossi qualified eighth to start his second-ever Firestone
Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Florida resident, Hunter-Reay settled for the 12th
starting position after contact with the wall caused damage to the rear of the
car, resulting in necessary repairs before continuing. Andretti and his hhgregg
Honda rounded out the team with an eighth row starting spot of 15th



After 110 laps of Florida street racing, Andretti
Autosport departs St. Pete with four top-11 finishes, including two drivers
strongly placed inside the top five. Ryan Hunter-Reay earned the top Andretti
spot after making hard contact with the wall during morning warm up due to
break failure caused by a mechanical issue. The No. 28 DHL team fought back
from an engine calibration issue on the race’s opening lap resulting in two
unscheduled pit stops after taking the green flag. The yellow and red DHL Honda
crossed the finish line fourth. Takuma
Sato drove a strong race with podium potential before losing position on track
due to an equipment error during his third pit stop. Sato was credited with
leading two laps on his way to a fifth-place finish, tying his best St. Pete
finish from 2011.

Marco Andretti came into the season with a “new
me” attitude after struggling to generate results last year. The American
fought handling issues on his way to a seventh-place finish, collecting valuable
points to start the season. Sophomore driver, Alexander Rossi suffered a
punctured tire in his third stint, derailing strategy by forcing an early pit
stop. The NAPA AUTO PARTS driver rolled past the finish line 11th.

The Verizon IndyCar Series next heads west to
Long Beach, California, for Round 2 of competition on April 9.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay

No. 28 DHL Honda

Start: 12 | Finish: 4

“It was a wild weekend. From the ups and downs of braking issues
in second practice and then warmup this morning, we definitely earned this one.
We fixed engine calibration issues early on (in the race), got out in front of
the pace car by about a second or two keeping us on the lead lap. To finish
today fourth was just awesome. This No. 28 DHL Honda team has done a great job
all day. To fight back like that, I had to keep coming spot after spot really
earning it, then there at the end I got that spot back from my teammate Sato.
We had a lot of fun out there driving every last drop out of the car, and it’s
great to be back in the role and into the swing of things. Hopefully we can get
the DHL Honda team back on the podium where we belong, but a fourth-place
finish is a good start. This whole team has done a great job; Andretti
Autosport has been working hard. We had some great pace, showed good promise
and I’m looking forward to the next race.”

Takuma Sato

No. 26
Andretti Autosport Honda

Start: 5 | Finish: 5

“I think it was a tremendous effort by
everyone on the team. I’ve probably had one of the hardest Fridays, so it was a
difficult and challenging weekend. I definitely think my teammates helped me
and the whole engineering team. Given the circumstances, I think we did the
best we could in qualifying and I was extremely happy with the result. Today
was a tough race, but I think a fourth and fifth-place finish for Andretti
Autosport is a fantastic result, especially for my first race with the team.”


Marco Andretti

No. 27 hhgregg Honda

Start: 15 | Finish: 7
“We started P15; I would’ve liked to have seen a better pace. We
were struggling overall with grip, not going one way or the other. We hung on
to salvage a top  with seventh, and that’s what we needed to do on days
like this. After qualifying where we did, you gotta take a top 10. We also got
a yellow (flag) in our favor today and that’s what it’s going to take — being
just as lucky as we are good. Hopefully we can be both all year and stay strong
in points for the hhgregg team.”


Alexander Rossi

No. 98 NAPA AUTO PARTS / Curb Honda

Start: 8 | Finish: 11
think our pace was as good as the guys that finished in top five. We got caught
up on the first yellow (flag), then had a punctured tire on the third stint
which hurt us. We had to come in early because the tire was going down, and by
pitting early we had to save a huge amount of fuel at the end and couldn’t
attack anything. I generally think the NAPA AUTO PARTS car and pace was good
today, just two unfortunate circumstances that dictated the end result.”