They may have experienced mixed fortunes since the start of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar season but the Andretti Autosport drivers are united in their goal this weekend: success at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
While Alexander Rossi has made a dream start to the season, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach have had to ride the highs and lows. Hunter-Reay, in particular, could be forgiven for expecting to be closer to championship leader Rossi in the point standings.
Hunter-Reay takes a hit in Long Beach
“The season started off OK with two top-fives, but then we took a hit with luck in Long Beach”, commented the 2012 IndyCar champion. Hunter-Reay started 7th but finished a lowly 20th after getting caught up in Jordan King’s overambitious move on Sebastien Bourdais.
Despite the set back, Hunter-Reay is completely focused on his objective for this weekend: “There’s only one goal for the (No.) 28 team at Barber this weekend, and that’s to grab our third victory at this track.”
It will not be plain sailing for Hunter-Reay in the DHL-backed car despite his record at Barber. IndyCar testing at the track earlier this year was disrupted due to weather leaving Hunter-Reay feeling like there is still work to be done.
“We had a productive test at Barber a few weeks ago, but we were unable to run through our full test list due to weather. We have quite a lot of work to get done in the practice sessions in order to get the car into our ideal setup window before the race.”
Andretti: 10th place is not good enough
Teammate Marco Andretti heads to Barber on the back of a winless streak stretching back to Iowa in 2011. The third generation Andretti demonstrated that he has lost none of his race craft by navigating from 20th on the grid to 6th place at Long Beach last weekend however.
But the American knows that his achilles heal remains qualifying and is not happy with his current 10th place spot in the points: “We’re sitting 10th in the championship and that’s not good enough, so this weekend we have to be on our A game and get a podium result.”
“We finished last weekend with a decent result considering the struggles we encountered in Phoenix and earlier in the weekend at Long Beach. I’m happy to put that behind us and focus forward. We’ve been there before at Barber and I know we can do it again.”
Veach relishes chance to return to scene of IndyCar debut
Andretti’s rookie Zach Veach scored an impressive 4th in Long Beach. A much needed boost of confidence for the 23-year-old after back-to-back 16th place finishes at St Petersburg and Phoenix.
The American feels like Long Beach was a turning point and Barber offers a chance to build on the momentum gained.
“I definitely feel we have a lot of momentum on our side after finishing fourth in Long Beach”, explained Veach who will drive the No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda this weekend.
“I got the chance to compete in my very first Indy car race at Barber, so it’s going to be nice to be coming back to a track I have a little more experience at than others on the schedule.”
Similarly to teammate Marco Andretti, Veach is aware of the need to up his game in qualifying: “For me, my main goal is to focus on qualifying. I would really like to start getting higher on the charts for the start of the race.”
More of the same for Rossi at Barber
Meanwhile for early-season championship favorite Rossi, it is a case of building on what he has already achieved. Carrying new sponsor Kerauno on the Military to Motorsport No. 27 Honda this weekend, Rossi believes he has a car to do just that.
“The team has been working hard and have a really good car that I’m happy with”, said Rossi. “Barber is one of the more difficult road courses we visit, but I know my crew will be able to give us what we need to keep our momentum going.”
Ominously for his IndyCar rivals, Rossi has no intention of dropping off the top of the standings in the near future: “We took the points lead after last weekend and we’re not planning to give that up anytime soon.”
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off pit road with first practice Friday April 20 at 1115am with live streaming on IndyCar.com. Qualifying is Saturday April 21 from 3pm and green flag drops on the race Sunday April 22 at 2.40pm (all times local).
Both qualifying and the race will be broadcast live on NBSCN.