Andretti Autosport Group Hoping Strong End Of Season Surge Last Year, Strong Preseason Testing, Carr
INDIANAPOLIS – After a six month break between seasons, the 24 NTT IndyCar Series drivers are eager to get back to competitive action this weekend on the streets of St. Pete. See, for most of the paddock, with the exception of a few offseason tests, they’ve been sitting idle from last September until now.
This weekend, marks the opening race of the 2019 season in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network). For one organization, despite having such a long offseason, they’re hoping that the end of the year success in 2018, leads to a strong showing in Sunday’s season opener.
Last year, Alexander Rossi had a career year. He nearly won the season championship. Rossi, finished second behind Scott Dixon. He closed 2018 with seven straight top 10 finishes including three top two results over the final five races.
Now, with one of the few drivers to have raced between Sonoma and St. Pete, Rossi is hoping he can carry over last year’s success into 2019.
“I’m thrilled that the season is finally upon us,” said Rossi who finished third in last year’s race at St. Pete. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to stay busy and behind the wheel of lots of cars thanks to Honda and Acura, but now the focus is fully on the 2019 INDYCAR season and picking up where we left off last year. We have had some strong tests leading into St. Pete this weekend, but it’s clear that the competition is also stronger than ever, so we will have to be sure to execute every session. The NAPA Racing team and myself are in a good place and we look forward to kicking off the season in a strong way to indicate our intent to go one better than last year.”
His teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay is equally excited. See, no one was as hot to end the year off last year than that of Hunter-Reay. He finished second in the penultimate race at Portland and won the finale at Sonoma. To counter that, the Florida native also has five consecutive top seven finishes in St. Pete including four of which being in the top five.
“The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete can’t come soon enough,” said Hunter-Reay. “We’re looking to pick up where we left off by capitalizing on the momentum we had at the end the 2018 season with a pole and victory at Sonoma. The offseason testing program has gone very well thanks to all the hard work from not only the No. 28 DHL crew and engineering staff, but from everyone at Andretti Autosport.”
What about Zach Veach? He’s back for his second year with Andretti, and he too closed out 2018 with some momentum. From mid July on, he had four top 10 finishes over the final six starts to the season.
“I’m excited to be showing up to St. Pete for the second time in an Indy car,” said the Ohio native. “So much was learned during my first season and we’ve spent a lot of time preparing this winter. Our preseason testing went really well and I’m ready to start the year off right in the Gainbridge car.”
Marco Andretti enters 2019 with a new engineer but is hoping he can carry over the fifth place fun in Sonoma and seventh place effort at Pocono over to another strong run in St. Pete. Over his last four St. Pete starts, Andretti has three top 10 finishes.
“I’m excited to get the season started,” said the third generation driver. “Last year we had a new car and now with a year of learning how it rides and better understanding it, I think the U.S. Concrete team will be much more competitive. We’ve been working hard this offseason to build on where we left off at the end of 2018. I have a new engineer, Mark Bryant, and we’re working really well together so I’m eager to see where 2019 takes us.”
See, all four drivers in unison talked about how strong their preseason testing program was. If that’s any indication on how 2019 is going to go, then watch out.