BELLE ISLE, Mich – After leaving Belle Isle fuming mad on Saturday, the Andretti Autosport group showed back up on Sunday seeking redemption. After a wild day on the island, it paid off in a big way.
No, Andretti didn’t take victory lane nor even put a car on the podium in Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, but what they did though is get all four cars in the top eight of the finishing order.
On Saturday, Alexander Rossi thought he had the race won but an ill timed caution flew just as Josef Newgarden had hit pit lane. Instead of controlling he race, he’d wind up second as he couldn’t pass Newgarden despite having a quicker car on the single groove track in the wet.
That same caution screwed his teammates too. See, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Zach Veach all had pitted and put on the Firestone slicks. They should have cycled up to the top five. Instead, the field never packed up before the stops and they were still behind everyone who hadn’t pitted yet.
They disagreed with IndyCar’s reasoning behind it and moved on.
On Sunday, Hunter-Reay came from 15th place to bring his No. 28 Honda home fourth. It was his sixth top eight finish in the last seven races on the season. The American finished second and first respectively on the 2.35-mile Detroit area street course last year and fifth and fourth respectively this past weekend. But, it was what he discovered towards the end of the race for why he’s just happy to finish.
“Somehow toward the end, we picked up a puncture or leak and were losing pressure on the right rear,” said Hunter-Reay. “Then we had to stop for the red flag, and the more you sit still, the quicker it deflates – it really dumped out on that red and was pretty much dead flat after the race. It was amazing we could salvage that. The DHL team fought hard all day, all weekend. It wasn’t the qualifying we hoped for, but I think we salvaged a good weekend all-in-all. It felt good to come home on a flat right rear. Happy with that end, but could have been a bit better, I think.”
One was happy to finish, another mad he let one get away. See, on Lap 33, Rossi tangled with Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe in Turn 3. The latter two were locked into the tire barriers. Rossi, somehow kept his car from fully spinning and kept going. It was his chance to pounce.
But, all he could muster was a fifth place run, his fifth top five in the last six races on the season.
“This weekend was more missed opportunities, but at the end of the day, the NAPA team did a really good job and we capitalized on the two guys in front of us having problems,” said Rossi. “A win continues to elude us here, but we had a fast race car and that’s good enough, I guess.”
Last year, Rossi nearly won the second Duel too but he made a mistake in trying to hold Hunter-Reay off. He had a fast car in Duel 1 but didn’t win in either of the last two years.
Andretti, tied a season best result of sixth in his No. 98 Honda. He was also sixth at COTA back in March too.
“Today was all good considering,” said the third generation driver. “I qualified so bad, and that can just make your race miserable and a bigger challenge right from the start. But the AutoNation crew gave me a car that could pass on track. The car was good – everybody did a great job just to hang in there. We salvaged a decent result.”
Finally, Veach brought his No. 26 Honda home eighth for the second straight day. Like Saturday, it was a tough way to get his second straight top 10 and seventh of his Indy Car career.
“Overall, it was kind of a mess,” said the Ohio native. “We wanted to get off the reds (Firestone alternate tires) as quickly as we could. The yellow came out of the first lap – we dodged into pit lane, as everyone else did. I went a little long on my marks, which hurt us, and we had an issue getting the fuel probe in. So, we didn’t get any fuel in the car on that first stop and lost about six stops in pit lane. We just had to put our head down and push through that. Our pace was OK. I felt like I could have done a better job, but luckily, we got to pass some cars and stay out of the mayhem. We’re taking home another top 10.”