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INDYCAR: ST. PETERSBURG WEEKEND RECAP

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.  


PRACTICE
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.
 
QUALIFYING
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 position.
 
RACE
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.

Keep up to speed between the checkers and the greens with our suite of social media channels.


 
NUMBERS & QUOTES

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
“I 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.”