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RECAP: DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY CASINO PHOENIX GRAND PRIX

HIGHLIGHTS.

https://www.facebook.com/AndrettiAutosport/

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QUALIFYING.

After a two-lap average from each driver of the Andretti quartet, Alexander Rossi claimed the top starting position for Andretti Autosport. Both Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay earned their best starting spots on ISM Raceway's 1.022-mile oval snagging fourth and eighth, respectively.

Marco Andretti and his Oberto Circle K team struggled during both the practice and qualifying sessions before discovering a mechanical issue that led to the third-generation driver's car dragging on the track during his qualifying attempt. After working diligently to fix the issue, the team was confident in the No. 98 for the 250-lap race.

Zach Veach drove his car low into the corner causing a bobble for the rookie driver. After recovering, Veach drove his car back to pit lane unscathed and settling for a 23rd-place grid position.

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CHASING THE CHECKERS.

Phoenix's ISM Raceway saw Round 2 of Verizon IndyCar Series championship under a perfect Arizona night sky. Alexander Rossi’s race was looking bright from the start until the first round of pit stops tossed a wrench into Rossi’s momentum. Upon entry to the pit box, the No. 27 slid past its marks, striking a crewman and collecting a drive-thru penalty. With no injury to the Military To Motorsports crew, Rossi served his penalty and fell to the back of the field, one lap down. In 111 laps, Rossi drove his way from P22 to P14, earning his position back on the lead lap and tallying up 53 passes for the night. The yellow flag was shown on Lap 229 for what would be the final caution period of the night, and the question arose – stay out and maintain (and even gain) track position or pit and have fresh Firestones for a late-race shootout? The No. 27 team took the stay-out route and Rossi brought his ride across the line in third, collecting a second podium finish in as many races and placing himself second in the championship heading into Round 3.  

DHL driver Ryan Hunter-Reay is a proven force on the short ovals IndyCar calls home, and skillfully placed his No. 28 Honda into contention Saturday night. The racing veteran took to an aggressive start, gaining positions before the race’s first yellow flag waved on Lap 41, bringing Hunter-Reay to pit lane for the first of four stops of the night. Hunter-Reay recovered from pit lane mishaps to lead five laps in the 250-lap event. During the final caution period of the night, Hunter-Reay’s strategy brought him to pit lane for a fresh set of shoes, but the race did not return to green with enough time for the 2014 Indy 500 champ to make his way to the front. Hunter-Reay collected a second-consecutive top-five finish.    

Third-generation racer Marco Andretti came to Phoenix ready to drive his way to Victory Lane on weekend honoring the 25th anniversary of the 52nd and final race win of grandfather Mario Andretti’s career, but victory in the desert wasn’t in the cards for Andretti and his crew. Andretti drove an aggressive race full of a veteran’s skill and determination, but the No. 98 - dressed in a throwback Newman/Haas 1993 livery - lacked the downforce needed to advance on track. Behind on wing adjustments, it was the last stint before the car settled into a competitive rhythm on the racetrack. Despite the on-track competitiveness, the Oberto Circle K crew brought Andretti in and out of the pits flawlessly all night with swift pit stops.  

Rookie Zach Veach was the last driver in the 23-car field to see the green flag but drove a steady race and held his own amongst the series veterans. Showing as high as 10th (Lap 177), Veach placed himself and his Group One Thousand One chariot cleanly mid-pack running flag to flag on his way to a 16th-place finish on his first IndyCar short oval. Veach now holds 603 laps of experience in his Verizon IndyCar Series career and sits second in the points battle for Rookie of the Year honors.

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NEXT.

The Verizon IndyCar Series is headed to the west coast for the 44th edition of the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The 85-lap street race will go green on Sunday, April 15, at 4:42 p.m. ET with live coverage available on NBC Sports Network beginning at 4 p.m.

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

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IN THEIR WORDS.

NO. 27 MILITARY TO MOTORSPORTS HONDA
Verizon IndyCar Series

"We had a strong start but then the mishap on the first stop. It was unfortunate, but the important this is my crew is okay, that’s always the first concern. I didn’t challenge the box that hard, it was a stop under yellow so there wasn’t a need to – I went to turn right to line up and (the car) just went straight. Then we didn’t get the yellow we needed, so we had to completely un-lap ourselves and come back through the field. The Military To Motorsports car was by far the best car on track, I think, and it deserved to win. It wasn’t meant to be today, but I’m just happy to stand on the podium.”

NO. 28 DHL HONDA
Verizon IndyCar Series

“I’m disappointed not to finish P2 tonight. I think we had the car to do that. A top five is nice, but we’re looking for podiums and wins. We had some issues in the pits tonight. I made a mistake on the first one – then we pitted a little bit too early, a little bit too late on one of them. But, it was an exciting race at the end and congrats to Josef on the win and to Alexander on the podium. I just wish we would have gone green a little bit sooner there at the end of the race; that would have made the show, I think. I’m not really sure what took so long that time to get back to green, but definitely a shame to not get back at it soon and have more time to get the DHL Honda to the podium it deserved.”

NO. 98 OBERTO CIRCLE K / CURB HONDA
Verizon IndyCar Series

“Nice work to the Oberto Circle K crew for getting me in and out of the pits smoothly all night. We had a big day ahead of us from the start, starting 20th after a dropped skid in qualifying. Tonight, I think we were just down on COP all day. The number was just so low that we didn’t trust it – I think we were around 5% low off of what my teammates were running. We were just way behind on front wing all day and just kind of hanging on. I’m not thrilled to finish P12, but with what we were working with all day it was a decent result for us. We put the 98 to its limits tonight for sure.”

NO. 26 GROUP ONE THOUSAND ONE HONDA
Verizon IndyCar Series

"I’m extremely thankful. I think we had a much better showing tonight than in St. Pete. It was really hard to fight for 16th. We had a small mishap at the end, running 13th or 12th so I think we should have finished a little bit better. My Group One Thousand One guys have done a great job all weekend. We started a little behind with a mechanical issue earlier in the weekend and in qualifying. Starting last was tough, but we did the best we could to work through the field. The important thing, as Michael says, is every race I just have to complete every lap. We completed every lap here, and in St. Pete. If we do that, we’ll be pretty strong at the end of the year."