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RECAP: HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA

HIGHLIGHTS.

https://www.facebook.com/AndrettiAutosport/videos/10156491460838678/

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QUALIFYING.

For the first time since the 2017 season finale, all four Andretti Autosport Hondas advanced from Round 1 of qualifying into the top 12.

In the end it was Ryan Hunter-Reay placing into the top qualifying spot for the team as he earned his best starting position of the 2018 season. Hunter-Reay fought in the Firestone Fast Six at a disadvantage to those from Group 2 who were able to save a set of Firestone alternate tires thanks to a red flag which ended their session early.

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CHASING THE CHECKERS.

Just before the cars made their way out to the grid on Sunday, the rain started to fall, and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was declared a wet race. Originally scheduled for 90 Laps, the cars rolled off the starting grid as a timed race under yellow flag conditions before the field of 23 took the green flag on Lap 2.

The track was slippery from the start. On Lap 3, Marco Andretti lost traction and spun falling back to the 21st position. By Lap 19, the race saw two caution periods for on-track incidents before the first red flag was brought out due to decreased visibility and heavy rain. A brief attempt was made to return to racing, but the final red flag came again on Lap 23 with 00:44:16 on the session clock. The Verizon IndyCar Series postponed the remainder of the race until Monday morning.

The race restarted with clouds of sunshine and Hunter-Reay and Rossi ran comfortably in the top five while Marco Andretti and Zach Veach battled within the top 10. All four drivers gambled when the rain began to fall and decided to stay out on their Firestone Primary Tires instead of coming in with the rest of the field for a set of Firestone's rain option in hopes that the rain would come to a halt and they would have an advantage over those who had already switched.

While Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach's decisions to come into the pits were timely, the 27 team decided to stay out one-lap too many under the slick conditions and Rossi veered off course, losing position and settling back into 11th.

When the time clock ran out and the checkered flag was waved over the abbreviated race, only 82 laps were complete and it was Hunter-Reay who grabbed the second step of the podium - his first of the season, and the team's first at Barber Motorsports Park since 2014. Andretti rounded out the top 10 and Rossi finished right behind in 11th. Veach saw the finish line 13th.

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NEXT.

From here the Verizon IndyCar Series heads back home again to Indiana to begin preparations for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

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. 28 DHL HONDA
Verizon IndyCar Series

"It was a good race, it was tough getting the fuel number and trying to keep the pace up, but it was a lot of fun when it started raining, trying to find the grip again and searching around. I was almost worried that I was going to burn the front [tires] off. We came in early for the wet [tires]. I stayed out there as long as I could but, on the slicks, I was a lot quicker, and it was that inconsistent snap that you have. When you have one of those [snaps] with the slicks you can absolutely loose it completely, so we thought that was the best time to come in and grab the Firestone wets. It was good from there. I just needed a little bit more time to cut in on Newgarden’s lead. Congratulations to Team Penske and [Josef] Newgarden. Great job by the DHL guys this weekend. We rolled off the truck, we weren’t that happy with the car and we kept working on it methodically, chipping into it and everybody just executed it – so a good weekend overall."

No. 98 Kerauno / Curb Honda
Verizon IndyCar Series

"It was a lot of fun out there, but I think finishing 10th is the worst we should’ve finished. I think myself and the guys earned a third-place finish. We beat [James Hinchcliffe] out in the end – so we had third locked up until the rain made all the one-stoppers work. We were looking really good for a podium; the Kerauno team was way better than what the race results showed, but we know we have the pace, so we’ll keep digging and move on to Indy.”

No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda
Verizon IndyCar Series

“It definitely wasn’t our best day. We initially went into the race with the plan of doing a two-stopper, then we switched to a one-stop strategy once the race started because of the extra formation laps. Once the race got going, we were on the wrong tire for the one-stop plan, and couldn’t make the fuel work, so we switched back to a two-stop strategy. It was looking okay, but we tried to survive the rain probably one lap too long and we lost time to guys that had already switched to rain tires. We ended up 11th. It wasn’t a great day from a performance or strategy standpoint. It’s a day that we’ll certainly be putting behind us as soon as possible and look forward to Indy GP where we had a really strong test a couple weeks ago.”

No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda
Verizon IndyCar Series 

“The weekend overall was good for us, confidence wise – advancing to the top 12 in qualifying and getting up to position sixth yesterday for the first part of the race. Today, I think we definitely had the pace to finish inside the top 10, but we had a few mechanical issues during the race. I lost all of my adjustments inside of the car, so once that happened I was a sitting duck. Extremely thankful for my Group One Thousand One crew for the job they did this weekend. We held on the best we could to come home 13th. Hopefully we can improve for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and of course build on everything in time for the Indianapolis 500.”

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RACE 1.

Colton Herta scored the pole position for the first race of the double-header weekend, but it wasn't long before Patricio O'Ward would take the lead from the sophomore driver. On Lap 1, the rookie made a move on his Andretti teammate and continued to lead all 30 laps before capturing his second win of the season.

Dalton Kellett touched on an area of green track which sent the No. 28 K-Line Insulators, USA machine into a spin and placing him at the rear of the field. Ryan Norman, who started just behind Kellett avoided collision with the Canadian driver and went on to collect another top-five finish.

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RACE 2.

Due to incoming weather, the second Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend was moved up to begin over an hour earlier than scheduled and shortened to consist of only 30 laps, rather than 35. Patricio O'Ward collected the pole position for Race 2 and led flag to flag to earn his third win in four races and extend his points lead in the championship.

Colton Herta fell back to fourth on the start and intensely battled Santi Urrutia for the final step on the podium leaving the weekend with two podium finishes and third in the championship standing.

Veteran Indy Lights driver Dalton Kellett made the most out of a challenging, yet exciting race weekend. Keeping pace, Kellett battled all 30 laps - eager to find a spot on the podium before ending the day with a sixth-place finish. Kellett is currently sixth in the championship standings.

Showing decent pace, sophomore driver Ryan Norman battled with teammate Dalton Kellett for position before falling to the back of the field. Finding it difficult to pass on the 17-turn road course, Norman finished seventh and heads into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis fifth in the championship.

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NEXT.  

The Indy Lights quartet travels to the team's home base in Indianapolis next month for two races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course followed by one more race on the iconic oval at IMS. The four drivers take to the track for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis May 11 and 12 and again on May 25 for the Freedom 100.

For more information and to stay up-to-date between races, visit AndrettiAutosport.com and IndyLights.com.

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IN THEIR WORDS.

No. 27 Riverina CDMX Mexico City Mazda
 Indy Lights Series

Race 1:
"I was fighting hard the entire race - I had a handful of a car. I never had a chance to relax and it was always super tense. Colton [Herta] didn't give me any breathing room and he did an awesome job. I just knew I had to keep the No. 27 Riverina CDMX Mexico City Mazda on the racing line because this a hard track to pass someone on. I knew Colton was using his push-to-pass and he had a few launches, but I don't think he was close enough to make it stick. I feel like we really earned this win."

Race 2:
"I dropped the wheel on Turn 11, and the tires had way more grip than I was expecting - but I knew they wouldn't stay that way. The track was drying quickly and we couldn't cool the tires off by running through puddles. We put up some pretty quick lap times in the beginning of the race and we wanted to continue building the gap so there would be more breathing room. We kept up the pace every single lap and I kept trying to keep it steady ahead of Victor [Franzoni]. We wanted to keep control because it's easy to make a mistake with someone behind you in these conditions. It was an awesome weekend and I'm really happy we got both race wins. I'm really looking forward to Indianapolis."

No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing / Curb Mazda 
Indy Lights Series

Race 1: 
"Obviously, our car seems to be very consistent. I think we were quicker than my Pato [O'Ward] today, and I think I showed that because I was right behind him the entire race. I just couldn't quite seal the deal. There's really not going to be anything to take away from today's race if it rains tomorrow, which it looks like it's going to, but I don't really mind if it rains. I enjoy racing in the rain and I think as long as there aren't a lot of puddles we'll do fine."

Race 2:
"Overall it's been a solid points weekend. The second race was pretty tough and wet. We didn't have the car quite where we would've wanted it to be, and I think we maxed the Andretti-Steinbrenner/Curb Mazda out. We had a little too much understeer in Race 2. I can't really complain with a second and third place finish this weekend. We're just going to have to keep racking up the podiums if we want to win this championship."

No. 27 K-Line Insulators, USA Mazda 
Indy Lights Series

"It was definitely an exciting start to the race. We were challenging Santi [Urrutia] for the third position right into Turn 3 and I got onto the low-line on the apex. We don't really run much there - you kind of swing out wide and come back in. There's no rubber there and that caught me off guard - I had a little oversteer. I think I just lost it and spun. We tried to keep it going around but unfortunately we made contact with Aaron [Telitz] which is obviously a shame for him. Overall, the No. 28 K-Line Insulators USA Mazda ran great. The 28 guys did a great job in pit lane when we came in for the wing change and we finished where we started so at least we have that."

Race 2:
"It was an exciting race today at Barber Motorsports Park. The wet conditions were definitely challenging, but the No. 28 K-Line Insulators, USA Mazda crew did a great job giving me a setup that I was able to make the most out of and come home with another sixth-place finish. It was definitely a points-gathering weekend for us. It would've been nice to qualify higher for today's race. Our pace for Race 2 was good and we could've been battling with Colton [Herta] for a third-place finish. It was a missed opportunity, but like I said, I'm happy to bring the car home sixth. Now looking ahead to May, that's been a strong month for us in the past and we're ready to capitalize on the pace at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We're looking forward to the Grand Prix of Indianapolis - I think that's the best track on the schedule as far as quality of racing because of the long straights and hard brake zones. Then we have the Freedom 100 on Carb Day and that's always a highlight event of the season for us. We've had good success there finishing third the past two years and I'm hoping to move up a couple spots this year. I'm ready to get the month of May started."

No. 48 Journey Mazda
Indy Lights Series

Race 1:
"I think the race went pretty good today. We avoided a crash on the first lap - and I was really close to running into those guys [Telitz and Kellett]. Luckily we got away free. We ran some good times, but I think I have to qualify better and we'll have a chance to run at the top. Shout out to Victor [Franzoni] for an awesome race - he didn't make a mistake when we were racing each other and I had fun battling it out with him. We'll just come back stronger tomorrow."

Race 2:
"The race today didn't really go as planned. We didn't have a good start. I'm not sure who was in front of me, but I went a little early and had to brake check and that messed my start up. We showed decent pace and stayed close to Dalton [Kellett], and was able to catch up to Santi [Urritia]. Like I said yesterday, it's difficult to pass here - so I was stuck at P7 for the remainder of the race. There's a lot of takeaways from this weekend. It's a great learning experience, but we definitely want to come back stronger for Indianapolis."