One of the more recent visual developments in the paddock has come beneath the engine covers of the four Andretti Autosport entries. The first clue was hard to miss when I walked past James Hinchcliffe's unmistakably green No. 27 GoDaddy Chevy and noticed the team had painted the turbo intake piping and cold-side plenum feeds to match his car color.
A closer look at the other three cars revealed yellow piping on Ryan Hunter-Reay's yellow DHL Chevy, red on Marco Andretti's RC Cola Chevy and blue on E.J. Viso's CITGO Chevy (LEFT, pic by Marshall Pruett). The engine bay decorations are unique to the Andretti team as the rest of the paddock seem satisfied with leaving those forced-induction canvases blank.
“We just thought it would be something to individualize each car a bit, said Andretti team manager Kyle Moyer. “Having a sense of style doesn't hurt, does it?”
No, it doesn't.
ROYAL RECOVERY BY RHR
Most IndyCar teams were looking for the earliest opportunity to pit once they were within the window to complete Sunday's 85-lap race in three stops, and with a caution period falling on Lap 17, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that all of the leaders would pit.
A bold strategy call by 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and his Andretti Autosport team left the No. 1 DHL Chevy circulating behind the pace car while the two leading cars in front of him and almost a dozen cars immediately behind him dove in for service.
Losing that early race game of musical chairs made for an exciting afternoon as RHR sank to 21st after pitting on Lap 24. Cue a fairly crazy march through the field – one that was aided by the Rock'em Sock'em Robots routine that went on throughout the field – as RHR hauled himself up to sixth at the finish.
It was a better ending than in 2012 when he and Alex Tagliani had a meeting of bodywork at Turn 7 that left the future champ in 18th. He was in a much happier mood after this year's race, despite knowing some points had been left on the table.
“I made mistakes on the track and obviously the strategy we took was different than the Ganassi and Penske guys, but we do this together and won our championship last year together,” said RHR. “It definitely hurt being in the top three, being one of the leaders and then staying out, but taking a risk at the time to try and get ahead of Dixon and Franchitti was worth a shot because like we saw last year, playing it safe isn't going to get you the points to take over the championship.”
Hunter-Reay (BELOW) was one of very few drivers to press ahead and make up positions without major contact being involved.
“Yeah, it wasn't all clean, but I kept my head down and kept going, as I know championships come down to a couple of points so I knew every position was extremely valuable,” he added. “We had a lot of digging out to do to come back to sixth. The Andretti Autosport team is very good on recoveries, but we definitely made the day harder than it needed to be for ourselves. Can't afford more of those this year.”
By contrast, teammate James Hinchcliffe was in the wars. “I honestly felt like I was hit by every car out there,” he said. “You can't really control everything that goes on around you, and we haven't been qualifying well enough lately, so you start farther back and run the risks involved with being back there. We really need to put our emphasis on qualifying for the final races and if we can improve there, it will help a lot with getting better results.
“It's especially true at Baltimore and Houston, where contact is easy, but the guys up front tend to be more aware of what's going on around them. Giving away points or better finishes just isn't helpful at this stage of the season. Finishing strong would be really helpful and getting another win or two would come at exactly the right time. You don't want anything negative to happen at this point in the year where a lot of planning and talks are taking place about the future.”