RACE DAY EMPHASIS FOR ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT
Wind the clock back to the 2012 Indy 500 and the Andretti Autosport team was nothing less than impressive on Pole Day, but when it came time to go racing for 200 laps, the team left a lot of room for improvement.
If earning last year's driver championship with Ryan Hunter-Reay left the team with any lasting impressions on what it wanted to achieve in 2013, another title for one of its drivers is an obvious goal, but winning the Indy 500, if the first few days of practice has revealed anything, is an even greater motivation for the five-car squad.
It's too early to tell what the weather will be like once we get to the race on Sunday May 26, but the team isn't waiting to work on chassis and aero setups for working in the draft – something that will be crucial if they want to win the 97th running of the great race.
“We're trying to utilize the advantage of having a five-car team. We're trying to put in as much work as we can together early in the week to get reads [on setup],” RHR told RACER. We'll hopefully log everything we've learned in the draft at different [ambient] temperatures and use it when the time is right.”
RHR admitted the team might have gotten an exceptionally early start on its drafting setups; such work is usually reserved for Pole Weekend and Carb Day – when a better idea of race day conditions are known.
“Some say it might be a little early to be doing this – a little too cool – but last year we focused so heavily on qualifying, this year we're focusing on the race,” he said.
Andretti driver and Indy 500 rookie Carlos Munoz, who topped Sunday's speed charts, has been in the thick of the team's drafting exercises, which seemed to tickle RHR.
“If I had an opportunity to do this in my rookie year…to run in drafts with them, then come back and listen to what they had to say…I really don't think Carlos has any idea how valuable it is for him,” he said with a laugh. “I remember my rookie year here with Rahal, and I barely ran in the draft before I got to the race…”
RHR also confirmed that despite the heavy emphasis on race setups, the team will indeed put some time into perfecting a qualifying setup.
“Yeah, qualifying matters, and we'll switch over to that shortly,” he remarked. “The team has a lot of things they've come up with over winter and we as drivers also have something we want to try. It's a pretty decent list we have to work through.”
James Hinchcliffe, RHR's Andretti teammate, says he can't wait to get down to faster lapping.
“I'm happy with what we're doing at the moment; we're not out there trying to win the tow war, and we're just blowing some dust off the drivers and the cars and we're on pace for what we want to be doing on Monday, but we'll start ramping things up here shortly,” he said. “That's when the fun starts.”
ANOTHER LONG HAUL
Ryan Briscoe's overnight trek from California to Indianapolis, as we chronicled in our weekend Notebook, left the Aussie tired slightly worn out when he climbed into the No. 8 NTT DATA car on Sunday, but of the drivers in the field who've accrued serious air miles in the past few days, Indy 500 rookie Conor Daly is on pole position.
“Over the weekend I racing in Barcelona – the first GP3 race of the weekend, and before that, I was in England, and the week before that, I was in a Formula 1 car,” said the AJ Foyt Racing driver. “Got to Barcelona on Thursday, practiced Friday, qualify Saturday, race Saturday, race Sunday morning, then went straight to the airport.”
And from there, things sped up considerably.
“I had to go, unfortunately – this is a disaster – Barcelona to London, London to Chicago and Chicago to Indy,' he said. “And sure enough the bags never made it, of course, as they would… Biggest race of my life and the bags don't make it. I think I'm going to be going to bed a little early tonight. But I'm happy to be home; this is my home and I get to race in my hometown.”
Minus his bags and primary driving gear, Daly jumped to Twitter for some help and got a HANS Device from Marco Andretti.
“He actually just texted me and said I could keep it…so I might just keep it!”