Could Andretti’s Home Track Be Turning Point for Team?

SAM_4568The Verizon IndyCar Series returned to Pocono Raceway last year and at the time Andretti Autosport was all but dominating the first half of the 2013 season. 2014 however, has just been an “ok” season for Andretti Autosport, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28) being the only victor on the team this year – winning the Indianapolos 500 and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. He sits third in points right now with Marco Andretti (#25) being his closest teammate in the race for the Championship, from sixth place.
Coincidentally, Andretti made the podium both times Hunter-Reay won races this season. Speaking of the podium, the most recent race weekend led to a 3rd place finish for Carlos Munoz in the first race at the Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. This was his second podium of the year – the first one coming in Long Beach, back in April.

20140705_111306(0)The season may arguably be roughest for James Hinchcliffe, who has yet to podium this season. His best finish is P5, which he achieved for Race 2 at The Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit and Race 1 at Houston last week. A year ago over Fourth of July weekend, Andretti Autosport managed to put three of it’s four drivers on the front row in qualifying. Those three drivers are the same three that continued on with the team in 2014. They are also the three drivers who found themselves together again at the front of the pack in Practice 1 this AM. Hunter-Reay, Andretti & Hinchcliffe ran second, third and fourth fastest with only the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team car, driven by Tony Kanaan, was running faster than them. Munoz was running in the Top 6 with his teammates for a good portion of the practice but ultimately landed in P10 during the morning session. However, Munoz was second fastest in the second practice of the afternoon and his only teammate joining him in the Top 10 during Practice 2 was Marco Andretti, running 10th quickest.

20140705_133231(0)Could history repeat itself? Could we see Hunter-Reay, Andretti and Hinchcliffe on the front row of tomorrow’s race? You have an Indy 500 Champion aiming for his second title, a namesake with a real shot at the series Championship, and a 3-time IndyCar race winner who is looking to prove that he’s not a “flash in the pan” talent… that’s a lot of determination in the Andretti Autosport team, and could very well yield some impressive qualifying results this afternoon.

They will certainly have stiff competition as Kanaan, Takuma Sato (AJ Foyt Racing, #14), Juan Pablo Montoya (Team Penske, #2), Mikhail Aleshin (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, #7) and Will Power (Team Penske, #12) also landed in the Top 10 in both Saturday practice sessions. Nothing is for certain though, and sometimes the things we think are so predictable end up surprising us more than anything. This season has been nothing if not thrilling and unpredictable. I feel like I’ve used that word excessively in my writings this year, but it’s the truth. So what will this evening’s qualifications hold? Tradition of Andretti team domination or the “never-saw-it-coming”result that has kept this series so incredibly entertaining all season?

How are YOU going to find out? Well, you have a few options. The BEST one is to just come down to Pocono Raceway in person this evening… oh and then stay for the fireworks show at 9pm! Qualifications for the Pocono IndyCar 500 fueled by Sunoco are at 5pm EST. If you can’t make it here, tune in to the IndyCar Race Control site where you will be able to enjoy live streaming courtesy of NBC Sports. Qualifying  will air on a delay on the NBC Sports channel, at 7pm EST this evening so set your DVR! I will be here at Pocono Raceway all weekend bringing you live coverage and photos, so stay up to date by following my news feeds on Twitter & Facebook and if there’s anything you want to see or have me check out in person, please don’t hesitate to tweet me your request and I will do my best to fulfill it.