Alexander Rossi could be on the verge of a breakthrough in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Two weeks ago, he achieved his best finish since his victory at the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, with a P2 on the Streets of Toronto.
The driver of the No. 98 Andretti Autosport Honda had it dialed in this morning for the third practice of the weekend, running the fastest lap of the weekend with a 1:04.2303. He almost had it stolen away by teammate Takuma Sato in the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda, but he earned it back only a few laps before the session was called on account of a late red flag for Mikhail Aleshin’s (No. 7 Arrow SPM Honda) contact with the tires in Turn 12.
Rossi has only had one start at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in which he started P12 and finished two spots back in P14. He looks to be a contender in this afternoon’s knockout qualifying rounds, though. I could even see him grabbing a spot in the Firestone Fast 6. I think all of Andretti Autosport could have a productive afternoon given their recent advancements on the track and on the results boards.
We mentioned Toronto earlier in regards to Rossi, but it’s worth noting that Marco Andretti (No. 27 Honda) also had a great weekend in Canada when he finished P4 – his best result since Pocono in 2015. Andretti then finished third quickest in the first practice at Mid-Ohio on Friday. He and his team are finding something that’s been missing and it seems they are gaining steady pace towards more coveted results.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon when Ryan Hunter-Reay topped the second session. He maintained a calm demeanor about the achievement, while still allowing his determination and focus to shine through. The No. 28 DHL Honda is still in fighting shape and it could be a threat in the qualifying rounds, though I don’t see it getting the pole.
Let’s be clear that pace is not an issue for Andretti Autosport this weekend – third, first, first, second… that’s impressive. The qualifying efforts of all four drivers have been decent over the course of the season as well. They have ten Top 5 starts including a pole at the second race of the Detroit doubleheader thanks to Takuma Sato in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. Looking at the breakdown of those Top 5 starts in 2017: Sato holds 5 of them while Hunter-Reay has had 2, and Rossi earned 3. Andretti is the only team driver to not have a Top 5 start in 2017.
I expect to see at least one Andretti Autosport driver in the Firestone Fast 6 today, and I’d honestly be surprised if we don’t see them all advance to Round 2. The only thing that could keep that from happening is the fact that three of them (Andretti, Hunter-Reay, and Rossi) are in Group 2 for qualifying Round 1, battling alongside guys like Dixon, Newgarden, Rahal, and Power.
Andretti Autosport has been strong, and they’re gaining momentum in the second half of the season. While they may not realistically be in contention for a Championship this year, they are working hard and that effort is showing on track. Let’s see what they’ve got for Mid-Ohio when qualifying goes live at 2:05 p.m. today!
Photo credit: Bret Kelley/IndyCar