Paddock Buzz: Rossi Rescues Roller Coaster Day for Andretti – INDYCAR

May 1, 2022 by No Comments

NTT P1 Award qualifying can be mighty unpredictable in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Take Saturday’s session at Barber Motorsports Park, for example.

Andretti Autosport brought three front-running hot rods to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst, and one of them crashed hard in the pre-qualifying practice. The damaged car of Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) seemed uncertain to participate in the qualifying session.

So which driver advanced to the Firestone Fast Six? Yep, the car that needed nearly three hours for repairs, completed just minutes prior to qualifying.

Rossi’s car had the engine, gearbox and rear suspension pieces repaired or replaced in impressive fashion by crew members from all four of Michael Andretti’s teams, with help from employees of Honda Performance Development, which powers the organization.

“Plus (team) management,” Rossi said, smiling.

Rossi was strapped into the car while still on the team’s setup pad, and the car was rolled out to pit road as final preparations for qualifying were made. Rossi did the rest, earning a spot in the Firestone Fast Six. He will start fifth in pursuit of his first series victory since the 2019 race at Road America.

“It was unbelievable,” Rossi said of the quick repairs. “It was a big situation to (replace) an engine and a gearbox. I put (the crews) in a very difficult situation. It was amazing just to be out there in the first place and to have the opportunity to compete and qualify.

“Obviously, we knew the car had been strong all weekend. We didn’t get a chance on the (Firestone alternate) red tires, so the first run was kind of guessing a little bit.”

Rossi said members of the organization were “relieved and happy” to have gotten through the adventure. Why? Because starting on the back row of a 26-car field on a tricky track with limited passing opportunities would have effectively ruined the 27 car’s weekend.

“If we had not made qualifying,” Rossi said, “you’re super screwed. This gives us a really good shot to have a good day tomorrow.”

Rossi figures to have teammates charging behind him. Romain Grosjean (No. 28 Enevate DHL Honda) and Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) expected to be Fast Six qualifiers, but their second rounds were spoiled by a late-session stoppage for the slide-off of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda).

After being the fastest car in Friday’s practice, Herta’s team had waited until the rest of the cars completed a lap, and they didn’t have enough time to get a prime lap completed.

“It’s the reason we got the pole at Long Beach because we did a lap less than everybody, so we had a lap less on the tires,” Herta said. “It does seem like a lot, but you can feel a difference in tire (degradation). It does make a big difference.”

Grosjean settled for the eighth starting position, Herta 10th.

Given that no Barber winner has started further back than ninth, Herta has his work cut out for him Sunday.

“Tenth isn’t terrible; you can win from there,” he said. “Who knows what the weather is going to bring tomorrow, so we’ll see.”

Rookie Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 29 PowerTap Honda) is the team’s fourth driver. He will start 20th.

Grosjean: ‘Ready to Win …….



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