An­dretti brings a six-pack to Indy

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MICHAEL MAROT

INDIANAPOLIS — Michael An­dretti’s busiest month could turn into his best Indianapolis show.

He has four cars in the front three rows of Sun­day’s Indianapolis 500.

Two of those driv­ers — the de­fend­ing race cham­pion, Alexan­der Rossi, and this year’s high­est-pro­file rookie, Fer­nando Alonso — avoided get­ting side­tracked by sideshows.

An­dretti’s own son, Marco, thrived de­spite tak­ing on ex­tra coach­ing du­ties this May. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 cham­pion, posted the fastest qual­i­fy­ing av­er­age out­side the nine-car pole shootout, and Ja­pan’s Takuma Sato proved he could be a con­tender. On Mon­day, rookie Jack Har­vey moved up the speed chart, too.

If these guys pro­duce all the right num­bers this week­end, An­dretti Au­tosport will have the best six­pack of rac­ers in 500 his­tory.

“It’s been good be­cause of the data we’ve been able to share and pass on, not only for some­one like Marco or Ryan, but it’s been good for all the guys,” Michael An­dretti said.

The six An­dretti cars in the 33car start­ing grid are the most by one team since Andy Evans started seven in 1996 with Team Scan­dia. Even for a team that reg­u­larly starts four cars, em­bark­ing on such an enor­mous chal­lenge car­ries all sorts of po­ten­tial pit­falls.

Find­ing spon­sors and cars are the most glar­ing con­cerns, and An­dretti said he never would have con­sid­ered such a daunt­ing feat if both hadn’t al­ready been re­solved. Find­ing crew mem­bers, spot­ters and strate­gists for all of the driv­ers isn’t easy, ei­ther.

“Peo­ple are a huge prob­lem be­cause ev­ery­one in Indianapolis has a job right now,” said Michael Shank, co-owner of Har­vey’s No. 50 car. “I have 22 to 25 guys in my shop, so it was only nat­u­ral we could do it.”

An­dretti, with an as­sist from Shank and Bryan Herta, the coowner of Alexan­der Rossi’s No. 98 car, found suc­cess early: From the mo­ment the cars rolled onto the 2.5mile oval, they were al­ready fast.

Marco An­dretti fin­ished the first day atop the speed chart. He’ll start eighth Sun­day, the mid­dle of Row 3.

Hunter-Reay pro­duced top-five laps in prac­tice each of the first four days he turned laps and qual­i­fied 10th, the in­side of Row 4.

Rossi and Sato, both for­mer For­mula One driv­ers, helped the twotime F1 champ make a quick tran­si­tion from the fa­mil­iar high-tech, road-course cars to the even faster cars on un­fa­mil­iar ovals. Rossi is start­ing from the third spot on the front row. Sato and Alonso qual­i­fied in the sec­ond row and will start fourth and fifth.

The only real glitch over the past two weeks has been Har­vey, a rookie from Eng­land.

He crashed early in prac­tice be­cause of a steer­ing prob­lem, later blew an en­gine and wound up qual­i­fy­ing 27th, the out­side of Row 9. While he ap­pre­ci­ates get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to race again — and is thrilled to give Shank his 500 en­try — he ac­knowl­edges it’s hard not to think some of the prob­lems were pre­ventable.

Now, though, An­dretti and his six driv­ers are fo­cused on one goal: Top­ping Sun­day af­ter­noon with a drive through vic­tory lane.

MICHAEL CON­ROY, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Michael An­dretti dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion for the Indianapolis 500.

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