An unexpected end to a very promising weekend is what the Andretti Autosport IZOD IndyCar teams experienced in sunny Long Beach, California. The hot streak continues in their Firestone Indy Lights program, however, as veteran Carlos Munoz found victory lane once more.
Marco Andretti went into today's race with the odds stacked against him, as he started 25th on the grid. Making a slow and steady climb through tough competition, Marco worked his way as high as eighth before sustaining front end damage. Showing no signs of slowing down, he battled his way into the top 10 before finishing seventh overall in the field. "Going into this, I knew that this would be about the best we would finish. I am definitely pleased with how we climbed our way through the field and how we stayed consistent throughout the day. We knew that if we just stayed in the race and didn't make any mistakes, we would be good. I had some front wing damage and a lot of understeer the whole race." Andretti remains fourth in the championship points standings.
Twenty-eight-year-old E.J. Viso felt the car that his No. 5 crew gave him was going to bring him to victory lane. Seen as high as sixth place after the second restart, E.J. was reordered back to P8 following a series of pit stops amongst the competition. The Venezuelan remained in the top 10 position until receiving the brunt of a run-in between two other competitors, and Viso returned to the pits and was brought back behind the wall to have his rear suspension worked on. Crew guys from the Go Daddy and Team Venezuela camp worked feverishly and pushed E.J. back out to the race on Lap 49. Calling it a day, the No. 5 team called in the Andretti Autosport "rookie" with 10 laps to go being shown in 22nd. "A very tough weekend for the team. It was looking like a good weekend for me after our very difficult beginning. It was a very tough Friday, a bit better Saturday in qualifying – we were able to qualify in the top 10 – and then in the race I really had a good, good recovery with some changes for the race which were in the right direction. The team gave me a car that was very competitive with new and old tires. I was able to have a very good rhythm and good pace with fuel. I believe we had a car that was able to win this race. I feel bad for the outcome of the team: one driver took three Andretti cars out – it's a shame. Now to Brazil."
2010 Long Beach race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay also ended the day early due to on-track contact with fellow competitors. After showing promising speed all weekend and rolling the DHL Chevy off from the second position, he found himself in an undesirable position more than once during today's 80-lap race. The No. 1 machine entered the pits for a front nose replacement after simply being in the wrong place and the wrong time and being collected in a Turn 1 incident. Losing valuable track time for repairs, the American found himself stuck in traffic and then part of another collision, this time ended his day. "We missed some of the grip today that we had in prior days. Some of the corners that were my strongest were my weakest today. I was definitely handcuffed, so we just started trying things. We were in the back anyway, I had to move forward again and I just got in too hot, no grip on the inside there. Just trying things, trying anything to make a bad day go a little better, but it just went from bad to worse. I feel really bad for the guys, they gave me a great car all weekend, we just missed it today. I absolutely missed it out there on the track, so we have to rebound in Brazil for sure and try to get the DHL Chevy on top again." Today's incident dropped Hunter-Reay from third to sixth in the points standings.
The GoDaddy.com machine of James Hinchcliffe was full of top-five capability when the Canadian driver fell victim to the same fate three of his teammates suffered. A restart left James entering Turn 1 from the inside line with no where to go but into the wall as competition turned in on the No. 27 Chevy. "Two in a row (not finishing due to contact) – what a kick in the pants. It's really unfortunate because I think the Go Daddy team had done a good job giving us a great race car. And on that restart… I didn't get the best restart and Tony (Kanaan) had a smokin' one and I was trying to keep, I think it was (Simon) Pagenaud, behind me on the inside and as we got down to Turn 1. I haven't seen a replay so I don't know if Tony was trying to do a last minute pass or if he was getting squeezed by someone else, but he moved in the brake zone and I just had nowhere to go and day done. So really tough break for the Go Daddy guys because I genuinely think we were podium contenders today and it was going to be a good comeback from not the strongest of weekends. But one thing I love about this team is they pull out on Sundays – they do Sunday as well as anybody, and often better, and I think today was going to be one of those days. But we'll get our momentum back and move on to Brazil."
Carlos Munoz's momentum continues to roll as he won today's Long Beach 100 in a seemingly dominant fashion. Starting from the pole position for the third straight time this season, Carlos started the race ahead of the pack and never looked back. Making this back-to-back wins this season, Carlos has now pulled ahead in points standings. "In the beginning I think I did a really good start, so Jack got nervous or something and there was a big crash behind me, I don't know what really happened I just saw it in the mirrors. After that it was my race, I knew that Peter and Jack were some of my two biggest competitors on the track for the championship and they were out, so I was taking it easy. The main key was to finish, but it was a really good car for a second victory of the season, I had a really great car."
Zach Veach made his Long Beach debut today filled with optimism after qualifying third fastest in the field during yesterday's session. Zach's luck would run short as he collided with another car going into Turn 1 of the first lap. Disappointed, Zach now looks forward to Indy and will begin preparing himself for his first oval race with the Firestone Indy Lights next month. "We had a really good start. With Carlos ahead of me I had a pull, something that (Jack) Hawksworth didn't have. Obviously he could tell in a way that I was gaining on him. I felt that we were going to get him going into Turn 1. I kept gaining on him and he kept trying to muscle me to the wall. At that point I was to a spot that I couldn't lift. I was to the wall so I gave him as room as I absolutely could."
The IZOD IndyCar Series will pack up and head to the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil for the next round of competition on May 5. The Firestone Indy Lights drivers will next take to the track in May for the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the meantime, keep up to date on all things Andretti Autosport by joining us on Twitter (@FollowAndretti) and don't forget to 'Like' us on Facebook where you can enter to be our featured Fan of the Week.