Ryan Hunter-Reay was the top finishing Andretti Autosport driver Sunday in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, in his No. 28 DHL Honda, but his two teammates added to the overall results haul Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.
Carlos Muñoz (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda) and Marco Andretti (No. 27 Merchant First/Snapple Honda) each followed up their top-10 results at Long Beach last week with near identical results this week, to give Andretti Autosport a perfect three-for-three in top-10s on the day.
Granted, while lower top-10 results aren’t the goal, and while a higher finish for Andretti was certainly possible, both Muñoz and Andretti flew under the radar once again en route to their results.
Muñoz started 22nd in the 23-car Verizon IndyCar Series field but advanced as high as eighth, primarily on the pit stop sequence, in his first stint before pitting on Lap 22.
A short-fill and a second stop on Lap 35 positioned him well to make it home on just one more stop from there, which he took on Lap 63, the same lap as race winner Josef Newgarden.
Muñoz made it up to seventh by Lap 70, when most of the leaders completed their final round of stops, and gained a further position to sixth when Helio Castroneves needed a splash of fuel with two laps remaining.
“I think sixth for me is like a victory today. I mean I always want to win, but this sixth feels so good because of how we started the weekend,” Muñoz said in a team release.
“Starting 22nd at Barber (Motorsports Park), it is really hard to make your way to the front. My team did a great job – in pit stops, in strategy. I think I did a great job at saving fuel; I’m more or less a rookie at saving fuel, but I think now I have my ‘saving fuel degree’ from university (haha). Now I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Andretti recorded his third top-10 finish in four races to open the year on a similar strategy. Stops on Laps 15, 35 and 63 positioned him for a top-10 result, and a last lap pass of Luca Filippi for 10th completed the day’s work. Still, he felt things could have gone better.
“I lost too much time early in the stint to (Scott) Dixon and Ryan (Hunter-Reay); I had a go at Dixon… I got pushed off the track, so we lost a lot of track position,” said Andretti, who at one point made a dynamic outside pass of his teammate on Lap 25 for sixth place.
“I lost a lot of time, really, in that stint trying to conserve (fuel). I need to get better at managing, but we were losing the rear tires, so it was a real struggle.”
Muñoz, Hunter-Reay and Andretti now rank 11th, 12th and 13th this season in the points standings heading into the month of May.
As the defending Indianapolis 500 champion team, and a team that has had an excellent setup at Indianapolis each of the last two years, it will be interesting to watch theirs and Honda’s progression into the month of May.