It all started on lap one when the All-Andretti front row charged into the first turn with Marco Andretti taking the lead into turn one followed by teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe. But Hinchcliffe’s Dallara/Chevrolet bobbled and spun, sliding up the turn and into the outside wall for the first of only two yellow flags.
When green flag racing resumed on lap five Andretti charged to some impressive leads putting the No. 25 car in front four times for 88 laps in the 160-lap contest. One of his main challengers was Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending IndyCar Series champion. Hunter-Reay came down pit road to make a pit stop on lap 61 but was nailed in the rear by Takuma Sato. The left side of Sato’s car hit the right side of Hunter-Reay’s sending it crashing into the outside pit road wall.
Hunter-Reay’s car would return to the track after being in the pits for 23 laps for repairs but the defending series champion, who entered the race nine points out of the championship lead, finished 20th. He remains second in the standings but is 23 points behind Castroneves, who finished eighth.
Andretti continued to race on but with green flag racing from lap 70 to 160 fuel mileage came into play and by leading so many laps Andretti’s fuel mileage dwindled while Ganassi’s drivers conserved mileage with their Honda engines.
So in the end, Andretti had the best car on the race track but was running out of fuel. He feathered the throttle long enough to make it to a 10th-place finish before running out of fuel on the cool-down lap.
“We knew early about our fuel mileage but not early enough,” Marco said. “I think we should have responded quicker, but it’s so hard to be reserved right now.
“We were just so dominant and I’m absolutely gutted.”
Andretti Autosport dominated Thursday’s Open Test, were fastest in practice and three of the four drivers swept the front row for the three-abreast start. The hopes and dreams of the team evaporated like the fuel in Marco’s tank.
“Bummer,” Michael Andretti said. “Marco had a car that he was in a class of his own but it came down to fuel mileage. Sato did his normal Sato thing because Ryan was in a good car, too, capable of winning. James totaled the car at the start so that was a bad way to start the day.
“It just went down after that. It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”
Andretti sensed something bad would happen, even when Marco was out front.
“It was too perfect for him and I thought, ‘When is it going to go bad?’” Michael Andretti admitted. “I used to be that was a driver, too. Marco is bummed but he is saying the thing – waiting for something to go wrong.
“And it did, unfortunately.”