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Hunter-Reay, Sato Give Andretti Solid Kick Off

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Across the entire 2016 season, Andretti Autosport scored nine top-five finishes in the 16 races with their four drivers, meaning they were only in the top-five 14 percent of the time. Right now following St. Petersburg, it’s up to 50 percent as two of the four drivers scored a top-five in the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener.

The finishes didn’t come without their trials, though, as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato both fought issues leading up to the event.

Hunter-Reay battled brake issues throughout the second practice, which carried over to the warm up this morning, causing him to make significant contact with the wall. The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda fought back, as despite fighting engine calibration issues during the early portion, he was able to keep himself on the lead lap, fighting back through the field to finish fourth.

“To finish today fourth was just awesome,” Hunter-Reay said. “This No. 28 DHL Honda team has done a great job all day. To fight back like that, I had to keep coming spot after spot really earning it, then there at the end I got that spot back from my teammate Sato. We had a lot of fun out there driving every last drop out of the car, and it’s great to be back in the role and into the swing of things.

“Hopefully we can get the DHL Honda team back on the podium where we belong, but a fourth-place finish is a good start. This whole team has done a great job; Andretti Autosport has been working hard. We had some great pace, showed good promise and I’m looking forward to the next race.”

While Sato didn’t have an incident like his teammate, he also found some struggles in his first weekend with Andretti as both Friday practice sessions didn’t go well, with the Japanese driver calling it “one of the hardest Fridays” in his career. However, he ended up qualifying fifth and ran up front throughout the event en route to a fifth.

“I definitely think my teammates helped me and the whole engineering team,” he said. “Given the circumstances, I think we did the best we could in qualifying and I was extremely happy with the result. Today was a tough race, but I think a fourth and fifth finish for Andretti Autosport is a fantastic result, especially for my first race with the team.”

While only half of the group was in the top-five, the rest of the team ran solid as well. Marco Andretti posted a seventh place finish for his best finish since finishing seventh at Iowa Speedway in July of 2015.

“I would’ve liked to have seen a better pace,” Andretti admitted. “We were struggling overall with grip, not going one way or the other. We hung on to salvage a top 10 with seventh, and that’s what we needed to do on days like this. After qualifying where we did, you gotta take a top 10. We also got a yellow in our favor today, and that’s what it’s going to take to be just as lucky as good. Hopefully, we can be both all year and stay strong in points for the hhgregg team.”

Meanwhile, Alexander Rossi rounded out the team with an 11th place finish.

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.