According to Andretti Autosport president JF Thormann, the team’s IndyCar Series expansion with the Harding Steinbrenner Racing outfit will not cause a reduction in car count or significant staffing losses within its Indy Lights team.
Although some key personnel that recently led Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta to a 1-2 in the championship are expected to move with their respective drivers to HSR, Thormann says Andretti’s Indy Lights program will not be downsized or transitioned into HSR’s ‘Andretti Junior Team’ IndyCar effort.
“We want to have the four cars, it’s in the plans, I’ve gotten a lot of interest since we’ve done so well, the series is working to save costs so we can pass that on to the next crop of drivers,” he told RACER.
“And support-wise, we feel that we have the next generation of engineers and mechanics and crew, and some veterans, that will be here. Michael [Andretti’s] always been bullish about this program, and he thinks you have to have a strong Indy Lights team to be strong in IndyCar, so keeping a strong Indy Lights team is important to him.”
Andretti’s Lights team will field three drivers this weekend for the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and with its dominance in 2018, Thormann believes the program is poised to continue its recent form.
“It’s been nine years since our last championship with JR Hildebrand, and we have won the Freedom 100 since then, but Pato’s our first champion since JR,” he said. “We were hopeful we’d have a good year with Pato and Colton, but were going up against Santi Urrutia who was coming into his third year. We were pleased with Dalton Kellett’s efforts and think Ryan Norman really came on strong at the end of the year, and we want that to continue. And then there are some great new drivers that are coming in like Rinus VeeKay and we could have Parker Thompson, Oliver Askew, and more talented drivers to become the next Pato and Colton.”
As the driving force behind Andretti’s Road To Indy programs, Thormann is hopeful the success demonstrated this season will lead to more championship-caliber drivers signing up to compete next year.
“We were fortunate to have so much talent on the team, and it’s a testament to the team that three of our four drivers won and all had poles,” he continued. “Michael insists on sharing data, sharing everything among drivers, and then on track, they can slug it out. If anything, looking ahead, that openness is something I hope will attract more drivers to our team.
“There’s also the dynamic with the IndyCar team where our IndyCar drivers will seek out our Lights drivers for track information, and the other way around with the Lights drivers asking for advice from the IndyCar team. It’s a unique opportunity that has worked well for us and all our drivers.”