What appeared to be a great way to end a frustrating season all came unraveled in a few laps Sunday for Andretti Autosport.
Halfway through the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, it was an Andretti annihilation as Alexander Rossi was leading teammates Colton Herta and James Hinchcliffe and a 1-2-3 finish looked likely since that trio wasn’t really being threatened.
Out in front for 61 laps in his AutoNation Honda, Rossi was sailing towards his first victory of 2020 when he lost control and smacked the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 66.
“I just lost it in Turn 3,” said Rossi, who started second and wound up 21st. “It’s been tough all weekend and was just a human error. It’s unfortunate, I think Andretti Autosport was phenomenal all weekend. It sucks. This is the first time it’s happened to me — to crash from the lead. I’m sorry to the boys, and we’ll come back strong next year.”
That left Herta up front but he was soon overtaken on a Lap 80 restart and then overshot Turn 4 — dropping back to 13th place.
“I’m fairly upset with my performance on track today,” admitted the 20-year-old second generation star who would still end up third in the NTT IndyCar Series point standings but 11th in the season finale. “I think we had a pretty good shot at a win and I just messed it up. I’m sorry to the guys about that, but overall happy with how the 88 team performed this year.”
During the sixth and final caution period of the 100-lap race, Hinch spun in the final turn and went from a podium to an apologist because he collected semi-teammate Jack Harvey trying to get back on track.
"This is more bizarre than the Tiger King."
Only in 2020. pic.twitter.com/mcQGE3DgSk
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) October 25, 2020
“In 16 years of racing cars, I’ve never spun out under caution before. Just my fault,” said The Mayor, who finished 14th after what had been a splendid weekend where he qualified fourth in the Gainbridge Honda. “The pace car was going really, really slow and it was super hard to keep heat in the tires. Going through the last corner there, I was making an adjustment on the wheel and just had one hand on the wheel. Even at 30mph, you’re going slower than pit lane speed and the thing spun. It’s my fault, but we were on the radio trying to get the pace car to go faster because the cars were almost harder to drive at pace car speed than they were at race speed.
“But, that’s on me. The worst part is that coming back on track I did it dangerously and, not only hit someone, but hit a (Andretti Technologies) teammate. That’s an even bigger black eye. To have a podium car — the guys did such a great job all weekend and I was really hoping to give them a strong result to end the year. I’m gutted for the whole team; I’m gutted for Jack (Harvey) — can’t be sorrier than I am for him. Not the way we wanted to end the year.”
If all that carnage wasn’t bad enough, Marco Andretti’s best drive of the season was derailed by a former teammate.
After charging from 23rd to seventh, Andretti got clipped by Takuma Sato — flattening his right-rear tire and sending him into the tire barrier.
“I drove my absolutely heart out,” said Andretti, who wound up 20th and finished 23rd in the 2020 standings. “We were in a position and would have maybe gained more positions — we were in the money, so to say. I left room to the apex and I think I just got tagged. We got a flat and then it was all downhill from there. We were so much faster; I just can’t believe we are in this position.
“I’ve never seen a season like we’ve had this year with the misfortunes.”