Andretti Autosport arrives at the NTT IndyCar Series season finale with a number of changes on its horizon.
Alexander Rossi is the highest profile adjustment on the books with his upcoming departure for Arrow McLaren SP. The team will also welcome its 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood back into the family after the checkered flag waves on Sunday, and then there’s the question of whether its lead driver, Colton Herta, could be heading off to try and join the Formula 1 grid with AlphaTauri.
Asked if the team has a new driver in position to replace Herta in the No. 26 Honda if needed, Andretti Chief Operating Office Rob Edwards (pictured at left, above, with team boss Michael Andretti) suggested there’s no need to look beyond the car’s current solution.
“I don’t think it’s gonna look any different next year than it looks this year,” he told RACER.
Prior to Brian Barnhart taking over as race strategist on the No. 27 Honda, Edwards spent the majority of Rossi’s tenure with Andretti Autosport on his timing stand and witnessed the Californian’s best days in IndyCar. He’s among many within the team who will miss Rossi’s presence as a friend and hardcore competitor.
“Certainly, we’re finishing on good terms all the way round,” Edwards said. “The thing that I’m happiest about is since Indy onwards, Alex and the whole 27 group seem to have found some mojo again. It’s good because it’s not like we’re stumbling towards the end of the year. It’s been good to see it all get back to heading to what we know it can be.”
Although Rossi’s leaving in a matter of days, Edwards says the 30-year-old has made a lasting impact on Andretti Autosport that will be felt long after he’s switched to Arrow McLaren SP. He also believes the driver AMSP is receiving can point to his seven years at Andretti as a transformational time in his career.
“I think we’ll go our own ways for next year, both having grown and benefited from the relationship,” Edwards said. “For me, I think the biggest thing that I’ve enjoyed seeing is the way Alex was perceived when he first came into the series as being distant and aloof, and so on. And probably because of my perverse English background, I knew in there was a really good sense of humor. I think it’s been great for the team, great for Alex, great for the series over the time we’ve been together, to see how much that has come out and the way that he’s viewed and recognized.
“As much as he obviously does when he’s driving, he’s been an excellent teammate; I think he exemplifies that. When he came in, he was the new guy and built those relationships, particularly with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Then with Ryan leaving this year, he and Colton are very close. And even Devlin [DeFrancesco] — over the course of the year, Alex has really taken Devlin under his wing and helped Devlin, which has been great as well.”
Edwards wouldn’t be drawn on whether the team has a farewell planned for Rossi — a pie to the face, or some other mischief — but does hope to end their working relationship on a high.
“We will see…there’s a team dinner before the race and we’ll see what happens from there on out through the rest of the weekend,” he said. “Hopefully, we can finish it off by being on the podium. That would be a good way to say goodbye, wouldn’t it?”