Photo: Walter G. Arce, Sr./ASP, Inc.

Hunter-Reay and Rossi Saw Testing at Portland Beneficial

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. – Testing is hard to come by in all across motorsports disciplines these days and the NTT IndyCar Series are no different.

When those testing opportunities are given, teams make the most out of their time trying different setups and gain a competitive advantage heading into the circuit’s race weekend.

This was the case for Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, who both tested at Portland International Raceway in early August alongside their teammates Zach Veach and Marco Andretti. Also, Indy Lights drivers Oliver Askew, the series points leader who drives for Andretti’s Indy Lights program, and Rinus VeeKay participated in the single-day session.

Now with the Grand Prix of Portland this Sunday, Hunter-Reay and Rossi discussed with the press Thursday that having the entire team test at the 1.967-mile road course will pay dividends this weekend.

For Hunter-Reay, who finished second to Takuma Sato after trying to chase him down in the closing laps, testing is key because of the competitive nature the world of Indy car racing has become in recent years that any advantage is a blessing.

“Coming out for the test certainly helped to run through a large checklist of items,” Hunter-Reay said. “We come back with a car that’s pretty similar to it, but the competition is so tight in Indy car that you’re looking for a hundredth of a second. Ultimately, a lot of the times comes down to finding that little setup tweak or just getting that little bit of lap time out of the car.

“Portland is a pretty unique place that way. It’s a lot of flowing corners. Kind of compromises here and there, and it’s interesting seeing the different driving styles and how that impacts lap times. You’re always being a student of the game and trying to better yourself.”

Being the team with the most cars on the grid, Hunter-Reay commented that having three other teammates throughout the season becomes extremely relevant when they can work together on collecting data and gain knowledge that could suit their cars better going forward.

“We all work together and kind of trying different setups. That’s where a team becomes most efficient is when you have strength in numbers,” Hunter-Reay said. “You can spread out that workload and when you really trust what your teammates are reading out there in the feedback. You obviously see the results on the data from on the track. Working closely with your teammates and being able to pull information, figuring out what’s right or wrong is extremely useful over these race weekends.”

Sitting third in the NTT IndyCar Series championship trail with just two rounds remaining is Rossi. Although trailing points leader Josef Newgarden by 46 points, he’ll treat Sunday’s 105-lap contest no different after having a strong first half of the race last year until cautions and strategy bit him hard, settling for eighth in Oregon.

“It’s getting down to the wire. Obviously, the last stretch hasn’t been great for us. I think we were quick here last year. I think the whole Andretti Autosport were on a pretty good level with all four cars. We had the test which was a positive for us. Any type of advantage that you can get with how close it is, it’s very important.

“We love coming here. The reception we had last year with the return to the Pacific Northwest was amazing. Looking forward to the weekend. Looks like it’s cooled off a little bit for us which is amazing and can’t wait to put on a show for the fans.”

Setups will indeed have a different playing field, especially Saturday’s qualifying session taking place at 6:00 pm EST where they’re gunning of making the Firestone Fast Six like they did a year ago with Rossi starting third and Hunter-Reay being fifth.

Hunter-Reay said it’s vital starting up front after last year’s opening lap carnage taking place at the middle of the pack as some drivers blamed Veach for causing the incident that also saw Marco’s car lift and landing upside down.

“When you look at the schedule, it’s tight. There’s an hour here and an hour there and then we qualify,” Hunter-Reay said. “Qualifying is a huge part of the race because of track position and trying to stay out of the middle of the pack after the mess we saw last year. Qualifying certainly had a premium and together as teammates, hopefully we can push each other forward.”

Rossi agreed with Hunter-Reay’s comments that qualifying at Portland, like any other race on the calendar, usually defines a driver and team’s weekend. No matter if they’re in the championship hunt or running part-time like Conor Daly, who’s driving for ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this weekend before he becomes their temporary teammates in the championship finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca late September.

“Regardless of the championship, you’re trying to go out and win every race that you compete in. No offense to Conor, but he’s not in the championship. But he’s still trying to go out and try to get every position, so I think that’s up and down the grid,” Rossi said. “As Ryan made clear, qualifying is such a big deal and track position is key at every track we go to these days. A weekend can be made or broken on Saturday afternoons, so I think there’s a lot of focus that goes into qualifying. Lot of preparation and usually if you have a good Saturday, your Sunday should be alright.”

Live coverage of the Grand Prix of Portland will take place Sunday September 1, live on NBC at 3:00 pm EST with the green flag dropping approximately at 3:42 pm EST.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.