By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
DETROIT — Marco Andretti’s gamble in Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series race on the streets of Belle Isle failed to pay off.
The No. 98 Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco Andretti and Curb/Agajanian Honda was the first driver to pit for dry tires on Lap 12 while the track was just starting to dry after a large rainstorm hit before the first race of the doubleheader weekend.
What followed was a tense and, at times, very entertaining few laps of onboard footage as the third-generation racer was wheeling his car around on the edge, trying to keep the car off the wall while heating up his slick Firestone tires.
At least this part was fun. pic.twitter.com/EU7eFNNnAq
— Marco Andretti (@MarcoAndretti) June 1, 2019
Andretti’s elapsed time from pit exit to the start/finish line after the pit stop was 1 minute, 42.8379 seconds. The next lap was 5.4 seconds faster and the next lap after that was an additional 3.4 seconds faster as the tires came up to temperature. Unfortunately, Ed Jones went into the tire barrier in Turn 7 a couple of laps later and brought out a full course yellow.
Under normal circumstances, the pits would be closed until a pack up for the entire field had been established. However, the field did not pack up as quick as the series had hoped for before they had opened the pits, causing nearly the entire field to pit while Andretti remained stuck behind the whole field.
“We do a great job, we take a big risk, we outsmart people, we keep it off the wall and they don’t let us pack up,” said Andretti. “I’ve never seen that in my whole career. That’s the risk we take and we don’t crash and then they open the pits so I don’t know. I’ve never seen that before but that’s one of the shows of the race and they blew that.”
Marco’s father Michael Andretti shared a similar opinion.
“It’s bullshit. I don’t know, I have no idea,” said the elder Andretti. “I was shocked when I saw [the caution] because I thought we were golden, we were going to be sitting 2-3-4 and then [INDYCAR] do that. That’s just wrong.”
However, Michael did enjoy watching his son hustle his car around the 2.35 mile temporary street circuit.
“He’s one of the best at that so I felt confident and I knew he was going to be our benchmark and we were watching his time,” said Michael. “Once we started to see his time come down that’s when we came in.
“In those conditions he’s really good so I felt real good and he knew what was going to happen, he knew there was going to be a yellow so that’s why he did that and it was just really good strategy except we got penalized by them not packing up which is wrong.”
An INDYCAR official did comment to another reporter via email explaining their decision.
“Race control was reviewing data and closing rates based off the information the pack-up was developing. The goal was to get the pits open as quickly as possible for the competitors and fans, but given the circumstances that included cars on different tires and a cold track it did not occur as expediently as was envisioned.”
Andretti was 20th after the caution and could only get up to 16th by the time the 75 minute race ended.
“It was tough, I wish we got the reward we deserve for it.”
Qualifying for Race two for the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit will start at 10:45 a.m. ET and the race will air starting at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC.