IndyCar: Andretti Autosport Limping into May

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Andretti name has a certain lore at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mario secured the families only space on the Borg-Warner trophy in 1969. 2016 sees the family in unfamiliar territory as they struggle on the track.

When the month of May comes around and the IndCar world returns to Indy, the Andretti family name has almost always been considered a favorite to win. Mario has the families only win in the drivers seat and Michael has three wins as an owner. The heartbreaking bad luck the Andretti family has had at Indy though is legend.

2016 has been a year of struggles for Michael’s Andretti Autosport team. Their three full-time drivers have a combined one top five finish this season. Ryan Hunter-Reay is leading the team in the points standings at tenth. The teams other two drivers, Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti, are 15th and 17th respectively. This from a team that has won three IndyCar titles, had two teams in the top ten in the 2015 season ending points standings and collected three wins.

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The 2015 season ended on the track strong for the Andretti team, winning two of the last four races, but then rumors of financial issues started to become public. There were claims from former business partners that the racing team was insolvent. A report Michael Andretti denied.

Two partners from Andretti Sports Marketing, John Lopes and A. Starke Taylor, made legal claims that Michael Andretti was using funds from ASM to cover debts incurred by his race team. Andretti owns 60% of ASM, while the partners making the complaint owned 20% each. In the suit the partners filed against Andretti, they stated the racing team was heavily indebted with very little assets or cash on hand.

Eventually the case was settled out of court and the lengthy off season allowed the story to fade away without much more of it. Just when you thought that everything was going to turn out alright, longtime team manager George Klotz leaves the team to go to AJ Foyt Racing in the same position. Now the Foyt team has not been a contender in years, and Klutz decides to leave a recent championship winning team to go there? That does not sound like something someone does without a reason.

Andretti Autosports internal troubles have been compounded by the Honda engine and aero program. The struggles of the Honda teams this season have been well documented. With Andretti Autosport being one of teams that helped develop the aero kit with Honda, you would think they would be one of the teams that had one of the better handles on the package. Unfortunately thought that is not true and week after week the Andretti cars struggle.

Graham Rahal in his Honda powered Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry has shown much more strength in that single car effort. He alone has twice as many top fives as the entire three car team Andretti brings to the track. That defies logic that a single car team can find speed that a multi car operation cannot. Even Takuma Sato, also driving a Honda, is sitting above any Andretti driver in the standings in ninth.

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It is very hard not to come to the conclusion that there is something going on inside Andretti Autosport that affected its performance on the track. Marco Andretti, the son of Michael, has struggled as much as anyone else on that team. Having not won since Iowa in 2011, and has not posted a finish better than 12th in 2016, he has looked particularly out of sorts on the track this season.

With five top-five finishes in his ten Indy 500 starts Marco, in a normal year, would have to be considered a favorite at the brickyard. The 2014 Indy 500 champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, looks to have to be the flag bearer for the Andretti Autosport team in the month of May. Even though Ryan has a win at Indy, he only has posted three top ten finishes in his eight Indy starts. With the Honda struggles this year, things are not looking well for this once proud team.

The stories of Mario and Michael driving at Indy are some of the most captivating in the historic tacks lore. The month of May were always filled with clips from the unlucky past of the Andretti family at Indy and hopes for the future. In 2016 those clips look to be the only screen time Andretti will be getting unless they can find something in the next couple weeks. For the casual fan, the Andretti name attracts attention, this year it is for the wrong reasons.