IndyCar: Andretti Autosport’s 2021 car count unknown

Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta Autosport, IndyCar (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta Autosport, IndyCar (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Andretti Autosport still haven’t solidified their driver lineup for the 2021 IndyCar season, and Marco Andretti’s plans leave the #98 Honda’s plans in question.

Marco Andretti announced last week that he will not be competing full-time in the 2021 IndyCar season, which will bring an end to his 248-race streak of starts that goes back to his series debut in 2006.

He is not retiring, however. The 33-year-old Nazareth, Pennsylvania native announced that he plans only to compete in the Indy 500 and perhaps a few other races throughout the upcoming 17-race season, although nothing has been confirmed aside from the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.

Andretti himself has helped to field his #98 Honda since the 2019 season. The car is officially named the #98 Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian Honda. He is set to continue on in that role.

However, there is still one big unknown about the #98 Honda as the 2021 season inches closer.

The plans for the #98 Honda aside from Andretti’s Indy 500 attempt, and any other races in which he might end up competing, remain unconfirmed.

Despite an initial report that Andretti Autosport would only be running four cars on a full-time basis instead of five in 2021 with Andretti not returning to the team for another full-season effort, Bryan Herta, the “Herta” in the #98 entry and the owner of Bryan Herta Autosport, maintains that this still hasn’t been ironed out.

Here is what Herta had to say about the matter, according to Motorsport.

"“Bryan Herta Autosport remains committed partners with Andretti Autosport. We like going racing together and we’ll continue doing that. But obviously Marco’s decision changes how that might look for the coming year. It’s still to be determined whether Marco will do any other races than Indy. …“It’s not fully determined how many cars the team will run full-time. … Marco’s still going to test, as planned, and we’re going to talk about and work through what the future looks like. That’s not to say the #98 will run all year, and it’s not to say that it won’t. But somehow we will continue together.”"

As of now, the first appearance of the #98 Honda is slated to take place on Sunday, May 30 in the 105th running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Three drivers have been confirmed as full-time drivers at Andretti Autosport for the 2021 season, with Ryan Hunter-Reay most recently agreeing to a long-awaited contract extension to continue driving the #28 Honda.

Alexander Rossi had already been under contract to continue driving the #27 Honda, and Colton Herta shifted from the Harding Steinbrenner-backed #88 Honda to the #26 Honda that had been driven full-time time Zach Veach until James Hinchcliffe replaced him with three races to go last year.

It is expected that Hinchcliffe will compete full-time for the team next year, but that still hasn’t been confirmed. Whether he drives the #88 Honda or a renumbered #29 Honda is also unclear, as is Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s potential involvement in the entry.

It also remains unknown if Andretti Autosport will add a sixth car for the Indy 500 like they did in 2020.

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The 2021 season is scheduled to get underway on Sunday, April 11 at Barber Motorsports Park after the initially scheduled season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida was pushed back from Sunday, March 7 to Sunday, March 25 as a result of coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions.