IndyCar: The major positives (and one negative) of Andretti's new approach

The last time Andretti Global ran just three full-time entries is also when they won their most recent IndyCar championship.
Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Global, IndyCar
Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Global, IndyCar / Greg Doherty/GettyImages

The last time Andretti Global (formerly Andretti Autosport) ran just three full-time entries in an IndyCar season, it ended with Ryan Hunter-Reay being crowned champion at Auto Club Speedway in 2012.

Since then, Michael Andretti's team have run at least four full-time entries in each season. And in all 11 seasons that have been contested since Hunter-Reay's championship triumph, every single title has been won by either Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing.

But Andretti Global are taking a new approach in 2024: addition by subtraction.

After two seasons, Romain Grosjean has been replaced by Indy 500 winner and former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Ericsson, one of just four drivers who has found victory lane in each of the last three seasons.

The team have eliminated the No. 29 entry, which was driven by Devlin DeFrancesco in 2022 and 2023 -- and had just one top 10 finish over the last three seasons combined.

This year, the team's driver lineup consists of three proven race winners. In addition to four-time race winner Ericsson, seven-time race winner Colton Herta is back for a fifth season with the organization.

Herta was held winless in 2023, but he has finished as high as third place in the championship and has won as many as three races in a season. He is still considered one of the sport's fastest drivers and is also still just 23 years old.

Then there is Kyle Kirkwood, who won twice in his first season with the team last year. Set to enter year number two behind the wheel of the No. 27 Honda, the 25-year-old Floridian highlighted several of the positives that come with Andretti Global's downsize.

"It shines the spotlight a little bit more on everyone," Kirkwood told Beyond the Flag. "You can look at the pros and cons to it. I think for us it's definitely a pro because we haven't really lost personnel. We've maintained a similar amount of people under the organization, so it just creates an influx of mechanics and engineers and just overall knowledge, which allows for growth. So I think it is a positive."

He also addressed one potential negative, but noted that he feels it is outweighed by the many positives.

"The only negative that comes from it is that we're losing a data point, and it kind of eliminates an opportunity to maybe try something on a weekend on one car versus the others, but I'd say we're better off with the influx of personnel than having that extra car, yes."

Kirkwood is excited about what Ericsson brings to the team as the third driver in their new-look three-car lineup.

"He just comes with an amazing pedigree," he said. "Coming from Formula 1 and racing in various categories over the years, he's obviously had years of experience in IndyCar now, being a multi-time race winner, nearly a multi-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and he raced for arguably the best team on the grid; they showed it last year, and he was running [well] for them last year."

Ericsson's championship results in each of the last two seasons (both sixth place) put him three positions better than the top Andretti Global driver. As the team seek their first title in more than a decade, Kirkwood believes Ericsson can be key to that success.

"I think just him coming with that knowledge and that mindset has kind of elevated everyone, and he's able to bring a lot to the table based on that."

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Ericsson is the reigning winner of the IndyCar season opener, having won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last March. That race is scheduled to open up the 2024 campaign this Sunday, March 10, and it is set to be broadcast live on NBC from the streets of St. Petesburg, Florida beginning at 12:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV today and don't miss it!