Andretti credits St Pete lockout with getting ‘real honest with ourselves’

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti is 'optimistic' after qualifying at the St Petersburg IndyCar event

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti is ‘optimistic’ after qualifying at the St Petersburg IndyCar event

Michael Andretti says his team’s front row lockout for the St Petersburg IndyCar race is down to off-season honesty.

Andretti Autosport got three of its four cars into the Fast Six in Event 1 of the season, with Romain Grosjean beating Colton Herta to pole position by 0.4155s, while Kyle Kirkwood has been awarded fifth on the grid despite an early crash in that final segment of Qualifying.

It is a promising start to 2023 considering the team achieved just two wins in 2022, when Alexander Rossi was its highest finisher in the season standings in ninth, before his off-season move to McLaren.

Rossi was replaced by Kirkwood, who asserted after claiming fourth in Practice 1 this weekend that Andretti Autosport was capable of more than what transpired on the race track last year.

His team owner picked up the theme after Qualifying.

“For me, I feel a lot more optimistic,” said Andretti.

“I think we really studied ourselves and got real honest with ourselves where we needed to improve, to improve and I think we’ve done it.

“Obviously the race is going to be another thing and hopefully we can have all four cars go through the race without making a mistake.

“If that happens, I think we have a great shot at winning.”

As Andretti noted, the question remains as to whether qualifying performance is converted into race results, with his cars not actually lacking so much raw pace last year.

“We did have many races where we had very fast cars last year, but we tended to do something wrong or shoot ourselves in the foot one way or another,” he admitted.

“That’s another thing we’ve really studied and worked on, and hopefully our pit stops are going to be better and strategies will be better.

“If we just operate and don’t make mistakes, I think we feel like we are in a good position for the whole year.”

Kirkwood came unstuck just as he was about to start his first flying lap in the Fast Six, locking up at Turn 13 and understeering into the wall.

Fortunately for him, Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin subsequently spun and stalled at the same corner, necessitating another red flag which meant both he and Kirkwood reverted to second segment times to determine who starts on which side of Row 3.

In the fourth Andretti entry, Devlin DeFrancesco is set to get away from 18th on the grid.

The Warmup is next on Sunday at 09:00 ET/Monday at 01:00 AEDT, followed by the 100-lap Race at 12:20 ET/04:20 AEDT.

Both sessions are live and ad-free on Stan Sport, with coverage of the race beginning at 04:00 AEDT.

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