Andretti Autosport’s newbies in IndyCar and Indy Lights are enthusiastic about their prospects at Phoenix International Raceway.
Alexander Rossi, who attended but did not participate in IndyCar's Feb. 26-27 Phoenix test, said: “This weekend is going to be something completely new to me and my career. My first oval experience is something I’m incredibly excited about.”
The Andretti-Herta merger only came together in February, but Rossi emerged as top rookie at the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opener in St. Petersburg, finishing 12th.
He said: “The #98 team is growing every day and there has been a lot of effort after St. Pete both on and off track so we will be looking to translate that into a strong result.”
The American, who finished runner-up in last year’s GP2 series and made five Formula 1 starts, said that he would be looking to his team bosses Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta and teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz for pointers this weekend.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” said Rossi. “I will be relying a lot on the wealth of information and success around me in Bryan and Michael, as well as my teammates, to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Michael Andretti won at Phoenix in 1986, and has four other podium finishes to his name as well as a pole position. Herta, meanwhile, never achieved a podium finish at PIR, but started from pole twice – the last time a CART Indy car raced here in 1995 and the last time Indy Racing League raced here in 2005.
Stoneman surprised by PIR’s physical demands
As Dean Stoneman wrote in his first Motorsport.com column, the physical effort required to drive around a high-grip short-oval was an eye-opener for the Indy Lights rookie when he tested in February. But he impressed onlookers by finishing the test fourth fastest.
Stoneman said: “Our test here a few weeks ago went well. It is far more demanding than I expected, but we worked on a balanced car that gave me the confidence to push hard, and we’ll need that against some quick guys.
The Andretti Autosport Lights driver added: “It’s important to keep the momentum from the St. Pete going and collecting more championship points.”
Stoneman was top-four in practice for the season-opening rounds at St. Petersburg two weeks ago, but he was held up on his fastest lap in qualifying. Starting each of the two races from P13, he fought through to eighth and sixth places respectively.