Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti recently dismissed the notion that participation in the INDYCAR Grand Prix is a component of a successful one-off Indianapolis 500 effort.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is unique on the modern NTT IndyCar Series schedule as one of two venues that hosts consecutive events. Since 2014, a 90-lap race on the 2.439-mile road course at IMS has been staged two weekends before the Indy 500.
Through the event’s first five runnings, numerous drivers not racing full-time have participated in both the Grand Prix and the “500,” including Martin Plowman, Oriol Servia, JR Hildebrand, Alex Tagliani, Matthew Brabham, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves. Teams entered in both races have the advantage of not needing to travel to a new venue and utilize the dedicated garages at IMS.
Conor Daly, who will pilot the No. 25 Honda for Andretti in this May’s 500-mile race, competed on the IMS road course in 2016 and 2017 — the two years he was a full- season IndyCar driver. Currently, Daly has been confirmed by the team as an Indy 500-only entry, a situation he’s been in only once before when he made his IndyCar debut with AJ Foyt Racing in 2013.
Andretti was asked during a media teleconference held in conjunction with the announcement of Daly’s appointment to the team whether adding the road course to his program was a possibility.
“We weren’t planning on that,” answered Andretti. “To do that is a little difficult. We want to make sure that the Speedway car he’ll be driving will be getting all the tender love and care that it needs because the superspeedway cars take a lot more preparation.
“For us to have to convert the car from a road course car to an oval car I think would probably hurt the effort. At the moment, we have no plan to do that.”
Andretti Autosport has secured the Borg-Warner Trophy in three of the last five years, each time with a full-season driver. The team’s true one-off entries over that same timeframe have not been on the grid for the Grand Prix, suggesting that Andretti’s stance is not a new one.
This May, Daly will follow in the footsteps of Kurt Busch, Townsend Bell, Fernando Alonso, Stefan Wilson and Carlos Munoz in being a true one-off by not racing in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
While none of these drivers reached victory lane, two were honored as having delivered the best rookie performance and all ran well, further solidifying the assertion that despite being held at the same location, the Grand Prix is far from essential when executing a quality Indy 500 program.
Barring any testing opportunities, Daly’s reign as an Andretti one-off will commence when practice begins on the IMS oval and culminate May 26 with 200 trips across the yard of bricks.