IndyCar teams count the cost of St Pete chaos

Andretti Autosport’s Rob Edwards shared the same reaction as many after the costly and carnage-filled Firestone Grand Prix in St Petersburg.

“Obviously we all hope that in Texas all the unfortunate things that just happened in St. Pete mean that we’ve ruled out the accident and we won’t be going back there again,” said the chief operating officer of the company. ‘Andretti at RACER.

The Andretti team entered the race with four immaculate cars and closed the weekend with two tow truck returns and the other two with a long list of items to replace and repair before the next event. Of his quartet of Dallara DW12s, one was lost when AJ Foyt Racing’s Benjamin Pedersen slammed into Andretti’s Devlin DeFrancesco at nearly relentless speed in the massive Turn 3 wreckage that took five cars out of the race in one instant.

“There was a lot of damage,” Edwards said. “It’s not going to come out very easily, but luckily we have three weeks left before getting back on track. Devlin is definitely going to need a new tub. I don’t know what was going on there, but clearly someone didn’t realize they had to brake. We are very happy that Dev’s OK.

At least three bathtubs – the driver’s safety cell, as it is sometimes called – were reportedly destroyed on Sunday, with Pedersen’s car included in that unfortunate list.

“Devlin’s tub was a brand new tub to start the year, so the cost per mile of that one is pretty high,” Edwards said. “The rest is mostly the suspensions and the front fenders. Hope the front wing elves are busy in Dallara because I’m sure down the field St. Pete will probably run out of whatever they have in store.

Once purchases and repair bills are received, Andretti’s team could be looking at an opening weekend that caused $700,000 in damage. Andretti’s affiliate team, Meyer Shank Racing, which uses technical support from Andretti Technologies for its two competitors, sang a similar tune. Both of his cars were dangling from the back of tow trucks in the paddock – appearing more than an hour after the race – when his pair were knocked out in the same first-lap crash that destroyed DeFrancesco’s bathtub.

Factor in all the other mayhem that has seemingly visited every IndyCar team at least once, and St. Pete’s race day collective damage total is well into seven figures.

“We have eight corners on our IndyCars, don’t we?” says Mike Shank. “Of the eight, six are gone. Completely torn. Wings too. I’m laughing now because what else am I going to do? And I’m not the only one looking at a bunch of my gear which is twisted and broken right now. Lots of us in St. Pete with lots of dented cars. It wasn’t pretty.

“If you think about it, Rob got his four cars ripped apart, and we’ve got two of ours…what’s the chance that the six cars linked to Andretti will be eliminated in the same race? It’s crazy. I think Kirkwood was the only one of our six cars to continue, but he had a hell of a lap and had to make some repairs first. I don’t know if anyone came out completely clean with that one.

The field will meet again at Texas Motor Speedway to open April for the next IndyCar race, and for teams like Andretti Autosport with plenty of cars to rebuild, there’s plenty of time to finish their work. But for around half of the field, long days and nights are on the cards this week, as a private test is scheduled next Monday at Barber Motorsports Park.

“It’s our test day and there’s a bunch of cars that will be there with us,” Shank said. “Nobody comes home at the start of the week, I can tell you that. And for those of us with IMSA teams, we also have the 12 Hours of Sebring next week, so if there was a time when we didn’t need to fix a bunch of broken down IndyCars, it is now. But what can you do? You just try to laugh it off and do the work and hope it doesn’t happen again right away.

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