As one person within the organization described it, Andretti Autosport’s fractured 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season was a case of “four cars, four teams.”
There were positives that took place amid the disappointments as Andretti managed to earn two wins, but as a whole, the proud program lost its way and struggled to find the cohesion needed to extract the most from its drivers and staff. The outgoing Alexander Rossi would close his tenure at Andretti as its leading performer, but neither the team nor the Californian were pleased with their run to ninth in the championship. The rest of Andretti’s entries closed the year in 10th, 13th and 23rd, which spoke to the competitive hardships that were encountered.
Locked out of title contention by an armada of Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren drivers, Andretti Autosport went into the offseason with an overhaul in mind, but not in the traditional sense.
Following a disappointing season, it’s common for a team to make strong personnel changes by severing ties with managers, engineers, mechanics and drivers as it searches for new or different faces to address its shortcomings. Throwing big dollars at ambitious engineering R&D projects to find better or more consistent speed is another common practice for such a team, and yet, Andretti Autosport chose an altogether different strategy.
It didn’t tear up the foundation and go on a vast hiring spree; Andretti’s early success story in 2023 — the root of its year-to-year rise — can be found in turning inward and tuning the existing operation to perform as “four cars, one team.”
“It’s true,” Andretti told RACER. “It’s all about people, and it’s not rocket science. You get the best people and then you give them the equipment, give them the resources to do their job. But the other thing with people is personality, right?”
It’s here where Andretti Autosport’s greatest strides have been made as shifting responsibilities from one person to another — even moving race strategists between cars — were done in the name of improving chemistry, bettering a department, or amplifying an individual in some capacity. By moving people or duties around to suit specific areas of expertise, Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar team stepped into the new season as an optimized version of itself and the strong results only confirm its growth.
“Sometimes it becomes a little bit of a chess piece; this guy works better with this guy or that guy, and that sort of thing,” Andretti said of the organizational shuffle. “And we do a lot of that. We just looked at all our weaknesses from last year, in the last couple years, and we really put our heads down to attack those weaknesses.”
Andretti credits renewed focus on pit stop execution as another significant element of his team’s turnaround. Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment
Going beyond the interpersonal composition of the team which has unlocked more speed, Andretti and the rest of the leaders singled out another important area to improve that’s been playing to their favor.
“A big one was pit stops,” he said. “If you look at the results now, we’re in the top five all the time. We’ve really worked on that, because last year, we had fast cars and a lot of times we gave it away in the pits. So we’ve talked about that and the guys have been great. They’re all into it, the training and techniques. It’s really paid off.”
Smiles were often in short supply last year under the Andretti tent. That’s completely changed as they’ve been holding firm to the “four cars, one team” mantra.
“You’ve got to make everybody buy into it, and everybody has,” Andretti said. “I also think that comes back to the results. You’re always wondering where you are, where you stand. Then after the first race, we were all pretty excited and felt like we fixed a lot of problems. And so everybody had a positive vibe, and it was hard to keep smiles off our faces through Long Beach. You know, with all the bad luck we had before, when you finally get past that and put some extra steps on everybody, it feels good.”