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Andretti Autosport Jumps from Starting Gate with Speed at Indy

Andretti Autosport appeared to return to its familiar Indianapolis Motor Speedway form Wednesday as practice began for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

The Indianapolis-based outfit had three of the fastest four cars in the first IMS practice, setting the tone for again being a “500” frontrunner. Michael Andretti’s organization has won the “500” five times since 2005 with five different drivers (Dan Wheldon in 2005, Dario Franchitti in 2007, Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014, Alexander Rossi in 2016 and Takuma Sato in 2017).

James Hinchcliffe led the way Wednesday in the No. 29 Genesys Honda with a lap of 224.526 mph. Marco Andretti was second in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda of Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco & Curb-Agajanian at 224.345 mph with Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth in the No. 28 DHL Honda at 223.341 mph.

Andretti Autosport has an event-high six cars entered in this race plus a technical alliance with Meyer Shank Racing and its driver, Jack Harvey, who was seventh on the 33-car speed chart at 223.178 mph in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.

As has been the case in recent years, the Andretti brigade ran as a group through the final hour of the practice, frequently swapping positions to give the drivers a sense for different conditions. For most of the drivers, it seemed like the fun of old.

“From the team side to my side to the Genesys side, this is the (race) we obviously were looking forward to the most,” said Hinchcliffe, who won the pole for the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “Not to knock (other races), but this is the granddaddy and my experience in the past with this team has always been fantastic. To come back here with them and kind of pick up where we left off …

“These guys (at Andretti Autosport) do a great job preparing these cars even as they add cars – whether it’s full-time cars or part-time cars – it does not affect their performance.”

Hinchcliffe qualified second in 2014 in his most recent Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport.

For most of Wednesday, Hunter-Reay had the fastest lap of those laps that were not wind-aided. Alexander Rossi ended up with the mark at 221.952 mph in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda, with Hunter-Reay second, Hinchcliffe third, Colton Herta fourth in the No. 88 Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Honda of Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport and Harvey fifth.

“I think the team did a really good job preparing the cars,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s been a strange time, but they’ve put in some great work. You have to look at it from two perspectives: One is a car that’s fast on its own and another that is fast in traffic. I think we have some cars that are fast on their own, and we’re working on the traffic side of it. You saw Happy Hour there, and it looks pretty difficult for everybody. We’ll see. I’m a lot happier than I was a year ago.”

Not every Andretti driver was pleased with the overall Day 1 results. Rossi was 18th, Herta 22nd and Zach Veach 27th in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

“We had a lot to get through,” Rossi said of the day’s agenda. “I think we learned a lot, but we’re not where we need to be.”

Practice resumes Thursday, with the session scheduled for 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., with live coverage on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.

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