LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Michael Andretti doesn't fault IndyCar for leaving James Hinchcliffe stranded in his disabled vehicle for the entire race at Barber.
"It's unfortunately just part of it — there's no way they should throw a yellow just because a car is stuck on the track," Andretti said Saturday. "It's just bad luck. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you know what they say — that's racing."
Hinchcliffe's car was damaged in traffic on the first lap of the race in Birmingham, Ala. IndyCar threw a caution to clean up debris, and the damage on Hinchcliffe's car caused a tire problem that brought him to a stop on the track.
The caution period wasn't long enough for IndyCar officials to tow Hinchcliffe back to the pits, so his car was simply pulled out of the way with IndyCar intending to tow him back during the next yellow.
Only there were no more cautions, and Hinchcliffe was stranded on the course for the final 87 laps.
It was a nightmare for the second-year Andretti Autosport driver who had opened the season with a win at St. Petersburg. The Barber debacle caused him to finish last and drop from first to fifth in the IndyCar standings.
But Andretti believes that IndyCar has to consider the quality of the race over helping one individual competitor — even if the driver is from his team. Andretti also didn't support the notion that IndyCar should have extended the caution period another lap to get Hinchcliffe back to the pits.
"It may have taken more than one lap. I don't know — just to help one guy?" he said. "You've got to worry about the big picture of the show. I don't blame them for what they did."
Andretti has opened the season with two wins in the first two races as defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay won Barber. He said the strong start to the season proves offseason work and restructuring within the organization has helped the team make all four cars competitive.
That includes his son, Marco Andretti, who is off to the best start of his career through two races. He was third at St. Pete and seventh at Barber and heads into Sunday's race at Long Beach fourth in points. Hunter-Reay is third, giving Andretti three drivers in the top five.
Marco Andretti said he's worked on improving, but still feels he's lagging considering Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay have been to Victory Lane.
"I really worked on consistency in the offseason, so it's a decent start to that," Marco Andretti said. "But when I look at two of my teammates who have won the first two races, I need to be consistently better. We've been driving good, so we have to keep doing that."