The low point of Andretti Autosport over the past few seasons was undoubtedly the 2011 Indianapolis 500, where all four team cars were forced to make the race during bump day, not having the speed required to make the race on pole day the afternoon before.
Ultimately, Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to qualify for the race at the hands of his teammate, Marco Andretti, who made the field as the last qualifier before the 6 p.m. gunshot. While he later made the race, replacing Bruno Junqueira in the A.J. Foyt entry, the afternoon left a pretty deep cut in the pride of everyone at Andretti Autosport.
Nearly two years, a new car and Chevrolet later, and Andretti Autosport is on top of the world. Hunter-Reay has gone from having to buy his way into the Indianapolis 500 to defending the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship after one of the more remarkable comebacks in open-wheel history.
Enter 2013 and team owner Michael Andretti is focused on building organizational depth and getting all four team cars into victory lane this season. Two races in, and Andretti is already halfway there with Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe winning at Birmingham and St. Petersburg.
Andretti Autosport is on top of the IndyCar world.
"It's really going great," Andretti said. "We're just focused on building up the momentum from last year with the championship. At the end of the year, we were really excited because when we sat down and looked at it -- there was really a lot of room for improvement."
Andretti believes his employees made a lot of great changes over the winter and attributes the early-season success to those post-season meetings. Andretti explained that he was happy with where the Hunter-Reay team was entering the season and made a point to build consistency with his other teams.
His son and driver, Marco Andretti, even spent parts of the off-season in Europe with a personal driving coach just to improve on road and street courses — his main weakness throughout his career. While Michael is impressed with Marco's focus, he doesn't quite think his son is ready to consistently challenge for wins on road and streets yet.
"He really needs to keep doing what he's doing," the elder Andretti said. "He's really focused. He's really working hard. He's in the truck studying the data between all the cars and drivers to see where he's weak and where he can improve.
"That's how all these guys do it. It's no secret. It's a lot of hard work. You're talking about hundredths of a second, not tenths anymore. He's doing a good job and you're starting to see the progression."
Andretti thinks Marco is about a half-season away from joining Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe as contenders. But once he comes around, Andretti Autosport could be the new power in a sport once dominated by Teams Penske and Ganassi.