During morning practice, the #27 Andretti Autosport-Honda made hard contact with the barrier on the outside of Turn 17 at Barber Motorsports Park, and the damage was extensive enough to require a whole new rear end and a new engine.
The team had under 2hrs45mins to get the car prepared and set up in time for qualifying, and made it to pit lane with just eight minutes to spare.
Rossi was hard on it from the start of quali, was fifth fastest of his 13-car group in Q1, third fastest in Q2’s 12-car battle and then took fifth in the Firestone Fast Six, 0.3sec from Rinus VeeKay’s pole-winning time. This was despite Rossi never getting a run on Firestone’s alternates during practice due to how early the crash had occurred.
“It was unbelievable,” said Rossi of his crew’s work, along with other members from his teammates’ cars. “I think it was six of the guys involved, management involved… It was a big, big situation to do an engine and a gearbox. So, yeah, I put them in a very tough situation.
“It was amazing just to be out there in the first place, have the opportunity to compete and qualify. Obviously we knew that the car had been strong all weekend. We didn't get a chance on the red tires, so the first run was kind of guessing a little bit.
“I was just pleased to be out there. I mean, obviously when you advance all the way to the end, you hope for a little bit more. Ultimately, from where we were two hours ago, I think everyone is relieved and happy that we got through that. Every result that we get this weekend is down to those guys, for sure…
“If we had not made qualifying, started 26th, you're super screwed. This gives us a really good shot to have a good day tomorrow. Yeah, it's because of those guys. Big thanks to them.
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