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Andretti hope changes make team force

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Michael Andretti made a major offseason overhaul to get back on top of the IndyCar standings.

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He's changed engine manufacturers, hired Colombian Carlos Munoz, one of the series' top young drivers, as a full-timer and given veteran drivers James Hinchcliffe and his own son, Marco, new colors and new paint schemes.

Now, he's waiting to see if all this will work.

''We took a hard look at ourselves to see where we could improve. I think we improved from 2011 to 2012 and I think we improved from 2012 to 2013 but we ran into some bad luck last year,'' Andretti said Monday at the official unveiling of his new lineup in Indianapolis.

''We did some things with people in the organization and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) nailed it when he said that, for whatever reason, we were weak in some places. We've put a bigger focus in those areas.''

Andretti, the former IndyCar star turned team owner, once ruled this series.

As a driver, he won 42 races, the most in CART history, 32 poles and the 1991 CART championship. As an owner, he's won four points titles and two Indianapolis 500s - one of the few things he didn't accomplish as a driver.

But after Hunter-Reay won the 2012 series championship with Andretti serving as the team strategist, a sub-par 2013 prompted Andretti to review what went wrong.

So Andretti turned his shop into a sort of grand opening with some good, old-fashioned staged flair.

With shields of the team's race wins hanging on one wall of the team shop, organizers dimmed the lights in another section and played popular music as each of Andretti's four IndyCar drivers emerged from a smoke screen at the back of their transporters.

While Hunter-Reay remains in his familiar yellow-and-red trimmed No. 28 car, sponsored by DHL, he is the exception.

Munoz takes over the No. 34 white and green car sponsored by Cinsay, an Austin, Texas-based next-generation social video commerce technology company.

Andretti's son will drive the No. 25 car, which is now yellow and blue and sponsored by Snapple. Hinchcliffe, the self-proclaimed Mayor Hinchtown in the online world, will be back in the No. 27 car that is painted blue-and-white that is sponsored by Untied Fiber & Data and looking for a better overall result than last year's strange season.

''We had a very up-and-down first half, and in the second half, we were a little more consistent,'' Hinchcliffe said. ''That's the type of consistency we need. It was lessons learned last season.''

Andretti's team is also making a splash in other series.

He will start two more cars in each of two IndyCar developmental series.

The driver's list includes American teenager Zach Veach; Matthew Brabham, the son of former racer Geoff Brabham and the grandson of three-time world champion Sir Jack Brabham; and Shelby Blackstock, the son of country music star Reba McEntire.

The team also has decided to enter two more racing series - Global Rallycross, representing Volkswagen, and Formula E, for electronic cars. It will not field cars in USF 2000. Andretti will release more details about its GRC plans at a later date.

But Michael Andretti doesn't believe all these moves will thin resources.

''If anything, I expect them to help our IndyCar program,'' he said.

There's more expansion coming at team headquarters, too. Andretti's wife, Jodi, is 33 weeks pregnant with twins - something the 51-year-old Andretti hopes is a big start to a better season in his 10th anniversary as an IndyCar team owner.

''I think you said it, last season was a good season not a great season,'' said Michael's son, Marco. ''That's what we're looking to achieve this year.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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