Category archive: Ryan Hunter-Reay

NEWTON, Iowa -- Tony Kanaan led 247 laps Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. Ryan Hunter-Reay led two.

Yet Kanaan was but a sitting duck when Hunter-Reay, on fresher tires after a bold strategy call by team owner Michael Andretti, steamed past the Brazilian to pace the final two tours of the Iowa Corn Indy 300.

A jubilant Hunter-Reay crossed the line 0.581 second ahead of Josef Newgarden, with Kanaan a disappointed third.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty ImagesRyan Hunter-Reay won for the first time since his Indianapolis 500 triumph in May.

"I have no idea how that happened," said Honda Performance Development public relations boss T.E. McHale with a laugh as he hugged Judy Dominick, his communications counterpart from Chevrolet Racing in the media center after the checkered flag. "We definitely stole one tonight."

Kanaan and Scott Dixon, his Chevrolet-powered teammate at Target/Ganassi Racing, dominated the 300-lap contest. But when Hunter-Reay and several other drivers took advantage of a full-course caution for Juan Pablo Montoya's crash on Lap 281, the scene was set for a dramatic finish to what had been a fairly mundane race.

Kanaan tried in vain to post what would have been just his second race win in four years, but Hunter-Reay quickly sliced through the field from 10th place after the Lap 292 restart. By the 296th lap, he was past Dixon into second, and there was nothing Kanaan could do to slow down Hunter-Reay and his flying Andretti Autosport Honda.

"I've won races like that before and I've lost them," Kanaan said. "It's just hard to take."

While Hunter-Reay got to enjoy the adrenaline rush of Victory Lane after a thrilling late-race pass for the win, what got him there was the pit stop call made by Andretti and engineer Ray Gosselin.

Kanaan said that pitting from the lead during the final yellow would have been "the craziest thing in the world," but those drivers who stopped for tires with 15 laps to go (including Hunter-Reay, Newgarden and fifth-place finisher Ed Carpenter) were in another league in the nine-lap sprint to the finish.

"We stole it today, but I'll take it any way we can get it," Andretti said. "What's really weird is that we talked before the race about if a yellow comes out with 15 laps to go. When it came time to do it I was like, 'Screw it.' What were we going to do, lose three spots? And I knew if we came in a lot would come in behind us -- and you saw what happened."

Newgarden, who matched his IndyCar career-best finish of second place for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, likened the speed difference of having fresh tires for the final sprint to driving in a video game.

"It was almost unfair," he said. "We kept carving up to the top and with five laps to go, I knew this was going to be really good.

"Nice to get a result, finally," he added. "A little unorthodox way to get it, but you have to do whatever it takes. We caught some breaks tonight and it was nice to show something representative of our pace."

The drivers who got freight-trained included incoming points co-leader Will Power, who brushed the wall on Lap 294 and dropped from fourth to 13th. His Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves fared slightly better, holding on to finish eighth to claim sole lead of the IndyCar Series championship with a nine-point cushion over Power.

Hunter-Reay's win moved him up to third in the standings, 32 points behind Castroneves. Simon Pagenaud, who finished 11th Saturday night, is fourth (-50) followed by Montoya (-66).

The 2012 IndyCar Series champion could barely believe his good fortune after a bad run of races. Hunter-Reay had only a pair of top-seven finishes since winning the Indianapolis 500 in May, but his third victory of the 2014 season thrust him back into title contention.

"What a crazy day," he said. "Michael made a pretty bold call to take sticker [tires], but I didn't think we would have enough time with Montoya's car in the wall. All credit to the safety team for getting that cleaned up quickly so we could get back to racing.

"That was unreal and I hope I get to do that sometime in my career again," he added. "Having 10 cars all in front of me, all on used tires, was just a dream. It was a wild last few laps. We made the right call there, and we had a car that could take it."

It was the fifth consecutive victory at Iowa Speedway for Andretti Autosport, and the sixth in eight IndyCar Series races at the 7/8-mile oval.

"We've lost many races that way and to keep the record going here at Iowa was great," Andretti said. "It's such an awesome racetrack and we've got such great luck here.

"It was a day we probably weren't supposed to win but, like I said, we'll take it any way we can get it."

The main excitement before the frantic finish was Montoya's late crash, which resulted after he tried to pull out of an attempted pass on Carpenter.

The Colombian was unimpressed by what he viewed as a block by Carpenter.

"They all preach safe racing but when you try to pass them they're d---------," Montoya fumed in a television interview.

Carpenter denied the move was intentional, and said that he was not aware Montoya was so committed to the inside when he tried to experiment with a lower line.

DETROIT -- With the eyes of corporate Detroit watching and General Motors CEO Mary Barra on his timing stand, Roger Penske delivered on Sunday.

Again.

Penske, the driving force behind the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, saw his drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power score a 1-2 finish in Race 2 of the Dual in Detroit. Team Penske swept the Detroit weekend, as Power won the opening race on Saturday afternoon.

Penske, who was a key figure when Detroit hosted the Super Bowl a few years ago, is one of the city's most important corporate figures. His guests on Sunday included Barra and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

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Helio Castroneves
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesHelio Castroneves was untouchable Sunday at Belle Isle.

Penske Corporation, based in suburban Detroit, revived the Belle Isle race in 2007 and has grown it ever since. Blessed by spectacular sunny weather, the IndyCar twin bill (which also included the Pirelli World Challenge and the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship) drew healthy crowds each day.

"We had three great days and there's no question right now that people see what we have here at Belle Isle," Penske said. "At a race like this, people can come and bring their kids. Seeing all the kids here was the most important thing for me.

"From a racing standpoint, you dream of these kind of weekends -- we won both races and sat on the pole," he added. "I better get out of here in a hurry!"

Pit stop strategy wasn't as critical in Sunday's race as it was on Saturday, the biggest mover being Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, who finished fourth after starting from the back row.

Like most of the leaders, Castroneves pitted under yellow on Lap 11. Mike Conway seized the lead at that point, but Ed Carpenter Racing's strategy of making Conway the only driver to start the race on standard tires backfired as he dropped through the field during his stint on the alternate tires.

Castroneves seized control of the event by half distance, but he had to make two perfect restarts late in the race to hold off Power and third-place finisher Charlie Kimball.

"That was a great race for several reasons," Castroneves said. "One, we were racing hard to the very end. My car was so fast and I could do whatever I wanted. It's very rare you have that scenario.

"To be honest, fifth place [Saturday] was great points, but I was very disappointed because we had a dominant car. Today Roger had the strategy to put me in front. I don't want to sound cocky, but I was really confident. I knew exactly what my car was doing, and when you have a car like that, you just have to deliver."

Power found himself embroiled in controversy again after being involved in a first-lap incident that ended with Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal in the Turn 3 wall. Power looked to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but INDYCAR called him in for a drive-through penalty on Lap 7 for instigating avoidable contact.

The Australian once again had one of the fastest cars and he was able to work his way back up to another podium finish.

"It was a bit of a surprise to end up second," Power said. "Fantastic weekend for Roger and for Chevy. I have a feeling we would have won without that penalty, but we've been on the right and wrong end of those calls.

"I wasn't going to attack [Helio] at the end," Power added. "A 1-2 for Roger is better than two cars in the wall. Second is good points instead."

Power was the big winner on the Detroit weekend, moving back into the championship lead with a 19-point advantage over teammate Castroneves.

Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay had a miserable weekend in Detroit, failing to finish either race. Hunter-Reay is now third in the standings, 27 points behind Power after arriving in Detroit with a 40-point cushion.

Will Hunter-Reay be No. 1?

September, 23, 2012
09/23/12
11:55
AM ET
Ryan Hunter-ReayRobert Laberge/Getty ImagesRyan Hunter-Reay is No. 1 after the 2012 IndyCar season, but will his car sport the No. 1 in '13?

INDIANAPOLIS -- Whatever happened to the number "1" in car racing?

The question came up Wednesday when newly crowned Izod IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was asked whether he would run No. 1 in 2013 as opposed to the No. 28 he's carried for the past two years.

RHR's first number at Andretti Autosport was 37, but he switched to 28 when his ride was confirmed as full time at the start of the 2011 season. No. 28 fit in sequence with AA's traditional 26 and 27, and represents the 28 million people fighting cancer. Hunter-Reay's mother died of colon cancer in 2009.

"I would like to keep it," Hunter-Reay said of his championship-winning number. "But I just don't know yet. I think the sponsors might like the new number (1)."

Most recent Indy car champions have eschewed the use of No. 1, probably because teams believe that consistency with car numbers helps with fan and sponsor recognition. In NASCAR, the No. 1 has nothing to do with the championship driver; since 1975, Donnie Allison, Rick Mast, Dale Jarrett, John Andretti, Steve Park, Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray have carried the significant numeral, usually with little success.

NASCAR not only solidified the practice of associating numbers with drivers -- Richard Petty with 43, Dale Earnhardt with 3, Dale Jr. with 8 and 88, and on down the line -- but also made famous the fonts that display the digits.

Formula One is the only series where the current series champion carries the prestigious numero uno, but it wasn't always that way. The F1 world champion only began carrying No. 1 on a permanent basis beginning in 1973, when '72 titlist Emerson Fittipaldi proudly took it on.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay
Robert Laberge/Getty ImagesRyan Hunter-Reay won his title driving the No. 28.

Before that, the defending champion of a given Grand Prix was usually assigned the No. 1 for the same race the next year.

Since 1973, the world champion driver has failed to carry No. 1 on only a few occasions; 1973 constructor's champion Lotus drivers Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx ran 1 and 2 for the 1974 season after Jackie Stewart won the '73 driver's championship for Tyrrell, then retired.

When Nigel Mansell won the F1 title in 1992 and then switched to the CART-sanctioned Indy car series in America, the Williams team chose to campaign his replacement, Damon Hill, in car No. 0. Alain Prost then won the 1993 F1 crown for Williams in car No. 2, but when he retired at the end of the season, the team retained Nos. 0 (Hill) and 2 (Ayrton Senna) for the 1994 season.

On six occasions, the world championship winning driver switched teams immediately after winning the title; Nelson Piquet, Prost, Michael Schumacher, Hill, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button all took the coveted No. 1 to new teams to defend their championships.

In Indy car racing, Sebastien Bourdais was the last driver to run No. 1 as the defending champion in the Champ Car World Series from 2005-07.

In the IndyCar Series, Scott Dixon followed up his 2003 championship by running No. 1 in 2004, but he had a terrible campaign. That may have contributed to Dixon's decision to maintain No. 9 in 2009, the year after he won his second IndyCar title. Ganassi's Dario Franchitti has kept No. 10 the past couple of years instead of running No. 1, though his car carried the No. 50 at Indianapolis this year honoring the 50th anniversary of sponsor Target Stores.

Ganassi's previous Indy car champions -- Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya -- all carried No. 1 the year after winning the championship. After Zanardi won the 1998 CART title using No. 1, the team reverted to No. 4 for his replacement Montoya in 1999. Montoya chose No. 1 in 2000 after he won the '99 CART championship as a rookie.

At Penske Racing, after winning the championship in 2006, Sam Hornish Jr. continued with car No. 6 in 2007. That marked a change from the last time Penske won an Indy car title, when Gil de Ferran did run No. 1 in 2001 after winning the 2000 CART crown. De Ferran repeated as CART champion in '01, but Penske quit the series and moved to the IRL-sanctioned Indy car series in 2002, with de Ferran adopting No. 6.

For whatever reason, it seems the No. 1 has fallen out of vogue in auto racing. But I get the feeling that Hunter-Reay is going to bring it back.