It could be déjà vu all over again for Hunter-Reay with Milwaukee repeat

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He’s not as far back in the championship standings as he was this time last year, but Ryan Hunter-Reay has the opportunity to repeat his second half surge thanks to his second straight win at the Milwaukee IndyFest.

He’s the first to pull off that feat in the IZOD IndyCar Series at the Milwaukee Mile since Tony Kanaan in 2006-’07.  For that matter, he’s also the only driver to win an Andretti Sports Marketing-promoted event – he is three-for-three with two wins in Milwaukee and one at Baltimore last fall.

Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 1 DHL/Sun Drop Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport, entered Milwaukee a year ago seventh in the championship, 75 points behind then-series leader Will Power. His win and Power’s 12th-place finish at the 2012 race promoted him to fourth, just 41 points back.

Of course, it also set the stage for his run of three straight victories from Milwaukee to the next short oval a week later in Iowa, and a third triumph on the streets of Toronto.

“In sports, when you get into a momentum, a rhythm, it’s not something you can put a price tag on or finger on, it just happens,” he said. “It kind of saturates the team with this feeling that, Hey, we can get it done.  If we perform to our best, to our potential, we can absolutely win races.

“That carried over week in, week out. We were able to win four more races than anybody else last year. It all started here last year. This is a great place to start. Andretti has great cars.  You put the two together, and hopefully it comes out the way we want.”

Hunter-Reay has improved his qualifying this year to match his race pace (starts of eighth or better in all nine races, including seven top-four starts). He was due another win after podiums at Indianapolis and the first Detroit race since his win at Barber in April.

This race was actually shaping up as a battle between Hunter-Reay and teammate E.J. Viso in the race’s first 100 laps. But a caution for their third teammate, Marco Andretti, being stopped on track, promoted Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves up the leaderboard thanks to their off-sequence strategies.

“We were setting the pace of the race early,” Hunter-Reay said. “The yellow came out. I’m not sure for what. Maybe it was for Marco. That shuffled us back into the field a bit, which put some of the guys off strategy, Helio, Takuma, etc., into the lead.”

“Yeah, E.J. is always very good here,” he added. “I saw him coming up from behind about halfway through the race.  I knew it was going to be tough. I thought it was going to be between him and I at the end. He was very strong. We really seemed to click getting through traffic at the end of the race better than anybody.”

Hunter-Reay also appreciates the history of Milwaukee, the oldest active race track in North America.

“Every time I have the opportunity to race here, I feel blessed,” he said. “Such a challenging place. When you get it right, there’s no better feeling in IndyCar than at Milwaukee Mile. Indianapolis definitely is right there with it, but this place is very special.”

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.