Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama - Day 2

Hunter-Reay “determined” to make late run for IndyCar title


A bad three-race stretch has done damage to Ryan Hunter-Reay’s chances for a second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series championship, but the American pilot is out to stage a rally for the title in the season’s home stretch.

This weekend, IndyCar heads for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Sun., 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), a track where RHR has had past success that includes podium runs in 2003 (Champ Car/American Spirit Team Johanssen) and 2011 (IndyCar/Andretti Autosport). He considers the difficult, technical circuit as one of his favorites.

“Mid-Ohio is the heart of American open-wheel road racing and I have some great memories over the years at this track,” Hunter-Reay said in a team statement. “I’ve been on the podium a few times here, and following tough weekends we had at Pocono and Toronto, we’ll be working hard to rebound and cut into the championship points lead.”

It certainly won’t be easy after trouble found him earlier this month at Pocono Raceway and in both races of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader.

At the “Tricky Triangle,” Hunter-Reay was hit from behind on pit road by an out-of-control Takuma Sato. One week later in Canada, he was victimized by multiple stalls on pit road in Race 1 and a late-race crash with Will Power in Race 2.

Finishes of 20th at Pocono and 18th/19th at Toronto now have him 69 points behind leader Helio Castroneves. He’s also fallen behind Scott Dixon, who won all three of those races – and has been the master of Mid-Ohio with four victories in the series’ six events there.

But it’s not quite time to put Hunter-Reay in the “long shot” category just yet. We’ve seen big comebacks before in IndyCar. Remember 2010, when Dario Franchitti erased a 59-point gap to Will Power in the final four races to win the title that year?

Considering that, making up 69 points in six remaining events wouldn’t appear impossible for Hunter-Reay.

“We’re a tenacious bunch at Andretti Autosport and we’re determined to make a late season run at the championship,” he said.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish

It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.

Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.

As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.

His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.

The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.