IndyCar: Hunter-Reay captures his second straight Barber race (VIDEO)

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Ryan Hunter-Reay erased a frustrating Long Beach weekend with an authoritative drive in the third round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season, as he repeated his 2013 win at Barber Motorsports Park.

But there were differences. This one didn’t require a late pass for the win, came from third on the grid rather than pole, and featured a Honda rather than a Chevrolet powering his DHL Andretti Autosport entry.

It also ended under yellow following an accident for Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports SMP Racing Honda, as he ran wide at Turn 14 and hit the tire barriers hard with just more than six minutes to go.

Hunter-Reay cycled back to the lead following the second round of pit stops, a green flag round after four cautions for 12 laps flew during the first 55 laps. He led 40 of 69 laps.

“I had such a blast, it was a bummer we ended under yellow, what a dream to win with a Honda at a Honda-sponsored race,” Hunter-Reay said to NBCSN’s Kevin Lee in victory lane. “Last week it should have been a great result. Firestones to the wets, blacks and reds, they did a great job. The race kind of dragged on at the end, but it was tough for everybody today. (Switching to slicks) was horrible for everybody – it was like ice skating with sneakers on.”

The win makes RHR the third different winner in as many races to open the season. Marco Andretti in second made it an Andretti Autosport 1-2, the team’s first since Iowa last season.

“I’m really proud of this whole team – Marco drove his whole way to the front. Feels good after Long Beach,” team principal Michael Andretti told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis. “The race came to us. It was a good day.”

Added Marco Andretti to NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast, “It was an awesome job by Andretti Autosport. We didn’t have much for the DHL car, but it was a heck of a team effort.”

Scott Dixon in third took his first podium finish of the season. Long Beach sparring partners Simon Pagenaud and Will Power rounded out the top five, continuing their streak of ending in the top five in all three races this season. Power’s off in the early stages of the race cost him a likely win.

Justin Wilson, James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top 10.

Power leads Hunter-Reay, 125 to 107, in the points standings unofficially. Pagenaud is third, 33 back.

Simon Pagenaud has words with Gabby Chaves after Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Photos: IndyCar
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The rain didn’t stop following the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and neither did the jousting between drivers.

An angry Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud confronted Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves after the race, complaining that Chaves would not let Pagenaud get past him in the closing laps.

Instead of ending up with a hoped-for Top 5, Pagenaud wound up with a ninth-place finish. Chaves, meanwhile, finished 17th, two laps down.

The confrontation turned into a battle of words and profanity between the two drivers, as captured on Twitter by AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver.

Afterward – and after their tempers cooled down somewhat – both Pagenaud and Chaves gave their sides of the confrontation to NBCSN.

Gabby Chaves

First, here’s Pagenaud’s take on things:

“We had a really good race going,” Pagenaud said. “I think we potentially could have been top 5. I was really frustrated with Gabby. He was two laps down and I was stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying to do everything I could to make it happen.

“It’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you want to have everybody on your side when you have a good day. At the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. It’s a real shame.”

When asked what exactly he said to Chaves, Pagenaud demurred.

“Driver’s stuff,” he said with a slight smile. “We’ve all been there. I’ve been in his position. My side, I played it smart. It is what it is.

“I can’t comment for him. You can ask him the question. I’m not going to make a deal about it, it’s just a shame it ruined my race. We’ll come back stronger. It’s Indy soon, so that’ll put a smile on my face.”

NBCSN then caught up with Chaves for his side of the story.

 

“It’s a tough situation, we had to restart (the rain-delayed race) a lap down,” Chaves said. “Our whole strategy depends on trying to get a yellow and holding our position. Some guys think that the track belongs only to them, they’re the only guys on-track.

“Everyone else who was faster at that point – we were only one lap down to the leader, so we’re still on our strategy and don’t know what’s going to happen – as soon as they got right up next to me on the lead lap, I let them go.

“Simon was the only one who couldn’t drive up to me. I understand his frustration, but he’s the one who has to save fuel to make his strategy work, that’s not our fault, right?”

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