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.