IndyCar: Hunter-Reay’s tenacity shows through yet again after Iowa win

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We’ve seen this act from Ryan Hunter-Reay and the Andretti Autosport team before in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

They were down, but not out.

Hunter-Reay and the No. 28 DHL Honda team have rebounded after a brutal stretch of races post-his Indianapolis 500 victory, when a 40-point lead leaving the first 500-miler of the year over Will Power turned into a 58-point deficit to Power and Helio Castroneves after last weekend’s Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco.

On Saturday night at Iowa Speedway, at no point did RHR have the fastest car, but he did show great steely resolve. After starting 13th, Hunter-Reay raced into the top-10 early and was still in decent enough position, ninth, to where the late-race call to pit and take fresh tires was the only call.

He had the fresh shoes, but Hunter-Reay still had to go and win it from that position, and what followed in the final 10 laps was a classic never-say-die RHR performance.

“Yeah, I mean, I was really frustrated at times,” he said post-race. “I’ve learned in the years of experience that I’ve had in the Verizon IndyCar Series that you just have to keep your head in it. No matter what, you have to charge hard and be ready for it. Whether it’s a street circuit, short oval, races can turn. You have to put yourself in a position every time to take advantage of that, put yourself in a better position, get that car in front of you, whatever it is, just keep plugging away.

“We made the right call and we had the car that could take it, so it was good.”

When the chips are down, few are better in the Verizon IndyCar Series. And this already marks the second time RHR has recovered this year from a rough weekend or stretch.

After his Long Beach faux pas, Hunter-Reay reeled off two wins at Barber and the Indy 500 with a runner-up at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in-between.

Now, after the six-race stretch where Hunter-Reay failed to record a single top-five finish between Detroit and Pocono, he’s back to within 32 points of new points leader Castroneves after Iowa with six races to play.

He’s also been the best driver, by far, on the short ovals. Hunter-Reay has now won five of the last six (Loudon 2011, Milwaukee 2012/2013, Iowa 2012/2014) in the series. His only loss was a runner-up to Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe at Iowa last year.

Armed with the confidence of already having a championship, and the consistent bounce back he and the team led by engineer Ray Gosselin and team principal/strategist Michael Andretti have already produced, we should not be the least bit surprised that RHR found that recovery level Saturday night in Iowa.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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