As he and the other drivers coped with having to manage their tires with an aerodynamic package containing less downforce than they had one year ago at Texas Motor Speedway, Ryan Hunter-Reay found himself in what he later described as a “battle.”
“It was like, at times, a race against yourself, just to save the tires and keep yourself off the wall,” said Hunter-Reay, who persevered and claimed a second-place finish behind race winner Helio Castroneves – his best result ever at TMS.
“It was just a very challenging race…It’s so difficult to get the package exactly right with the downforce and the tires and the degradation of the tires, and as a series, we’re working toward that.”
Hunter-Reay took the lead after pit stops under yellow at Lap 58, marking his first-ever laps led at the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth. He led teammate Marco Andretti for the next stint until he pitted on Lap 94 for tires and fuel.
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion wouldn’t see the lead again for the rest of the night, but stayed toward the front even as his strategy was altered by a caution at Lap 113 that was caused by a spin-and-save job from Oriol Servia; his Andretti Autosport team decided to bring him to pit road during that yellow period.
From there, Hunter-Reay would again pit with the leaders one last time at Lap 175 and found himself in second behind Castroneves with 20 laps to go. He shaved several seconds off of Castroneves’ sizable lead but there simply wasn’t enough time to do anything serious against the Brazilian.
Now, Hunter-Reay sets his sights on replicating his victory one year ago at the Milwaukee Mile (Sat., 4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network). That touched off a three-race win streak last summer that also saw him triumph on the bullring at Iowa and the street course at Toronto.
And with himself in a heated points battle this year with Castroneves, Andretti and now Tony Kanaan, he’ll most certainly be looking for more of that magic in the weeks ahead.