Flashback the calendar to 2012, when Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power were engaged in a weekly chess match as their pit strategists Michael Andretti and Tim Cindric contemplated the best way to go about a race.
Sunday in Mid-Ohio, in what has been a rarity this season, last year’s title contenders had the lead from the outset but opted to stick to a planned two-stop strategy. The Honda Indy 200 race distance was upped from 85 to 90 laps this year, and without a yellow, making a two-stopper work was going to be a challenge.
So as Hunter-Reay and Power, two of the best in the IZOD IndyCar Series at saving fuel and hitting their number, and their teams stuck to their guns, they were quickly outsmarted when other teams and drivers pitted sooner and were able to run flat out for longer stints. Hunter-Reay and Power were committed to 30-lap stints apiece; in the end, they fell to fourth and fifth on the day, with Power ahead at the finish.
“I guess you could say we won the two stopper (pit stop) race today at Mid-Ohio,” said Power. “It was a disappointing day for the Verizon team, we had great pit stops during the race and at the end of the day we did our best. We got stuck on a two pit stop strategy for the race and it was too late by then to make it up. It would have been great to get a win but I’m happy for the top-10 finish and we’ll move on to Sonoma in a few weeks.”
“We picked the wrong strategy today, we went with what we thought. If we had one yellow in there it would have been our race – it would have been between Will (Power) and I, I think,” said Hunter-Reay. “Will and I were on the same strategy and we both worked really hard to save fuel, I know I worked my tail off. It is some of the hardest work in a race car to save that much fuel and to have nothing to show for it, that sucks. But we’ll pick up and head to the next one. It’s frustrating; things just aren’t falling into place right now… we can’t be finishing fifth.”
Hunter-Reay still has a shot at the title but is now 75 points back in third place, with five races remaining. Power, meanwhile, fell outside the top 10 after Charlie Kimball’s first win vaulted him from 11th into a tie for seventh.