A late gamble gave Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport yet another jackpot at Iowa Speedway.
The reigning Indianapolis 500 winner took fresh tires under the last caution of tonight’s Iowa Corn Indy 300, and he was able to get everything he could out of them after the final restart with nine laps to go.
Picking off positions one-by-one, Hunter-Reay finally surged past Tony Kanaan for the lead with two laps left and went on to earn his third Verizon IndyCar Series win of the year – and the fifth consecutive IndyCar triumph at Iowa for the Andretti team.
“We took the tires as a big gamble,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN in Victory Lane. “Our tires were shot before that, so we took ’em – and, credit to [engineer] Ray Gosselin and [team owner] Michael Andretti for making that call because I didn’t think we’d have enough time.
“…That was really great. Man, that was fun. That was like a video game at the end, it was just shredding through it. The DHL Honda was just on fire at the end.”
The win also boosts Hunter-Reay’s championship hopes with six races remaining in the season. He now moves to third in the standings at 32 points behind new leader Helio Castroneves, who finished eighth to take a nine-point lead over Will Power heading into next weekend’s doubleheader at Toronto.
Also charging hard in the last dash to the finish was Josef Newgarden, who pitted for tires with Hunter-Reay. He took the restart in 11th, but like Hunter-Reay, he rocketed toward the front and ultimately finished about six-tenths of a second behind the former series champion.
“That was the weirdest experience I’ve had in a race,” Newgarden said. “It’s almost unfair. You put on new tires like that and you just have so much more grip than everybody.
“It was a great call and I knew it was going to be an interesting race because Graham [Rahal] and Ryan [Hunter-Reay] had done it in front of me – and I thought, ‘If this is gonna play out, it’s going to be between us.’ And Ryan got a good jump, and I got a good jump with him, and we kept carving up to the top.”
Meanwhile, Kanaan was left wanting again after putting together a dominant performance. Last weekend at Pocono, he led the most laps but a late fuel strategy did not go his way.
In Iowa, he again led the most laps – 247 in all. But instead of celebrating his first win as a member of Chip Ganassi Racing, he finished third.
“It’s one of those things,” Kanaan shrugged. “They took a gamble. It’s a shame because we dominated the race. I had a lot of fun. But what can I do?”
Kanaan’s teammate Scott Dixon finished fourth, followed by Ed Carpenter in fifth. However, the owner/driver’s night was not without controversy as he was involved in the incident that provided the last caution of the night.
With 19 laps remaining, Carpenter appeared to come down in Turn 3 as Pocono winner Juan Pablo Montoya tried to look on the inside for a pass. Montoya then went briefly below the yellow line before sliding up into the wall to bring out the yellow.
However, INDYCAR chose to take no action in regards to penalties against Carpenter.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT IOWA – IOWA CORN INDY 300
Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, team-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Honda, 300, Running
2. (21) Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, 300, Running
3. (2) Tony Kanaan, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
4. (1) Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
5. (10) Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy, 300, Running
6. (14) James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Honda, 300, Running
7. (15) Graham Rahal, Rahal-Honda, 300, Running
8. (3) Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, 300, Running
9. (4) Ryan Briscoe, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
10. (7) Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Chevy, 300, Running
11. (11) Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt-Honda, 300, Running
12. (5) Carlos Munoz, Andretti-Honda, 300, Running
13. (18) Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, 300, Running
14. (9) Will Power, Penske-Chevy, 300, Running
15. (20) Jack Hawksworth, Herta-Honda, 296, Running
16. (19) Juan Pablo Montoya, Penske-Chevy, 280, Contact
17. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, KV/AFS-Chevy, 258, Mechanical
18. (8) Marco Andretti, Andretti-Honda, 229, Mechanical
19. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, KVSH-Chevy, 130, Mechanical
20. (22) Carlos Huertas, Coyne-Honda, 78, Driver Illness
21. (12) Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt-Honda, 47, Contact
22. (16) Takuma Sato, Foyt-Honda, 47, Contact
Winners average speed: 131.923
Time of Race: 02:01:58.8160
Margin of victory: 0.5814
Cautions: 7 for 68 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers
Kanaan 2 – 42
Castroneves 43 – 76
Kanaan 77 – 247
Dixon 248 – 263
Kanaan 264 – 297
Hunter-Reay 299 – 300
Point Standings: Castroneves 471, Power 462, Hunter-Reay 439, Pagenaud 421, Montoya 405, Munoz 358, Andretti 337, Dixon 331, Briscoe 307, Kanaan 305.