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.
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.
For the fifth time in 10 rounds of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season, the three riders at the top of the championship standings shared a podium and while those points tell one story, the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit tell a slightly different tale.
Chase Sexton has been all but perfect during the past 45 days with podium finishes in each of his heats and Triple Crown features. His only stumble during this period was a 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis Main. Last week, Sexton was perfect with wins in both his heat and the feature, although he needed a little help from an Aaron Plessinger mistake to take the top spot on the podium at the end of the night.
Cooper Webb finished fifth at Houston and was beginning to worry ever so slightly about his position in the points. Prior to the race in Tampa, he told NBC Sports that it was time to win and like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence, Webb went out and captured it. Following that race, Webb has swept the podium and earned the red plate two weeks ago in Indianapolis. At Detroit, he added two more points on Eli Tomac as the season begins to wind down.
Tomac struggled with a stiff neck at Indianapolis and after a modest third-place showing in Detroit, he revealed he was still suffering a little. Webb and Sexton have been able to close the gap on Tomac in the past 45 days, but one of the main reasons he is so close in the points was a pair of wins that started the year. Seattle is going to be important for the defending champion because Tomac cannot afford to lose any more momentum with seven rounds remaining.
It appeared Jason Anderson was turning things around. He earned his fifth heat win at Detroit, which was also his sixth consecutive race (including features) in which he scored a top-five. A fall in the Detroit Main dropped him a lap off the pace and sent him home with a season-worst finish of ninth, causing a ripple effect in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings.
Justin Barcia was a huge part of the show last week in Detroit. He swapped positions with both Webb and Tomac in the middle stage of the race, which allowed Sexton to close the gap. Barcia finished fourth in that race to earn his third consecutive top-five. He’s been outside the top 10 only once in the first 10 rounds.
Adam Cianciarulo had a great start to the Main. He led a couple of laps before losing a lap and slipping back to eighth in the final rundown. That run was strong enough to elevate him three positions in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit.
The NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings look at the past 90 days in the 250 class in order to have a balanced comparison between the East and West divisions and Hunter Lawrence has been all but perfect this year. At Detroit, he earned his fifth win of the season and kept alive a streak of podium finishes in six rounds. He tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 250 wins one week before the West riders take to the track for back-to-back races at Seattle, Washington and Glendale, Arizona.
The Lawrence brothers are dominating the points in each of their respective divisions, which means the remainder of the field is battling to be best in class.
In the East, that rider is Nate Thrasher, who beat Hunter in a head-to-head matchup in their heat only to finish second in the main when the majority of points were awarded. Thrasher seems to have accepted his position in the championship standings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying for wins.
Haiden Deegan showed a lot of aggression in his heat last week. He threw a couple of block passes at his teammate Jordon Smith and set up a series of events that kept Smith from making the big show while Deegan settled into second in the preliminary. Deegan was unconcerned about how he raced his teammate and would not let a little controversy keep him from celebrating his second career podium in Detroit.
Jeremy Martin just keeps clicking off solid results. He won his heat last week by making a pass on Deegan and Smith while they were in the heat of their battle. Martin finished fourth in the Main, which means he continues to have only one finish worse than sixth in any of the features or mains.
Smith fell one position in the points standings, but the damage was even worse in SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit. Crash damage in his heat contributed to a last-place finish in that race, for which he earned minimal points. He was not able to advance from the Last Chance Qualifier after stalling his bike in heavy traffic.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[5 Main, 5 Heat wins]
Jett Lawrence – W
[3 Main, 3 Heat wins]
Nate Thrasher – E
[1 Main, 3 Heat wins]
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat win]
Haiden Deegan – E
[1 Heat win]
Jeremy Martin – E
[2 Heat wins]
Jordon Smith – E
[3 Heat Wins]
Levi Kitchen – W
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
RJ Hampshire – W
[4 Heat wins]
Max Anstie – E
Tom Vialle – E
Max Vohland – W
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
Chris Blose – E
Chance Hymas – E
Enzo Lopes – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Pierce Brown – W
Phil Nicoletti – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).