Ryan Hunter-Reay disappointed, but relieved after Barber performance

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It’s not often you hear a driver in any racing series say they’re a mixture of disappointed and relieved after racing to their best result of the season.

But that’s the sentiment Ryan Hunter-Reay shared after achieving a fifth-place finish in the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

“We just don’t have it right now,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN after his best performance since finishing second Sonoma last year.

“That was about as good as we were going to get today. Had to hold off some cars there that didn’t have a problem with fuel, like Graham (Rahal) and Will (Power) was a little better than us on fuel.”

The Andretti Autosport driver compared the final segment of the 90-lap race to being “a lame duck.”

A lame duck was far from what Hunter-Reay experienced the last two years when he claimed wins at the track.  But after a sluggish start to the year, the American needed a boost. Sunday didn’t start that way with RHR rolling his No. 28 DHL Honda off the grid in 18th.

With tires a concern, the No. 28 team took to pit strategy early, pitting on Lap 12.

“We knew what we were going to do early with strategy,” Hunter-Reay said. “Saved a lot of fuel today, that worked out for us.”

After the first round of pit stops had ended about 25 laps in, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar champion was already in the top-10 in seventh place.

Hunter-Reay’s biggest fireworks came in the final segment of the race when racing with Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Sage Karam.

In an echo from the NOLA race two weeks ago, Hunter-Reay was holding Karam off before the rookie passed on his inside coming out of a turn.

Hunter-Reay found himself squeezed off the track and into the dirt before quickly recovering.

“That was interesting wasn’t it?” Hunter-Reay said. “I told him, ‘That was pretty slick, you know.’ … How Race Control didn’t call that, but they called me on it is beyond me, but I’m not even worried about it. We’ll figure it out. We need to make this car goes faster, we need to run up front and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to do that.”