After what’s been a tough season so far, Michael Andretti probably needed a six-pack.
Ryan Hunter-Reay gave his team owner one Saturday night.
Hunter-Reay took an overdue first win of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, with his third overall and second straight win at the Iowa Speedway. It’s the team’s sixth straight win at the 0.894-mile oval dating to 2010.
He also becomes the ninth different race winner of 2015.
Hunter-Reay got ahead of erstwhile dominant driver Josef Newgarden with an earlier pit stop on the final sequence, and held off the two-time 2015 winner by 0.5046 of a second.
“It felt like we had something there. This No. 28 DHL Honda was on rails,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis. “I was driving the snot out of it. I kept my foot to the floor. A lot of work in the cockpit. This one we really hard to work for after such a tough season.
“We got in victory lane in one of the most competitive seasons.”
Hunter-Reay’s win and Newgarden’s runner-up finish were somewhat overshadowed by some mid-July fireworks on IndyCar’s shortest track, involving IndyCar’s youngest driver.
Sage Karam, 20 years old, scored his first career IndyCar podium in third, as Chip Ganassi Racing’s lone driver to make the checkered flag. He passed Carlos Munoz for the final podium position, to complete the first all-American podium since Sam Hornish Jr., Marco and Michael Andretti in the 2006 Indianapolis 500.
But he only did so after drawing the ire of Ed Carpenter in the race’s final 20 laps. The two ran side-by-side for a period after the final restart from the sixth and final full course caution period.
An animated Carpenter was screaming on the radio – as Karam had earlier in the race – and would later hunt down the 20-year old on pit lane. The pair exchanged words and had a distinct difference of opinion about the racing style.
Graham Rahal survived a roller-coaster day en route to fourth ahead of Munoz, with Carpenter and Marco Andretti making it six Americans in the top seven.
Rahal’s day was mired by a flat tire, then persistent shifting issues that left him stuck in sixth gear for the majority of the final 250 laps. Two well-timed yellows helped keep Rahal from going a lap down after he’d got back on the lead lap, and saved his day as he moved into second in the championship.
It was a tough day for the title contenders. Juan Pablo Montoya entered with a 54-point lead and crashed out just 10 laps in, which opened the door for others to move ahead.
But mechanical issues sidelined Scott Dixon on Lap 234; his crew performed a minor miracle to get him back out, although he was resigned to an eventual 18th place finish, and thus gained only six points on Montoya.
Helio Castroneves was also well-positioned but faded to 11th in the final stint of the race after qualifying on pole.
Tony Kanaan was also unfortunate to retire with a mechanical issue, after he had been in the top three for most of the first 200 laps.
Today’s result promotes Rahal into second, now 42 back of Montoya with just three races remaining, and the second-to-last road course race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 2.
NEWTON, Iowa – Results Saturday of the Iowa Corn 300 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 0.894 mile Iowa Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (9) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 300, Running
2. (7) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 300, Running
3. (10) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 300, Running
4. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 300, Running
5. (12) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 300, Running
6. (11) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 300, Running
7. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 300, Running
8. (19) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 300, Running
9. (24) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 300, Running
10. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 300, Running
11. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 300, Running
12. (20) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 299, Running
13. (21) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 299, Running
14. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 299, Running
15. (14) James Jakes, Honda, 299, Running
16. (23) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 299, Running
17. (18) Justin Wilson, Honda, 297, Running
18. (4) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 263, Running
19. (15) Takuma Sato, Honda, 260, Contact
20. (13) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 191, Contact
21. (2) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 189, Mechanical
22. (16) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 170, Contact
23. (22) Pippa Mann, Honda, 136, Handling
24. (3) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 9, Contact
Winners average speed: 129.943
Time of Race: 02:03:50.3315
Margin of victory: 0.5046 of a second
Cautions: 6 for 73 laps
Lead changes: 14 among 10 drivers
Kanaan 2 – 68
Castroneves 69 – 77
Kanaan 78 – 80
Power 81 – 82
Jakes 83 – 85
Bourdais 86 -91
Kimball 92 – 98
Castroneves 99 – 105
Newgarden 106 – 125
Castroneves 126 – 158
Newgarden 159 – 249
Hawksworth 250 – 256
Rahal 257 – 263
Hunter-Reay 264 – 300
Verizon IndyCar Series Point Standings: Montoya 445, Rahal 403, Dixon 397, Castroneves 391, Power 390, Bourdais 366, Andretti 358, Newgarden 352, Kanaan 324, Pagenaud 294.