While Ryan Hunter-Reay has won a pair of races back-to-back at Iowa Speedway, and now three of the last four dating to 2012, his last two could not have been more different.
Saturday’s race win snapped a 19-race drought dating to last year’s Iowa Corn 300, and made Hunter-Reay the ninth different winner in 13 Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2015. It was also his first podium finish of the season.
Hunter-Reay gambled on tire strategy and fresh tires to basically steal the 2014 race win, but in 2015, he, Honda and Andretti Autosport beat Josef Newgarden in a head-to-head fight.
“Doesn’t even compare,” Hunter-Reay said post-race on Saturday. “The win last year was pretty cool because Michael made a great call. I was pretty skeptical at the time. We blitzed the field at the end of the race. That was a lot of fun.
“But this is a big deal, to come in and to be on the slump we’ve been on, to come in from ninth, work at it, earn the race win, really earn it in the fashion that we did, it’s a statement win. It’s big for us. It’s big for everybody involved in this team.”
The win came as Hunter-Reay entered the race 14th in points, needing help to keep his consecutive years streak of winning a race alive. He has now won at least once every year since 2010.
“It’s still been a tough season, but that makes this win sweet. It really does. The last 20 laps felt like an hour and a half just knowing how important this was to me, to the team, to our partners, DHL, Auto Nation, Honda. This is a big win,” he said.
“We went out and earned this one. We took it away from them, that’s a big deal. So this was, as I said, a massive win for the team. Feels great to be back in Victory Lane. Certainly I’m not happy with the way the season’s gone at all. More than anything at all, I just feel relief, like a big exhale is how I can describe it.”
Unfortunately, it’s also been overshadowed in the immediate aftermath, as frequently seems to be the case for Hunter-Reay throughout his career.
While Hunter-Reay broke through and ended a 19-race winless streak, the bigger story post-race was about Sage Karam and Ed Carpenter, and their war of words after coming too close for comfort in the final stages of the race.
It’s the latest overshadowing for Hunter-Reay, who in the past had his 2012 series championship overlooked due to management turbulence and the departure of Randy Bernard, and who also wasn’t fully exploited as the first American Indianapolis 500 champion in eight years after winning that race in 2014.