ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Sometimes you have to accept and enjoy small victories, and for Ryan Hunter-Reay and the No. 28 DHL Honda team from Andretti Autosport, sixth and the top Honda in qualifying was one of them.
Hunter-Reay made the most out of his car, with the Honda aero kit and engine perhaps down just slightly to the Chevrolets, and was the lone Honda representative in Firestone Fast Six qualifying.
As last year, only one Honda advanced into the Fast Six. Hunter-Reay supplanted Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Enterprises as the only Honda this year.
“It was a bit of a struggle. It was a thrash,” Hunter-Reay said during the post-qualifying press conference.
He also praised Team Penske’s efforts, as the team completed its second straight top four qualifying sweep at St. Petersburg.
“They’ve been class of the field. It has been very tough for us to tell you the truth,” he said.
“It’s tough to be happy with sixth but we’re talking ourselves into it.
“The (Firestone) Reds were ‘a life vest in the middle of the ocean’ for us. We’ve been struggling for overall grip.”
Hunter-Reay said his goals for Sunday are bigger than being just top Honda.
“I don’t want to just be the top Honda. I want to be the top finisher,” said Hunter-Reay, who made his North American open-wheel debut in 2003 with American Spirit Team Johansson.
His best finish at the track is second with Vision Racing in 2009, in a last-minute deal with that team.
Andretti’s remaining three drivers – Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi – will roll off 13th, 15th and 19th for Sunday’s race.