Hunter-Reay makes welcome return to podium in Detroit

Photo: IndyCar

Much of the focus was on the younger Americans this weekend in Detroit – Alexander Rossi was coming off the high of winning the Indianapolis 500, Conor Daly starred in both races and Josef Newgarden put in a good run to fourth on Sunday – but the Verizon IndyCar Series’ most successful American at the moment was the highest finishing of all of them in Sunday’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans race two.

Ryan Hunter-Reay made a welcome return to the podium in third place in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport, his first podium since ending third in the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

It served as a key result for Hunter-Reay after a series of hard-luck misses since St. Petersburg. Arguably the price of admission on his own at Phoenix and having had one of the best cars in the field at the Indianapolis 500, finishes of 10th and 24th didn’t do either drive justice.

Sunday in Detroit, Hunter-Reay started second after ending fastest in his qualifying group and then stayed consistently in the lead group during the race. He closed on Simon Pagenaud in the final stages of the race but was unable to get around the Frenchman and series points leader.

After a seventh on Saturday, which had been his best result since St. Petersburg, the third on Sunday brought Hunter-Reay to 13th in points (224), albeit only 53 points behind second-placed Scott Dixon (277).

“It was pretty drama-free. Just drove as hard as I could the entire time and wound up third unfortunately,” Hunter-Reay said in the post-race press conference.

“Congrats to Team Penske. It was nice to finish third after the heartbreak of Indy, to have a solid run today. Obviously we’re not happy with third.”

Hunter-Reay also described the physicality of the weekend.

“It was brutal. We ran it a little too low. We missed it there. The bumps were worse this year. You hear us IndyCar drivers talk about that. Everybody is like, ‘Oh, be quiet about the bumps.’

“But we run the cars on the ground basically already, right? When they do bottom and they hit on a big bump like that, our seats are this thin on the bottom, it goes right through your back. It hurts and it makes for an extremely physical race that way because you have all the kickback in the wheel.

“Detroit is one of the more physical tracks. Doing two races coming off a mentally and physically fatiguing Indy 500 month is as tough as it gets for sure. I wish there was something that looked more dramatic for you and the fans to see in the car. We’re wrestling those things. We’re pushing it to 110%.”

Hunter-Reay heads to Texas along with the rest of the field this week (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He finished second this race in 2013 but otherwise hasn’t banked another top five there in 10 past Texas starts.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.