(Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar)

Ryan Hunter-Reay falls short again: ‘It almost brings you to tears’

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been so hungry for a win this season that he was ready to devour it in Monday’s weather-delayed ABC Supply 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway.

He overcame considerable adversity during the course of the race, including starting from the rear of the 22-car field, and then his engine mysteriously shut off while he was in the lead.

He fell way back in the pack twice, but roared back both times to challenge for the lead again and again.

All told, Hunter-Reay led a total of 33 laps and, perhaps next to early leader Mikhail Aleshin, who led a race-high 87 laps (of the scheduled 200-lap event), had arguably the best car in the field.

He appeared headed to repeat his last series win, at Pocono last year.

Unfortunately for him, Hunter-Reay’s achievements were somewhat bittersweet: he failed to win once again, although he did equal his best finish of the season for the third time.

“It was really hard, it almost brings you to tears,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN after the race. “Leading the race and the engine shuts off: what more can happen?

“But, I had a lot of fun out there today, if it’s any consolation, driving through the field twice. This 28 DHL Honda deserved to be in the fight for the win at the end. It was certainly the fastest car out there.”

His third-place finish helped snap a dismal run over the previous three races: he finished 22nd at Iowa, 12th at Toronto and 18th at Mid-Ohio. During that stretch, he dropped from 11th to 13th in the standings.

He rebounded back to 11th in the points after Monday’s run and finds himself just three points out of 10th place (Charlie Kimball), 54 points out of fifth place (Helio Castroneves) and 67 points out of third place (Josef Newgarden).

Hunter-Reay knows he and his team deserves better.

“It’s just been one of those seasons, I guess, right?” he said. “You just have to smile and keep pushing.

“Certainly, DHL deserved this today. I had the car under me to do it, I had everything I needed to, Firestone was excellent; the tires were so consistent through the whole run.

“I was so in the zone in the car today and then to have the engine shut off while leading it. This one’s going to be hard to put behind me, but you just have to do it, I guess.”

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.