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.”