Third place at Iowa ties season-best for Hunter-Reay (VIDEO)

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Prior to Sunday’s Iowa Corn Indy 300, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign could be described with such words as disappointing, difficult, challenging, and troublesome.

Brief highlights in the otherwise tough year include a fourth-place finish at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and a third-place at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but otherwise, Hunter-Reay’s season has featured eight finishes of 11th or worse, including three DNFs.

However, a strong history at Iowa Speedway, highlighted by three wins, left room for optimism ahead of Sunday’s 300-lap outing, and Hunter-Reay was able to deliver on that optimism.

Starting 15th, Hunter-Reay was on the move from the outset, climbing all the way up to seventh in the opening stint. He then cracked the top five just after lap 100.

Although he couldn’t quite muster the speed to challenge for the win, Hunter-Reay battled with the leaders the rest of the race and ended up in third at the end to match his best result of the season.

Speaking to NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt afterward, Hunter-Reay explained that he and the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport team made a slew of changes to the chassis to improve its handling and speed, and their changes paid big dividends.

“We made a ton of changes. Credit to this team. When I got here it was so loose,” Hunter-Reay explained. “We made some changes. Only (one hour and 15 minutes) of practice. Made the most of it. Made the most for warmup and the race. Had too little front wing. But we got it dialed in there. I had the car that I needed, finally.”

Hunter-Reay added that it was nice to be fighting at the front again. “It was fun. Nice to be back on the podium. Great for DHL, Andretti Autosport and the 28 team. We’ve had two or three podiums. We just need the momentum,” he finished.

Hunter-Reay now sits 14th in the championship standings, 23 points behind tenth-place Max Chilton.

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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.