Hunter-Reay celebrates amid Iowa fireworks - INDYCAR/LAT USAEnlarge Photo
Ryan Hunter-Reay won his second race in a row, taking an interesting and somewhat bizarre Iowa Corn 250 IZOD IndyCar Race under a sixth caution flag, with teammate Marco Andretti second to the checkered flags.
Tony Kanaan, who started 19th with a 10-place penalty for an unapproved Chevy engine change was third, giving Chevrolet the entire podium.
Scott Dixon was fourth and rookie Simon Pagenaud, whose first oval race was this year's Indianapolis 500 and who started last in the 25-car field was fifth, both of them driving Honda-powered cars.
Hunter-Reay's comments after winning his seventh Indy car race nearly mirrored what he said about his great Milwaukee drive: "That was very challenging. We were sliding around a little bit more today," he said.
He then thanked teammate Andretti for his work testing at the track and helping with the setup on his car. "When we came here we tweaked just a little. From there, we basically raced with what he tested with and I raced really hard out there, really clean. We're just so happy to be in Victory Lane twice in a row."
While Andretti had a tough first stint, "The car came alive in the second stint. I think, in hindsight, we could have taken another turn of front wing and been really hard to beat at the end, but we kept the car how it is and I kind of ran out of tools at the end and had a lot of understeer. Great team effort," he added. "Definitely a statement from Andretti Autosport and congrats to Ryan."
Kanaan rued having to start at the back but still called it "a great day for us. We don't take the podium finish for granted," even though it was his fourth in six starts at Iowa, "but I think we had a car that could have won the race. There were lots of dodgy moves out there; people were driving kind of crazy… now we have to capitalize on what we have done so far as the championship is getting tight."
Only 14 Indy cars were around after the 250-lap contest, which began about 45 minutes late thanks to a heavy thunder storm; last week's race at Milwaukee also had a 90-minute rain delay. It started without polesitter Dario Franchitti, whose Honda engine--he said it was the engine that helped him to his third Indy 500 win this May--went up in a plume of white smoke on the pace lap. At the same time Alex Tagliani spun, losing time getting restarted.
It was a strange non-start to a race that saw eight leaders and 10 changes for the lead. Fully 64 laps were raced under caution--including the first nine to remove Franchitti's car.
Once green, Helio Castroneves would lead (from James Hinchcliffe)--twice for the most laps led, 133--but ended up in sixth place once the day was done. He was followed to the checkers by Rubens Barrichello (up from 11th), Ed Carpenter who flew from 21st to eighth, Graham Rahal (starting 20th and the final driver on the lead lap) and Justin Wilson, a mid-race factor who faded. The balance of the finishers/survivors were Charlie Kimball, Takuma Sato, James Jakes and Simona de Silvestro, six laps back.
The second caution came for an incident between point leader Will Power, who moved down on fellow Chevy driver EJ Viso in the second turn, putting both of them out of the race on the 68th lap. Power initially flipped off the Venezuelan but, after seeing the video realized the incident fell on his shoulder.
A short period of green extended from lap 84 to 98 when JR Hildebrand, then three laps down and barnstorming through the field met the first turn wall. Cleanup lasted until the 111th lap and green ensued for a long period until the 179th lap when leader Ryan Briscoe and Josef Newgarden tangled in the second turn in a move similar to the one between Power and Viso. Just two laps after their restart, James Hinchcliffe hit the turn 4 wall on the 197th lap, needing a quick cleanup; he led 19 laps prior to his first pit stop
The sixth and final caution came as Katherine Legge hit in Turn 2, forcing the decimated field to finish under yellow. There were three penalties on the night, with the hapless Mike Conway receiving a speeding penalty - as did James Jakes - with the latter also getting a longer stop-and-go for passing the pace car.
Oriol Servia's consistency was hurt tonight with problems on the refueling rig that caused a fire, relegating the Spaniard to 21st; strangely enough, he had a similar problem last year here that halted his progress. Tagliani, who returned to the fray after his first lap spin and stall was running in the top five until stopping on the 207th lap with an undisclosed mechanical problem.
With his victory and with both Power and Hinchcliffe's crashes and retirements, Hunter-Reay is now just three points behind the Australian (286-283), with Dixon in third (271), Castroneves fourth and Hinchcliffe fifth.
The Indy cars take a one-week breather after five races in a row and return to action on the streets of Toronto on July 8. The next oval contest comes in what could be season closer at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, the middle of September.