Defending IZOD IndyCar Series Champion Ryan-Hunter Reay took the first victory by a non Team Penske entry at the immaculate 2.3 mile Grand Prix course at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, AL today in a very exciting event. Scott Dixon took the runner up spot for the fourth consecutive time in the Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Helio Castroneves completed the podium with a strong run all day, but using up the tires late in the race to drop from the lead to third place. All this happened in front of a race day record crowd of over 57,000 in Mr. Barber’s back yard.
The Fourth Annual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama got underway under sunny skies and upper 70’s in front of a rather large crowd. That’s where the fun begins. Right on the start, Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia made contact with each other in Turn 8, ripping off wings and bringing out the first caution. Not only was there contact, but the actual start of the race was put under review by Race Control. After investigation, the start was deemed valid and no restart was issued. Also, the contact between Rahal and Servia was reviewed, but no action was taken. During the same caution period, James Hinchcliffe reported he’d lost drive in the #27 Andretti Autosport GoDaddy Chevrolet, ending his day with a wheel problem.
When the green flag came back out, it became the Ryan Hunter-Reay Run Off And Hide Show. By Lap 23, Hunter-Reay would already have a lead of over 10 seconds built over second place Tristan Vautier. On Lap 26, Hunter-Reay surrendered the lead to Will Power for his first pit stop of the day. Lap 31 saw the pit stop cycle complete as the lead returned to the #1 Sun Drop/DHL Chevrolet with Helio Castroneves in 2nd place.
On Lap 43, the pit stop cycle began yet again. Hunter-Reay surrendered the lead to Charlie Kimball. Charlie came to pit on Lap 46, giving the lead to Will Power. Power held the lead until Lap 51, when he was passed by Helio Castroneves in Charlotte’s Web for P1. Castroneves then initiated “Hide-And-Seek Mode,” building up a lead of as much as 11 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay on Lap 60. Hunter-Reay then began eating away at Castroneves’ advantage, ultimately leading to pit stops on Lap 67. During the stop, Castroneves would have an issue costing some time in the pits, but also allowing Hunter-Reay to close the gap. At the end of the cycle on Lap 69, Castroneves would hold a lead of 2.6 seconds over Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Ryan’s charge was on. By Lap 75, Hunter-Reay had already closed the gap to Castroneves down to .3961 seconds. On Lap 76, Hunter-Reay found his way around Helio in Turn 5, finishing the pass in Turn 6. With the tires already fading, Scott Dixon would pass Castroneves on Lap 77 to move into P2. That’s pretty much the way things would end up. Ryan Hunter-Reay maintained gap of around one second for the rest of the event, taking the win by .6363 over Scott Dixon.
First off, what a day for James Hinchcliffe. Winner of the previous IZOD IndyCar Series event at St. Pete, Hinch couldn’t buy a break today. Well, he got a break, but it wasn’t the kind of break a driver usually wants. Hinch’s left rear wheel broke after contact in the incident with Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia. Indycar nixed Andretti Autosport’s request to tow the car back around on three wheels essentially, choosing instead to park Hinch in a runoff area. There Hinch sat until Lap 75, when he finally abandoned hope to get towed back under yellow.
Dario’s early season bad luck continues. After crashing out early in GP ST Pete, Dario headed to Barber with his sights on getting a good finish where he performs well. Instead, he would finish the day in 25th place, his day ending on Lap 42 with a header issues that led to an electrical issue that took out his clutch. The weekend as a whole was one headache after another for Dario, seeing as how he didn’t make it out of session 1 in qualifying.
Charlie Kimball had a rocket in the back of his #83 Novo Nordisk Ganassi Racing Honda. He spent the better part of the weekend in the Top Five on the speed charts, made the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in his career, and got the second Top Five finish of his IZOD IndyCar Series career. Charlie has certainly come a long way since he first entered the series. Now he’s really a threat to win every week.
Tristan Vautier continues to show why he rose up through the Mazda Road to Indy ladder so quickly. He was one of the three fastest car in Friday’s practice session. On Saturday, Tristan made it 2 for 2 in his career for Firestone Fast Six appearances. In the race on Sunday, he quickly moved into second place behind Ryan Hunter-Reay and stayed there until the first round of pit stops. Tristan made some tactical errors on track that prevented a Top Five finish, but he did score his first career Top Ten.
Justin Wilson had an up and down day. He fought his way to the front of the field after starting mid pack, only to have all that work undone by an error in the pits when his crew dropped the jack too soon. Again, Justin would fight his way through the field and back to the front when he had another problem, sending him to the back yet again. He’d end up breaking even on the day, starting in 8th place and finishing in 8th place.
Ryan Hunter-Reay-#1 Sun Drop/DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
“I had a little contact there with Helio (Castroneves), I feel bad about it. Good thing nobody was affected by it but man, I was driving my tail off trying to stay in front of (Scott) Dixon. Will (Power) did a good job staying in front of me on blacks, not sure how he did it. A lot of great racing out there. It’s just great to get a win for DHL, Sundrop, Circle K and Chevrolet back in victory lane. A good way to start the season.”
Helio Castroneves-#3 AAA/Turbo Team Penske Chevrolet
“Today was a good day. It was a little bit tough to recoup. We need to change the plan. We got boxed in and we got boxed in, Will (Power), people were shoving him in a way that was very difficult for us to get away. That was a shame on the start, but when we changed to Plan B we just decided to go for it. It paid off and it wasn’t a win but for us for the championship, it is good and right now we just have to keep going. We need to keep going and you have to put yourself out there that’s great and that is what we just did today.”
Scott Dixon-#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
“Today was a day of catch up, a big fumble at the start with Will (Power) and it backed the whole line up and we dropped to like sixth or seventh. I think at first I ran the blacks there was a real mismatched set for some reason and it had loads of understeer, I lost eight or more seconds on that one stint. Pulled Charlie (Kimball) back up and then the reds, got stuck behind him and had a fumble in the pits and it was just one of those days where the car was really fast. I think we had the speed to win the race quite happily but we were just playing catch up all day.”
James Hinchcliffe-#27 GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
“I wish I could have taken a nap, but these race cars are going around making all this noise. It’s really rude of them. (He stood up and stretched on Lap 75) Sitting in that one position. Normally you’re working in the car. (What happened with car?): “We got hit on Lap 1 and when we got the call for one to go (for the green flag) the wheel came off. I was hoping they were going to let us tow back and throw a new one on because nothing else was bent. But you dig yourself in a hole, qualify back there and these things happen. It’s a weekend to forget. We just have to come back stronger and get the GoDaddy car back on the podium.”
Tristan Vautier-#55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
“Today was a pretty tough race. I learned a lot and that’s good but really I was struggling with space and I asked my engineer for a little too many changes and wasn’t quite there on the pure speed. I made a few mistakes, three big mistakes that cost us a lot. I think next time I just need a better pace and to avoid those mistakes. It was definitely a good experience to finish the race and it shows you how hard it is to stay 100 percent for almost two hours. A big thanks to the team for a very good car all weekend. The race was not as good as we hoped but it’s good we went to the end and learned a lot for next time.”
|1. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|2. (4) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|3. (6) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|4. (5) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|5. (2) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|6. (13) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|7. (7) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|8. (8) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|9. (22) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|10. (3) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|11. (15) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|12. (16) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|13. (19) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|14. (12) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|15. (18) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|16. (23) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|17. (24) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|18. (14) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|19. (10) AJ Allmendinger, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|20. (9) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running|
|21. (21) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running|
|22. (26) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running|
|23. (11) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 86, Running|
|24. (25) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 65, Mechanical|
|25. (17) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 42, Mechanical|
|26. (20) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 3, Contact|
|Winners average speed: 110.818|
|Time of Race: 01:52:04.5450|
|Margin of victory: 0.6363|
|Cautions:1 for 4 laps|
|Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers|
|Hunter-Reay 1 – 26|
|Power 27 – 30|
|Hunter-Reay 31 – 42|
|Kimball 43 – 45|
|Power 46 – 50|
|Castroneves 51 – 75|
|Hunter-Reay 76 – 90|
|Point Standings: Castroneves 79, Dixon 70, Hunter-Reay 66, Andretti 61, Hinchcliffe 56, Kimball 51, Kanaan 49, Power 47, Wilson 46, Viso 44.|