Team Penske has had a stranglehold on Barber Motorsports Park.
Until Sunday, they’d won every pole award and race all four years around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course just east of Birmingham, Alabama.
This weekend that ended as momentum shifted towards Andretti Autosport.
Ryan Hunter-Reay earned his first career top 10 start at Barber with earning the pole on Saturday afternoon. The defending series champ backed that up with his first win of the season with taking the checkered flag in today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Hunter-Reay led three times for 53 Laps in the 90 Lap event, including the winning move past Helio Castroneves within the final 20 laps.
His No. 1 DHL Chevrolet was the dominant car all day as he moved from 18th in the standings to third after today heading to Long Beach in two weeks.
“I was driving my tail off trying to stay in front of Dixon,” said Hunter-Reay, who rebounded from an 18th-place finish in the season opener at St. Petersburg on March 24.
His team owner Michael Andretti said, “It really was a perfect weekend. We got the pole in both races and the win both races and led most of the laps, you can’t ask for much more than that. I’m really happy and proud of the whole DHL crew. They did a great job all weekend, and the whole Andretti team and it was really good. We knew we had to get it done because we had the reds and Helio had the blacks, and that’s how Helio was able to get us, so we had to try to return the favor.”
Scott Dixon came home second for the fourth consecutive year around the 17-turn road course. He had a very good car all day but once again came home bridesmaid. After finishing fifth in St. Pete and second today Dixon moved up to second in the season standings nine points out of the lead.
He said he was playing from behind all day. “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.”
Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion and inaugural Barber champion Castroneves rounded out the podium today as he used some bad luck for James Hinchcliffe to take over the points lead. Castroneves, led 25 Laps towards the end of the race with a great pit strategy but was passed by the faster Hunter-Reay with 17 Laps to go.
Dark horse Charlie Kimball came home fourth today after having one of the best cars he’s ever had. Kimball, who started fifth today, battled with cars all day and came home with his second best Izod IndyCar Series finish. He now sits a career-best sixth in the standings and only 28 points behind Castroneves for the points lead.
Two-time defending champion Will Power came home fifth as he struggled in traffic all day.
“It was a tough start for us, we couldn’t get in the right slot and then committed to a different strategy to hopefully get the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on the podium. We thought we had a good plan and just needed a yellow at any point after Lap 31. Unfortunately it didn’t come and we fought for the fifth place finish. It isn’t exactly what we wanted to get out of the weekend but is still a good points day and gets us closer to the top.”
After starting on the front row, Power was bumrushed on the get go and fell six spots on the start. He took over the lead in the early stages as he stayed out longer than everyone else before pitting on Lap 30. He was off sequence the rest of the day and never got the caution he needed.
Speaking of cautions, there was only one on the day. It was brought out on the first lap when Oriol Servia and Graham Rahal made contact between Turns 7 and 8. Both drivers would resume but the race would never be stopped again after they went back green on Lap 6.
Unfortunately, the winner of the season opener Hinchcliffe was caught up in that incident and suffered severe left rear damage. He stalled in Turn 3 and was towed off. The safety crew couldn’t tow him back until the next stoppage. Since that didn’t occur, he would wind up dead last in 26th place.
“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.”
The series heads to Long Beach in two weeks as everyone will now try and catch Castroneves.
Today’s Finishing Order:
1. 1 Ryan Hunter-Reay
2. 9 Scott Dixon
3. 3 Helio Castroneves
4. 83 Charlie Kimball
5. 12 Will Power
6. 77 Simon Pagenaud
7. 25 Marco Andretti
8. 19 Justin Wilson
9. 67 Josef Newgarden
10. 55 Tristian Vautier R
11. 98 Alex Tagliani
12. 15 Graham Rahal
13. 7 Sebastien Bourdais
14. 5 E.J. Viso
15. 11 Tony Kanaan
16. 22 Oriol Servia
17. 14 Takuma Sato
18. 4 J.R. Hildebrand
19. 78 Simona de Silvestro
20. 2 A.J. Allmendinger
21. 6 Sebastian Saveedra
22. 20 Ed Carpenter -1 Lap
23. 16 James Jakes -4 Laps
24. 18 Ana Beatriz OUT
25. 10 Dario Franchitti OUT
26. 27 James Hinchcliffe OUT
Follow Eric Smith on Twitter @ericsportsguru for All IndyCar News and Stories
The post IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay ends Penske’s stranglehold at Barber appeared first on Race Review Online.