|Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates his first IndyCar win|
The all American Kid, Ryan Hunter-Reay, took advantage of a spin by Scott Dixon that also took out Ryan Briscoe and then pulled away from Darren Manning and Tony Kanaan to win his first Indy Car race at Watkins Glen International Raceway.
Manning, who pitted on Lap 39, inherited the lead on Lap 42 when Briscoe and Dixon went to pit lane for their final stops. Briscoe, who led a race-high 37 laps, came out of the pits just behind Dixon, a three-time winner at Watkins Glen. Hunter-Reay was in fourth.
Hunter-Reay’s opportunity came on Lap 49 when Dixon spun while warming his tires under caution. Briscoe made contact with Dixon and both cars stalled in Turn 10 with Hunter-Reay narrowly missing the mayhem to move up to second place. Three laps later he drove inside Manning in Turn One and passed for the lead.
The final green flew on lap 54 of 60 and Hunter-Reay immediately passed then race leader Manning in Turn 1 and never looked back, pulling out to a 3 second lead and then easing off to win by 2.4 seconds at the flag.
The win was a long time coming and much deserved for both Hunter-Reay and the Rahal Letterman team who have not won since Buddy Rice won in Michigan in 2004. Rahal ran his first Atlantic race and F1 race at Watkins Glen so it was extra special for him.
Buddy Rice and Marco Andretti rounded out the top-5.
The race was marked by a number of incidences, three of which occurred under caution as driver after driver had brain fades and either crashed, spun, or took another driver out. This included Scott Dixon spinning under caution and Briscoe could not avoid hitting him, Milka Duno taking out AJ Foyt IV under caution, Enrique Bernoldi who crashed all by himself in Turn 1 and was sent to the hospital for lower back X-Rays, Jaime Camara all by himself in Turn 6, and Danica Patrick crashing on pitlane and almost taking out the entire Ganassi Racing crew.
The win could not have come at a better time for Hunter-Reay who will appear this week on a huge Izod billboard in Times Square in Manhattan by new personal sponsor for Ryan Hunter-Reay. It was going to say "I am Next" but we hear they will work overnight to change the wording to "I am Now."
The win was vindication for Hunter-Reay who had a raw deal with the Rocketsports Champ Car team.
"The Rocketsports deal was a nightmare from the first day I started there to the very last day. But a few weeks after that I was saying to myself, you know everything happens for a reason and I am going to learn from this and become stronger."
“This is big for momentum, and this is only going to be better as we go forward. I'm just so happy to give a win to some of these guys. Like Bobby Rahal said, these guys work so hard,” Hunter-Reay said. “It's unreal. These guys that are getting me spots on pit lane are the same guys that go back home and repair the cars. It's amazing how hard they work. To give them a win is huge, and to do it with Ethanol on the side of the car is awesome.”
We asked Hunter-Reay how he made the winning pass.
"I got a slightly better run than Manning did coming out of the last two corners then I just popped out from under him braking into Turn 1. From there I drove the wheels off the car to open a gap. Then I was able to back off the last two laps. It was at that point I was pretty sure I had it won."
Second place for Darren Manning was also an excellent result for the AJ Foyt team which has struggled a number of years.
Tony Kanaan was very happy to see all the cautions because he was in severe pain from his wrist that was injured in a morning warm-up accident. It was the same wrist he broke in Detroit during his CART days. He may have a hairline fracture but he will undergo further evaluation tomorrow.
Today's victory was the third of Ryan Hunter-Reay's major-league open-wheel career, the other two came while he was racing in Champ Car in 2003 and 2004. This was his first win since his record-setting victory from pole in Milwaukee in 2004.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, first): “It’s a dream come true - American kid winning with ethanol on the side of the car. It’s an American team – Bobby Rahal gave me the job and now we’re in victory circle. I can’t tell you how happy I am. This is amazing.” (On his pass for the lead) “I just got a good run on Darren (Manning), stuffed it down in there, and said I’ll deal with it when it happens. Then I got to the top of the hill, Darren popped to the outside so I stuck to the inside and we held on to it from there.” (On seeing Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe crash) “Dixon was warming the tires really hard. And I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to see if I can do it that hard.’ But I thought, ‘You know what, I might loop this thing doing it.’ Low and behold, a lap later there he goes. It was amazing. It was like the seas were parting. For all the bad luck that’s gone our way, for it to finally go our way a little bit, that’s huge. Great timing too.”Results
DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing, second): “(Ryan Hunter-Reay) was pretty fast. I think I was fast in the straightaways and he had a bit more downforce. Once we got settled in we were kind of doing the same pace, but I was kind of a sitting duck. I think he learned off of my restarts not to go too late and get one done early and go through the dirt that the guys had brought up a few laps earlier. But it’s good for us. It’s good for ABC Supply. We’ve been struggling the last couple races, and we know we’re always quick on these road courses, so it’s good there’s a few coming up.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, third): “It was a weird race. Sometimes it’s good to see another face in victory lane. I’m always happy to see someone who hasn’t won a race yet win, so congratulations to Ryan (Hunter-Reay). We did all we could. I have to thank my guys for putting my car back together after the suspension failure in warm-up. My wrist kind of gave up on me a little bit. I’m in a lot of pain right now, but we’ll be fine. It’s good to be in pain on the podium. We took what we got, and it was good for the championship, so we are getting closer now.”
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, fourth): “We had a good finish. It was great for Dreyer & Reinbold and the whole team. For us, we had a little mistake yesterday in qualifying and we didn’t get everything we wanted out of it, but we knew we had a fast car if we just could get to the front. Dennis (Reinbold) was good calling fuel strategy, and everything kind of played out and it was really good. Our car was really good on long runs. I don’t know if you’ve seen the last two (races), but we’ve had stuff fallen off the car, and I’ve screwed up. We’re just trying to wipe that out, get back in the points here and have a solid finish on the year. We’ve got a lot of things we’re trying to make happen here at Dreyer & Reinbold and really step up this program.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Oso*fresh, fifth): “It is very tough to pass here, but we were able to get around some guys on the restarts. Unfortunately two of them got called back. It’s really frustrating because track position is very difficult to get here. It was a race of attrition today, and that worked for us. There was a vibration in the left-rear the entire race that was caused from the contact with Dan (Wheldon) on the first lap, and I’m lucky that the oso*fresh car hung on. People were all over the place, blocking like crazy on the back stretch, but we played it right today and collected some valuable points.”
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 18 Z-Line Designs, sixth): “I'm very happy with a sixth-place finish today. We could have had a top-three finish today as we were running up there all race, but I short-shifted coming into Turn 1 on the second-to-last re-start and lost two positions. Because of all the cautions towards the end, I didn't have enough time to overtake Marco Andretti for fifth. The No. 18 Z-Line Designs car was great all weekend long. The team did a fantastic job. I love this track as it is a great course to drive on. I can't wait to go to Mid-Ohio in two weeks. It was nice to see my teammate Mario Moraes also have his best finish on the season.”
MARIO MORAES (No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, seventh): “It was a great day for the No. 19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q car. I'm happy we finished seventh today, but I think we could have been in the top three. On the first lap of the race I was able to overtake six cars and jump to seventh. We ran up in the top five at times, but we lost a couple spots during a pit stop, which I think kept us from a higher finish. The car was fast all weekend, and the team deserves credit for that. Hopefully we can get more top-10 finishes with four of the last seven races being on road or street courses.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps, eighth): “I am pretty happy with the way the race went. We progressed, and the guys stuck with it. We had a bit of a tough pit stop at the end, but we got past (Hideki) Mutoh and some other guys. The car was pretty good the last couple of stints. If we had started the weekend with this type of car, we would have been a lot more competitive. I’ve got to give it to the guys; they have stuck with me this weekend after my crash on Saturday. With John (Littlefield) and Dog (Tim Homburg) staying here until 3 a.m. last night, I’m sure all they want to do is just pass out now. I can’t thank them enough. We really need some testing. We need some time to work on getting up to speed. Hopefully before the Mid-Ohio race we can do some homework and come back with a better car there. Justin (Wilson) was obviously very competitive this weekend, and we tried to run his setup and our car was horrible . These guys are working hard. At the end of the day that is all we can do. We’ll just keep chipping away at it.”
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, ninth): “I was able to move up to the seventh position, so I wish I was able to finish at that position. Considering the fact I started from the 20th, I guess it is pretty good to finish ninth. It is always good to get points, and I enjoyed racing at the road course. I am glad I didn’t give up and kept trying to pass as many cars as possible.”
||Ryan Hunter-Reay (17)
||Darren Manning (14)
||Tony Kanaan (11)
||Buddy Rice (15)
||Marco Andretti (26)
||Bruno Junqueira (18)
||Mario Moraes (19)
||Graham Rahal (06)
||Hideki Mutoh (27)
||E.J. Viso (33)
||Scott Dixon (9)
||Ryan Briscoe (6)
||Mario Dominguez (96)
||Danica Patrick (7)
||Will Power (8)
||Helio Castroneves (3)
||Ed Carpenter (20)
||Jaime Camara (34)
||A.J. Foyt IV (2)
||Milka Duno (23)
||Enrique Bernoldi (36)
||Vitor Meira (4)
||Oriol Servia (5)
||Dan Wheldon (10)
||Justin Wilson (02)
||Jay Howard (24)
Winner's average speed: 106.403 mph
Time of race: 1:54:01.1795
Margin of victory: 2.4009 seconds
Cautions: 6 caution flags for 14 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers
Lap leaders: Briscoe 1-20, Meira 21-24, Briscoe 25-41, Manning
42-51, Hunter-Reay 52-60.
Point standings: Dixon 370, Castroneves 322, Wheldon 311,
Kanaan 304, Andretti 241, Mutoh 238, Patrick 236, Briscoe 231,
Hunter-Reay 220, Servia 206.