Hunter-Reay becomes seventh winner in 2008
Seven drivers representing five teams have claimed victories in the first 10 IndyCar Series races this season. Increased competition through additional cars entered week in and week out is one of the benefits being realized because of open-wheel racing unification.
|Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates|
"I don't think there's any question that the intensity level of this series has been ratcheted up," said Ryan Hunter-Reay, who recorded his first victory in the series and first for Rahal Letterman Racing since August 2004, in the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 6.
"So all of a sudden, now to qualify in the top 10 or 12 is a real accomplishment. That's what you want. Everything coming together, it's amazing how tight the competition is. I'm so happy it's this way."
Hunter-Reay overtook leader Darren Manning in Turn 1 with nine laps remaining on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen International circuit and held off challenges by Manning and Tony Kanaan after a final restart.
Competing in his 16th race, Hunter-Reay's previous best finish was sixth at Indianapolis this year, which earned the Chase Rookie of the Year award, and the same at Michigan last August. There have been signs of a breakthrough this season, including competing for second at Texas before a late-race incident.
"At the beginning of the year, (team co-owner) Bobby (Rahal) told me to go out there and make something of this," said Hunter-Reay, who collected his eighth top 10. "And to make something of building this team around myself and we all get along so great. It's really a special thing to be a part of. The fact that we've been building and get faster and faster and faster is a neat thing. And to finally win is huge."
The victory was eventful and special for Rahal, who competed in his first Formula One, Formula Atlantic and Can-Am races at The Glen.
"This is the crown jewel of American motorsports circuits," said Rahal, referring to the track that is celebrating its 60th anniversary. "So much history and so many great drivers have been here, and it is such a fantastic racing circuit, especially the long circuit.
"To win here, for us it has been a bit of a drought. Really what it boils down to is you have to have the right person in the driver's seat. And this guy, since the day he came on to the team and almost a year ago, he elevated the performance of the team immediately. We just got better and better."