Game-changing win has Hunter-Reay thinking title
The 3½-foot tall green ethanol pump trophy caught the attention of Ryan Hunter-Reay a few years ago at Iowa Speedway.
"I think it's the coolest thing. It's got a plug in the back and it lights up," said the driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car, who late June 23 prevailed in the entertaining Iowa Corn Indy 250 on the .894-mile racetrack to become the first driver with consecutive oval victories since Helio Castroneves in 2010. "I've wanted that trophy for a long time."
Nothing against the understated Milwaukee IndyFest first-place trophy, which tangibly represents Hunter-Reay's and Andretti Autosport's resurgence in a season with the new car-engine package, but his wife, Beccy, will be seeking that "perfect place for it" in their Fort Lauderdale, Fla., residence.
"It's going front and center," he noted.
The feat has sliced Hunter-Reay's deficit to IZOD IndyCar Series championship front-runner Will Power from 75 points to three entering the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8 (side note: That's the same day Beccy will drive an electric Mitsubishi in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, so there might be another trophy to display in their home).
"Two in a row, that's a game-changer," said Hunter-Reay, who vaulted to second in the overall standings and is tied with Tony Kanaan for first for the A.J. Foyt Trophy that is presented to the driver with the most points in oval races.
"It all comes down to consistency, and that's how championships are won. We have to go week in and week out and be consistently strong and be within the top 5. Certainly the Penske team will and the Ganassi guys, and also some wild cards will show up on a lot of these street and road courses. So we have to be good there.
"But we do have (Auto Club Speedway) on the schedule and our cars have been really good on the ovals, even the big ones. We just have to be consistent."
Hunter-Reay has two finishes outside the top 10 through nine events (both mechanical issues), and his rise in the championship hunt the past two weeks with 102 total points has paralleled Power's slide (30 points scored on 12th- and 23rd-place finishes; the latter because of contact). Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is 15 points out of the lead, and Team Penske's Helio Castroneves is 25 points back.
"There's still a long, long way to go," Hunter-Reay cautioned. "I for sure don't feel like I'm almost there so to speak. I have the same feeling I had after I left Milwaukee: This is not good enough. We need to dig deeper and that's what we need to do for sure."