NEWTON, Iowa – It was a return to normalcy for Ryan Hunter-Reay.
After starting 15th, the Andretti Autosport driver drove through the field to finish third in Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.
It’s been a challenging season for the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. Sunday’s result was just his third top-10 finish of the year and first podium since the INDYCAR Grand Prix in early May. With several issues plaguing potential wins and other positive runs during the first 10 races, the Iowa outcome brought more relief than anything at a track where he now owns five podiums in 10 career starts – including three wins.
“It is nice,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda. “It’s rewarding, especially after all the misfortune we’ve had. It’s been one of those seasons where we just can’t seem to get a break.
“I don’t need good luck, I don’t need bad luck. I just want none at all. I just want no variables to come into play that are outside of our control, and that’s what we had today, so it was nice to finish on the podium. It’s nice to be on the podium here after such a hard year last year.”
The 36-year-old Floridian admitted he had concerns of a repeat performance of last year, when he finished 22nd at Iowa.
“When we showed up here this weekend, like last year, we had a really ill-handling car,” Hunter-Reay said. “Felt like it just always wanted to turn around, get into the wall. Within an hour and a half of the practice time that we had, we made some good changes to it, especially in the warmup. And we made the right changes going into the race. So, credit to the engineering team of the (No.) 28 car. We definitely got a good setup on it.”
It showed. Hunter-Reay methodically climbed up the scoring pylon, moving into the top 10 by Lap 20 and cracking the top five on Lap 96. He made it to third place for the first time on Lap 185 and only dropped below there briefly as the last round of pit stops cycled through in the 300-lap race.
“We spent the whole race catching up on front wing,” Hunter-Reay said. “Had too little front wing in it, which is kind of a byproduct of searching around for setups to land on. These cars are so sensitive here. You can dial the car out so easily. You can miss the setup by just a little bit and be way off the pace.
“I was very thankful. Especially after last year where I was a fish out of water at a track that I absolutely love, this was nice to be back in the rhythm and going from 15th to third.”
Hunter-Reay made his final stop for fresh tires and fuel on Lap 253, the same lap as eventual winner Helio Castroneves. He doesn’t think stopping sooner would have helped him challenge Castroneves for the win.
“It’s tough to say,” said Hunter-Reay. “They seemed like they had too much straight-line speed. I was flat out and he was driving away from me, so I don't think so. I think it was their race this weekend.
“But it was good to get by Will (Power) there on the strategy. We pitted when Helio did, a lap earlier than Will, I think, and ended up getting by him. It was tough out there. With the track temp as high as it is being a day race, once you get to about 30 or 35 laps on tires, it's like running on an ice skating rink with sneakers on. You want your own piece of real estate, and it becomes very difficult, especially at the end.”
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