Hunter-Reay wins IndyCar race in Iowa
NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Ryan Hunter-Reay blew past the field with two laps to go and won the IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday for his first victory since the Indianapolis 500.
It was the fifth straight win in Iowa for Andretti Autosport, and the second in three years for Hunter-Reay.
Hunter-Reay hadn’t led a lap since Indianapolis, and he spent most of Saturday’s race far from contention. But he got new tires on a late pit stop and stormed past Tony Kanaan for his third victory in 2014. Kanaan led 247 of the 300 laps at Iowa’s .875-mile oval.
“That was crazy. We took the tires as a big gamble,” said Hunter-Reay, who jumped from fifth to third in the IndyCar standings by passing nine cars in nine laps. “That was fun. It was like a video game at the end. We had a tough day, but you have to keep your head in it.”
Josef Newgarden finished second, followed by Target Chip Ganassi teammates Kanaan and Scott Dixon. Ed Carpenter was fifth.
Helio Castroneves finished eighth, taking sole possession of the series points lead.
Kanaan started on the front row with Dixon, the pole sitter, following promising qualifying sessions for a team that has struggled all year, but had to settle for a fifth straight podium finish at Iowa, even though he had the dominant car of the weekend.
“What can I say? We had a good day,” Kanaan said. “To lead 247 laps out of 300, I think we showed them what we had. At the end, sometimes strategies and gambles play out. We dominated the last two races. For one reason or another, we didn’t win.”
Down the stretch, the only question was which of the Ganassi drivers would break a season-long drought, but no one saw Hunter-Reay coming.
Hunter-Reay surprised the field following the night’s last caution, snapping a miserable six-race stretch for one of the top drivers in the series.
It was just like warp speed. Cars are just flying by, one after the other,” Hunter-Reay said. “At first you see 10 cars in front of you. Then you see eight. Then you see four. Then you see Tony.”
Once again, Team Penske walked away from Iowa’s .875-mile bull ring empty-handed.
Penske entered the weekend with three of the series’ top four drivers; Castroneves, Will Power and the surging Juan Pablo Montoya. But Penske had struck out in each of its previous seven trips to Iowa — and Power (ninth) and Montoya (19th) started from less than optimal positions.
Power finished 14th. Montoya slammed into a wall after an incident with Ed Carpenter and failed to finish the race for the first time this season. IndyCar reviewed the sequence and took no action, but Carpenter apologized after dooming Montoya to a 16th-place finish.
“My spotter was trying to tell me he was there but it was too late,” Carpenter said. “I definitely wouldn’t appreciate that if I was on the other end of it. But at the same time it wasn’t intentional.”
The start of the race was moved up 30 minutes to avoid storms that peppered much of Iowa on Saturday night, but it was red-flagged after just 39 laps because of light rain. It was the first time that rain forced a red flag at an IndyCar race since Sao Paulo in 2011.
Takuma Sato and Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin then got tangled up for the second time in three weeks. Both were checked, cleared and released from the infield care center.
Sebastian Bourdais’s night was ruined by an electrical issue midway through the race.
Sebastian Saavedra, who has one top-10 this season, was running third and tracking down Kanaan and Castroneves when he slid high and hit the wall. He finished 17th.