Ryan Hunter-Reay won for a league-leading fourth time this season as he drove the No. 28 DHL / Sun Drop Chevy to a victory in the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Hunter-Reay is now 17 points behind leader Will Power going into the season finale, a 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Hunter-Reay starting in the 10th position, and took full advantage of a strategic call by team owner Michael Andretti to stay out on slick tires when others pitted for rain tires when a light rain fell during an early caution period. Hunter-Reay managed to stay in front as the track eventually dried, leading 13 laps overall and taking the lead for good on a lap 69 (of 75) restart.
"What a day for Andretti Autosport. You know, it's an Andretti Sports Marketing event, and we needed to do it (win) now... We needed to do it and we need to do it at Fontana. I'm sure I'll have a great car there."
About taking the lead without rain tires on a wet track: "I can't really describe how nerve-wracking it is when it rains on a street circuit and you're on slicks and you know the championship is on the line and you know if you get through it you're going to have a great race. Unbelievable emotions in the car, trying to tip-toe through some of those corners.
These cars are very stiffly sprung and they're 700 horsepower and putting that down on a city street when it's wet is one of the toughest things in racing. I'm just glad I got through that. It was very nerve-wracking. I enjoy racing in the wet, but I prefer rain tires when it's wet.
We thought it was just going to sprinkle, and we went through a bit of a wet track, and hoped that that sprinkle would end. You know, we never came in for rain tires, and it was absolutely critical to our win today.
"You never like being out there on slicks - that's not a nice feeling, especially the fast, fourth-gear Turn 11... man, that was crazy! (Team owner and strategist Michael Andretti) said let's just see what happens - he said to me, 'we're going for the championship, you know, and we're gonna do it. Let 's do it.
Coming in fourth or fifth isn't going to do anything for us.' I look up to that. That's a pretty great move and it worked out. I had to keep the thing off the walls while it was drying and then when it started drying I had a big smile on my face for sure."
About his DHL / Sun Drop No. 28 team: "I really believe in what these guys can do and... it was an amazing day. Couldn't write the script any better."
About narrowing the championship chase with one race remaining : "I kind of learned a little bit about myself, because the championship's on the line today and that's the only thing I really focused on. I'm fixated on winning. I mean, this is all I've worked for my entire life and to come this close...
I haven't been nervous at all or anything. I've been enjoying it and driving 110% and really getting along with the car. I feel like I'm in rhythm with the car, so hopefully we'll have that at Fontana too. I'm enjoying it. I'm glad I don't feel really nervous between races or on the race weekends. I haven't had any of that. Keeping it light and fun."
"I'm certainly very thankful for all of the opportunities I've had in my life and in racing. I've been able to drive a lot of different race cars and I think all things happen for a reason. If you keep working for something, it's going to come good if you believe in it, most of all. That's how I've gone about it. The period from the end of '05 through the middle of '07 there (when Hunter-Reay was without a ride), those were the longest days of my life... not having a ride, not having anything.
That was long time period. I just kept my face at the racetrack and kept the faith it would work out. Just like life, the more you put in, the more you get out. That makes me really appreciate, it just means that much more. I have a beautiful IndyCar sitting there waiting for me and it's my job to drive it. I mean, how cool is that? It's awesome. Awesome. Couldn't think of anything better."
Marco Andretti, Team Dr Pepper TEN Chevrolet, No. 26
Marco Andretti slid into the turn one tire barrier on a wet track on lap 20, which cost him a lap to the leaders. Falling to 24th place, Andretti fought hard to recover for a 14th-place finish in the Dr Pepper TEN special paint scheme.
"It was a war zone out there today and I messed up and put the car in the wall, which sealed my fate for the afternoon. We ended up driving an ill car for the rest of the day. I had a piece of carbon fiber fly up and hit my helmet which took a big gash out of it, and we broke two front wings. I would like to thank all of my sponsors and crew guys for all their hard work this weekend."
James Hinchcliffe, Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, No. 27
Starting from the sixth spot, Hinchcliffe led two laps and ran second behind teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay on slick tires while many others stopped for rain tires. Hinchcliffe slid into the wall on lap 37, but was able to make it to the pits for repairs. He finished the race in the 15th position.
"Today was a clinic in what not to do. Pretty ashamed of the whole deal, it's just not what the Go Daddy team is capable of. We will bounce back in Fontana. I'm super happy for Ryan (Hunter-Reay). He drove a blinder and after all the bad luck he has been through this season, he deserves this title. We will go to Fontana and do everything we can to help him win."
Source: Andretti Autosport