TOP-10 FINISH IN CHICAGO SEALS EIGHTH PLACE IN THE SEASON STANDINGS FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN CHICAGO - Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...
TOP-10 FINISH IN CHICAGO SEALS EIGHTH PLACE IN THE SEASON STANDINGS FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN
CHICAGO - Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Rahal Letterman Racing didn't have a whole lot to be optimistic about, starting 16th on a cloudy Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway for the IndyCar Series season finale.
But as it has done for most of the year, the RLR squad carved its way through the field with Hunter-Reay passing nine cars in the first dozen laps to move up to the seventh spot. On a day when the racing was so tight you couldn't shine a flashlight between the first five cars for the last 80 laps, Hunter-Reay was as high as sixth before troubles on a late restart relegated him to ninth.
The finish was the 10th top-ten result for Rahal Letterman Racing and Hunter-Reay on the season, and solidified an eighth-place finish in the final season point standings for the Ohio-based squad.
"Naturally we are disappointed to finish where we did since we had run so well to get into the lead pack," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "We're not sure what happened to the car on the last restart that cost us some spots, but we are pleased with another top-10 finish. Ryan drove a hard race today and continued to show that we have a lot to work with for next year. This team made great strides this year and we are excited for 2009."
It was a true rollercoaster race for Hunter-Reay, who started 16th, was seventh after 12 laps, but plummeted back to 17th by Lap 66 when a wing-angle change made on the first pit stop didn't agree with the race car. The crew made the necessary adjustments on a Lap 77 pit stop brought on by a Vitor Meira crash, allowing Hunter-Reay to get back to work in making up lost ground.
He restarted 11th after Sarah Fisher spun in Turn Four on Lap 116 and within six laps of the restart was eighth after passing Mario Moraes, Justin Wilson and E.J. Viso. The Venezuelan Viso crashed his car seven laps later, and Hunter-Reay restarted 10th after the caution as Milka Duno stayed out to lead the race and Marco Andretti made up a spot on the #17 car in Pit Lane.
Undaunted, Hunter-Reay passed four cars in the next 28 trips around the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway oval to move into sixth before Moraes' Lap 182 spin brought out the caution. Sixth on the restart, Hunter-Reay lost grip in Turn One on the green-flag lap and lost three spots in gathering the car back up. He lost a position to Andretti on the last lap as the third-generation driver moved around him to the outside in a pass that would end up putting him one position ahead of the #17 car not only on today's standings, but also in the final ledger as finishing ahead of Andretti would have given the team the seventh spot in the standings.
"We lost a spot in the points on the last lap and that hurts, but we have a lot of things we can build on for next year," Hunter-Reay said. "We were up and down the whole day and it was tough to find the sweet spot with so many different guys running up front. But the guys kept fighting and we finished in the top-10 for the year, which was a goal coming into the year."
Hunter-Reay's finish secured a top-10 berth for RLR, continuing a streak that has seen the team wind up the season in the top-10 in the final points in every season since joining the IndyCar Series in 2003.