Homestead: AJ Foyt Racing race report

HOMESTEAD, FL Oct. 10, 2009--Ryan Hunter-Reay closed out the 2009 season in the No. 14 ABC Supply car with a 13th place finish in the Homestead-Miami Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday evening. Hunter-Reay finished 15th in the Series ...

HOMESTEAD, FL Oct. 10, 2009--Ryan Hunter-Reay closed out the 2009 season in the No. 14 ABC Supply car with a 13th place finish in the Homestead-Miami Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday evening. Hunter-Reay finished 15th in the Series point standings while the ABC Supply team finished 16th in the final tally for the team owners.

Dario Franchitti used fuel strategy to win the race and the IndyCar Series title; it was his second career championship, with his first coming in 2007 with Andretti-Green Racing. Scott Dixon, his teammate and 2008 Series champion, finished third. However, Dixon edged out race runner-up Ryan Briscoe by one point to finish second in the Series point standings, giving the Target team a one-two sweep. Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five in the race.

On Friday, Hunter-Reay qualified 21st for the race; he had lost valuable track time in the first practice session when debris knocked a hole in the No. 14's radiator. The team repaired the car but with the limited practice, they didn't find the right combination in time for qualifying.

In the race, Hunter-Reay gained a couple spots in the beginning but as the stint went on and the tires wore, he radioed in that he was getting a push exiting turn four. He held his 19th place position until the first stop and the crew made adjustments with front wings and air pressures. His lap times improved, but towards the end of the stint, he slowed as the car's handling went away; the team pitted him a couple laps early to make more adjustments. They got the car to his liking in the final two stints which is when he ran his quickest laps of the race.

"We made some changes during the race and found the sweet spot on the last stint," said Hunter-Reay afterwards. "I wish we could have started out that way. The ABC Supply guys did a great job for me--we had solid stops. The track conditions were pretty tough out there so I'm glad we're rolling it back in the truck."

The race was the first in Series' history to run caution-free which made it tough for the drivers in the 100 degree heat. No cautions meant no time to relax as it was 'pedal to the metal' for the entire race, which, with an average speed of 201.420 mph, was the second fastest race in IndyCar Series history. Only the 2003 race at California Speedway's two-mile oval had a faster average speed -- 207 mph. That 400-mile race was slowed by only one caution period for six laps.

Hunter-Reay, who ran the Grand Am sports car race earlier in the afternoon where he'd run as high as second, became the first driver to run both the road course and the oval tracks in the same day. Despite the sweltering conditions, when asked how he felt after the IndyCar race, he replied, "Fresh as a daisy! I feel good right now."

The 2010 season will kick off in Brazil on Sunday, March 14th at a venue still to be determined.

-credit: ajfr

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Series INDYCAR