DESPITE ENGINE WOES, MID-RACE HELMET CHANGE AND FLYING CARS RHR DELIVERS SIXTH PLACE FINISH BROOKLYN, Mich. - Sometimes, racing is easy. Some days, you show up at the track, your car is a rocketship, every stop goes smoothly and no one has...
DESPITE ENGINE WOES, MID-RACE HELMET CHANGE AND FLYING CARS RHR DELIVERS SIXTH PLACE FINISH
BROOKLYN, Mich. - Sometimes, racing is easy. Some days, you show up at the track, your car is a rocketship, every stop goes smoothly and no one has any answers as to how to stop you.
Sunday's rain-delayed IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway wasn't one of those days.
But the Rahal Letterman Racing team showed why it is one of the most successful open-wheel racing teams of the last two decades, using a myriad of strategies and powering through some of the stranger problems of the last two years to score another top ten finish with rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) who set a new personal IndyCar best by coming home in the sixth spot.
The Team Ethanol car had some interesting moments in the pits today, whether it was Hunter-Reay's team resorting to a rare ride height adjustment or actually changing Ryan's helmet during a mid-race stop. The team answered the bell each and every time a problem presented itself and kept the Team Ethanol car in the hunt. The efforts paid off as only eight cars were left running at the end of the 200-lap race as a couple of major accidents eliminated more than half of the field. The wrecks set the stage for a furious final stint where the Floridian earned his second top ten result in as many races
Hunter-Reay needed to change his helmet within a few laps, as a visor strip pack had malfunctioned leaving Ryan with a sand blasted visor that made it difficult to see. The team used a yellow-flag pit stop at the half-way point to make the helmet change, not only replacing the helmet, but then making sure the radio, drink bottle, HANS device, and seat belts were all plugged in and working before sending him back on track. The team completed the tricky task without losing a lap, which ended up playing a key role in the sixth-place finish.
"We soldiered through 400 miles and brought home a sixth place finish for Team Ethanol" said Hunter-Reay. "Initially my focus was to work into a rhythm that would keep us on the lead lap. Our car just wasn't fast enough to move us through the pack".
"I want to make one thing clear: these cars, at least ours today, are anything but easy to hold onto flat in traffic," Hunter-Reay continues. "In fact, they move around a lot. When the car breaks loose at 220 MPH with cars on both sides of you as you're running three wide, it's quite a feeling. Unfortunately, we had a problem with my visor tear-offs. I lost all of them within a few laps and my visor was completely sand blasted.as if there was a layer of frost over my shield, and I could hardly see. The first two caution periods were not long enough to allow a helmet change but the third for Castroneves and Meira's crash was and I can't say enough about how the team dealt with it".
From there we were competitive for a bit, I made passes, moved up through the pack and by lap 90 or so, we were up into 9th place under green flag conditions. Unfortunately, at that point we started to experience electrical/engine problems that forced us down into 5th gear, then into 4th gear. We were almost five miles per hour off the pace of the leaders. It's a shame because we were sitting second on the final restart and the Rahal Lettermen Racing engineers dialed in a good set-up and balance on the car, even lowering the ride height on one stop, and I know we could have been up there fighting for a podium if we would have had the horsepower."
"I'm extremely relieved to hear that the drivers involved in the 'Big One' are all OK" said Hunter-Reay. "That wreck came as no surprise to me; it was only a matter of time. I was not impressed at all with some of the driving going on out there today. A few of those guys need to get their heads examined."
Hunter-Reay concluded, "We survived a survival race today. Finishing and building for the future is our main goal. We need to work hard to improve our pace for next weekend's race in Kentucky."