Kentucky: Rahal Letterman Racing race report

RYAN HUNTER-REAY AND RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SCORE THIRD STRAIGHT TOP-10 RESULT SPARTA, Kentucky - I get knocked down/Get right back up again/Cause I never give up and I never give in - Rainbow Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...

RYAN HUNTER-REAY AND RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SCORE THIRD STRAIGHT TOP-10 RESULT

SPARTA, Kentucky - I get knocked down/Get right back up again/Cause I never give up and I never give in - Rainbow

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Rahal Letterman Racing had a rollercoaster outing on a day when a car going kiddie-ride speed almost stole the show, but Hunter-Reay kept digging through a pair of mid-race problems to finish ninth in today's Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

Hunter-Reay started 14th in the Ethanol car but immediately showed that he was stronger than his qualifying result indicated. He stormed from 14th to ninth by Lap 43, passing Oriol Servia, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and A.J. Foyt IV before the field made its first pit stop. He was eighth when he fell victim to a pit-road spin while trying to merge into heavy traffic, battled all the way back to make a play for fifth before being pushed into the marbles by the car he was looking to pass, then rebounded and snared his third consecutive top-10 finish, marking the first time in since 2004 that Hunter-Reay has scored three straight top-10 results.

"It was a crazy day," sighed Hunter-Reay. "We moved up through the field pretty well once I settled into a rhythm and we really had one of the better cars out there. We didn't get the finish we wanted, but it keeps us in the top 10 in points and you can't afford to lose any ground if you want to stay in that pack."

Hunter-Reay's ninth-place finish bumped him into a three-way tie for eighth in the standings with Servia and Hideki Mutoh with the trio just 13 points behind seventh-placed Marco Andretti.

Hunter-Reay was running eighth on Lap 81 of the 200-lap affair when he joined the field to pit for the second caution period of the day. He got four fresh Firestones and a thankful of Ethanol and rejoined the fight, trying to get to the outside lane of Pit Road to beat Buddy Rice back to the track. He nearly made contact with Rice, so he lifted the throttle to avoid contact and spun lazily at the end of the pits. Crew members from Marlboro Team Penske helped the RLR guys turn Ryan around, who roared back into the fray in 13th.

He battled back hard to get to ninth in just 50 laps, gaining two spots on his next service stop with lightning work by the RLR crew. He passed Ryan Briscoe for seventh and Ed Carpenter for sixth before coming upon Kanaan and Dan Whelson fighting for fifth with just 25 laps of the 1.5-mile oval left to circumnavigate.

"I don't know what happened with Kanaan, he usually doesn't do things like that out there," Hunter-Reay reported. "But he pushed me up, I had to lift to save the car from hitting the wall and I lost three spots."

"I thought Ryan did a great job today and anytime you are up front with the top teams like we were, you're doing something well," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "Little things are getting in the way like the spin, but Ryan kept fighting and that's what you have to do. The crew did a good job and we'll go at it in Sonoma."

Hunter-Reay and RLR will have the next week off before heading to Sonoma's Infineon Raceway August 22 -24. Sunday's race at the California road course will take place at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on ESPN2.

-credit: rlr

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Series INDYCAR