WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) continued its march to the sharp end of the IndyCar Series grid on a sunny Watkins Glen Saturday as the Texas-born driver set a new personal best for his time in the IndyCar Series by qualifying third for Sunday's Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen.
Hunter-Reay snapped off a best lap of 1:29.355 (135.348 mph) during the Firestone Fast Six qualifying round at the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen road course to vault past three-time defending Watkins Glen winner Scott Dixon to take the third spot, his best grid position since joining the IndyCar Series a year ago.
"We changed the car a lot overnight and it was a massive improvement over yesterday. This team is resilient and we keep making our car better," said Hunter-Reay, who also helped clothing manufacturer IZOD kick off its IndyCar sponsorship this weekend at the track. "It's a great first weekend for my affiliation with IZOD. I'm an American kid driving for an American brand with Ethanol on the side of my car on the Fourth of July. It doesn't get much better than that."
Getting into the Firestone Fast Six for the third consecutive IndyCar road race wasn't easy for the Rahal Letterman Racing squad, but as the sessions went on, the #17 Ethanol machine got better.
Hunter-Reay spun and nearly backed into the Turn Seven wall in the first session, but recovered and moved into the second part of the qualifying event. With eight minutes to run in the second session, from which the first six on the speed sheets move on to the Firestone Fast Six, Hunter-Reay was sitting in seventh and out of the final transfer spot. But Will Power's crash moved Hunter-Reay to sixth as Power's time was taken off the board, and when no one could top Hunter-Reay's time of 1:29.9757 on their one and only lap after the restart, the team and its driver were on to the next round - marking the third consecutive event that Hunter-Reay has made the Firestone Fast Six.
In the Firestone Fast Six, Hunter-Reay used three strong laps at the end to slowly advance up the ladder, moving from sixth to fourth to third with his final flying lap. His spot on the inside of the second row has him alongside Dixon and directly behind polesitter Ryan Briscoe. The result also means that Hunter-Reay has qualified in the top 10 in every IndyCar Series road or street event that he has competed in.
"I am really proud of Ryan, he did a fabulous job today. He really drove the wheels off the thing," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "I think today's result is a bit of a vindication for our team and shows that the changes we made at the beginning of the year with the engineering program and promoting Neil Fife to Chief Engineer, has paid off for us. This team has a great passion to win and Ryan gives us that chance with what he does in the car."