Hunter-Reay Wins “Survivor” in New Hampshire
Dodging raindrops, other competitors and a final attempted re-start that race officials were forced to abort, after the fact, due to wet track conditions, Ryan Hunter-Reay emerged from a chaotic final lap to win Sunday’s MoveThatBlock.com 225 on the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway oval. It was Hunter-Reay’s first IZOD IndyCar Series victory of 2011 and his first oval triumph since Milwaukee, another one-mile oval, in 2004.
Although he ran in top six throughout the day, Hunter-Reay and the rest of the 26-car starting field raced in the shadow of pole qualifier Dario Franchitti, who dominated the first half of today’s scheduled 225-lap contest. Seeking his fifth win of the season, Franchitti led by as much as nine seconds at one point, but contact with second-place Takuma Sato on a Lap 118 restart – after a mid-race caution for light rain – sent Franchitti into the front-stretch wall and out of the race.
That turned the lead over to Will Power, Franchitti’s championship rival, who was running out of pit sequence on a gamble that rain would return before the scheduled 225-lap distance. But Power had to pit on Lap 178, relinquishing the lead over to Sato, also out of sequence after pitting and changing a flat right-front tire after his contact with Franchitti.
Sato had to pit on Lap 190, turning the lead over to Hunter-Reay, who previously had battled and passed the Newman Haas Racing duo of James Hinchcliffe and Oriol Servia. The rain returned and the caution flag flew on Lap 206 with Hunter-Reay at the front, followed by Servia and Scott Dixon. Race officials attempted a restart on Lap 216, but the track was too wet and the green flag only triggered multiple spins and contacts with the wall, with those involved including Sato, Will Power and Danica Patrick.
As a result, the red flag came out on Lap 220, and the finish was reverted by race officials to match the running order as of Lap 215, the final scored lap before the aborted restart. Hunter-Reay was credited with the victory, followed by Servia, Dixon, Hinchcliffe and Power.
Continuing a six-season tradition of equality and reliability, 27 Honda-powered drivers completed the race weekend on the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway, including a full day of pre-race practice on Thursday, without a single failure of the Honda Indy V-8 engine. The teams logged an impressive total of 12,856 trouble-free miles during the New Hampshire race weekend.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 5th, finished 1st, first victory of 2011, fifth career win, first oval victory since Milwaukee Champ Car event in 2004: “The total complexion of the race changed when Dario [Franchitti] and [Takuma] Sato got together. No one was going to touch Dario before that. In general, it was a blast to drive here. I love these short ovals. There was lots of action all day. At the last caution, I couldn’t even warm the tires [by moving side-to-side to build heat], it was so wet. Sure, I would have preferred to win in a different way, but we’ll absolutely take it.”
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 7th, finished 3rd, sixth podium finish this season: “It was just a bizarre day. If you looked at the [weather] forecast this morning, you couldn’t help but think ‘we won’t be racing here until Wednesday.’ But the fans come to see racing and I’m glad the officials did everything they could to get the race in, especially their efforts to dry the track [after the mid-race caution for rain]. I thought it was a ‘helluva’ race, there was tons of action and it feels like we ran 500 miles today. But they shouldn’t have called that last restart. It’s good to see everyone so fired up now!”
Oriol Servia (#2 Newman Haas Racing Honda) started 2nd, finished 2nd, best finish of 2011: “I also think it was a good show. If was full of action, lots of lapped traffic and everyone taking runs at everyone else. I’m just sorry it was a sour ending. It’s tough for the officials, too. They wanted to end under green if at all possible. It was a difficult call.”
Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: “I guess it’s appropriate that we had a bit of a ‘Saturday night short track’ finish to our final short oval of 2011. Congratulations to Ryan Hunter-Reay and all of Andretti Autosport for their third win this season, all with different drivers. And it was good to see the two Newman Haas Racing entries, Oriol and James [Hinchcliffe], give that team its best results of the year. The finish certainly shook up the championship. And it was great to return to New Hampshire, where Honda recorded its first Indy car race win with Andre Ribeiro back in 1995.”