Allan Brewer, IndyCar Correspondent
Hunter-Reay named winner after IndyCar officiating stumbles in New Hampshire crash-fest
They call it the 'Magic Mile' and Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosports pulled a rabbit out of his helmet at New Hampshire Speedway on Sunday to win the Indy 225 at Loudon, New Hampshire for his second win with Michael Andretti’s team.
Newman/Haas Racing's Oriol Servia was second and Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon ended in third; but it was IndyCar Series chief official Brian Barnhart who drew the attention at day's end for a controversial rain-on-the-racetrack restart that brought the competition to a red-flag closure ten laps short of its scheduled 225-lap end.
I couldn't even warm the tires it was so wet.
Drivers and team owners were hot and heated in their criticism of Barnhart, who called for a race restart while the one-mile oval was still wet with rain-water on Lap 217. The result was a huge multi-car collision that began with Danica Patrick sliding sideways across the middle of the field and ended with carnage that left championship points contenders and angry owners alike absolutely livid at race control.
"It was a strange day, but sometimes racing is strange," said Hunter-Reay, who picked up his third IndyCar career victory after yielding the lead to Servia and dropping to third behind Dixon on the controversial restart. "I couldn't even warm the tires it was so wet. Bad move on race control's part."
"It was way wetter on the final restart than when they slowed the race for rain earlier!" exclaimed team owner Andretti. "It was bound to be mayhem. How can they do this? It's very irresponsible…the worst officiating I have ever seen."
IndyCar Series officials were left to explain themselves in the worst possible light: how they had put the results of the race into the shadows and put themselves into the spotlight as the story on this day.
"It was a mistake on race control's position," Barnhart said. "We ended up tearing up some race cars that we shouldn't have."
"It was bad to have such a sour ending on what could have been a great day," said Servia from the pressroom. Servia continued to maintain in the post-race interview that he actually had won the race on the aborted restart.
"It was way too wet," said Dixon of the conditions that began the cascade of calamity on Sunday. "They should never have restarted the race."
James Hinchcliffe of Newman/Haas Racing finished a career-best fourth, Team Penske's Will Power was classified fifth and Patrick was awarded sixth place in an assigned-order finish that reverted to the race laps prior to the calamitous restart.
"It should never have happened. We all were on the radio begging Barnhart not to restart this race. We were pleading with him not to start," said Power.
"I was shocked," said Patrick afterwards of the call to go green with the surface still wet. "I got on the throttle and the car just came right around. I apologized to the guys behind me, there was nothing I could do."
“There was too much moisture on the track for a restart," said Formula 1 veteran and KV Racing Lotus driver Takuma Sato who finished in seventh. "It was an accordion effect and everybody was punching into one another out there."
Penske's Ryan Briscoe was eighth, and Ganassi Racing's Charlie Kimball was awarded ninth. AJ Foyt Racing's Vitor Meira officially placed tenth, followed by Sarah Fisher Racing's Ed Carpenter and KV Racing Lotus' EJ Viso.
The rain played a role in the outcome starting on Lap 79 when the first wet-weather yellow flag of the day flew for an extended period as the cars circulated the track behind the pace car to keep the groove dry.
On the lap 105 restart then-leader Dario Franchitti of Ganassi Racing led a hard-charging Sato, who had moved ahead of Servia into second, with Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe in fourth and fifth positions.
Tomas Scheckter, Marco Andretti and KV Racing Lotus driver Tony Kanaan collided on lap 110 bringing the yellow back over the field. No driver was seriously injured in the fracas which left the No. 82 Lotus inverted in the tire barrier with heavy damage to the right rear, and Kanaan furious on the sidelines afterwards.
"Somebody should ask Marco what the hell he was doing," said Kanaan of the move he felt started the chain-reaction that ended his race day.
Pole-sitter Franchitti crashed on Lap 118 when he made contact with Sato on the subsequent restart and while leading the race. The black and yellow No. 10 car spun into the infield with race-ending damage. Franchitti finished 20th.
"I got the jump on Takuma but he came up into my left rear," said a frustrated Franchitti. "I don't know what he was thinking. That was a pretty good car I had today."
Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Alex Tagliani abandoned the race in Lap 141 when his car caught fire on the pit lane.
Andretti Autosports' Mike Conway and Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal made an early exit with contact on the opening lap of the race after Conway lost it, collecting the innocent Rahal.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Pippa Mann did not start after being transported to Indianapolis for medical evaluation. Mann's car was withdrawn by the team from the race after the rookie crashed in practice yesterday.
IndyCar moves next to the west coast where the wine country awaits them in Sonoma, California on August 28th.