NASHVILLE - Everybody in the IndyCar Series pits knew that tonight's race at Nashville Superspeedway was going to be a fight to the halfway point as a large storm was approaching on the weather radar, but things went a little too literally for...
NASHVILLE - Everybody in the IndyCar Series pits knew that tonight's race at Nashville Superspeedway was going to be a fight to the halfway point as a large storm was approaching on the weather radar, but things went a little too literally for Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone).
Hunter-Reay and RLR were running comfortably in the top seven after the first set of green-flag pit stops but the night ended in the Turn Four fence exactly at the halfway point of the 200-lap Firestone Indy 200.
Starting third, Hunter-Reay was able to maintain his place in the lead pack in what was a fairly processional race on the concrete oval, and was poised to take advantage of an early-race crash between Marco Andretti and Ryan Briscoe to move up from ninth in the points. But in negotiating his way toward the front, Hunter-Reay found himself closing unexpectedly quickly on the lapped car of Will Power in Turn Three of Lap 99 and found himself faced with a decision - and without a lot of time to make it.
"Will was off the pace about 20 laps before that, but he had gathered it back up and was going again, then for some reason he slowed way down in the middle of Turns Three and Four," Hunter-Reay reported. "I had two choices. Get on the brakes hard and risk losing the rear of the car and spinning out, or go to the high side and see if there was any grip up there to let me get around him."
But as was the case all night on the 1.33-mile oval, there was no grip on the second line. Hunter-Reay's Ethanol-sponsored car got into the marbles scrubbed off the Firestone Firehawk tires by the abrasive surface, and the car went into the Turn Four fence as if drawn by a magnet.
Hunter-Reay was unhurt in the crash, but the car was unable to continue and was left to finish 19th.
"I feel bad for the guys because now it's back to the shop to fix a race car before we go to Mid-Ohio next week," Hunter-Reay lamented. "To go from the high of last week to the low of tonight is tough on all of us."
Hunter-Reay did collect a $5,000 prize before tonight's event as he was awarded the DirecTV contingency award for his performance last weekend at Watkins Glen. The result meant that the team has still yet to post back-to-back top-10 finishes in a race this season. The event was slowed twice by rain, first at Lap 138 and again at 167.
The string of six races in six weeks hits number five next weekend as the series heads back to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The event will signal the official start of Hunter-Reay's second season with Rahal Letterman Racing as it was at the Central Ohio road course last season where Hunter-Reay made his IndyCar debut, starting 10th and finishing seventh.