Sears Point: Rahal Letterman Racing race report



SONOMA, Calif - Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Rahal Letterman Racing missed a golden opportunity to secure a season-ending top-10 berth in the IndyCar Series standings today after a tough day at Infineon Raceway left the squad with an 18th-place finish in the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma County.

Starting eighth, Hunter-Reay and RLR crew picked up a pair of spots on its first pit stop, but the gains came to a screeching halt just one lap later as Hunter-Reay was spun by Justin Wilson. Hunter-Reay kept the car going after Wilson made contact with the right rear wheel of the Ethanol car, but the resulting spin cost him seven spots to right the machine.

"We were right where we needed to be when we got punted by Wilson," Hunter-Reay recalled. "The race went downhill from there pretty quickly. Not sure what happened there, but it was a pretty dirty move from where I was. It was a pretty disappointing end to what had been a promising weekend."

The problem set the team's strategic wheels in motion, as Hunter-Reay was called down Pit Lane for his second stop on Lap 31, putting him in position to make the 80-lap distance on just one more stop and giving him a clear track, where he turned his fastest laps of the day. The strategy played out perfectly from a fuel standpoint, but the narrow Infineon circuit meant that opportunities to capitalize on the strategy were few and far between.

The race was a procession for the most part as spots throughout the field were only gained when leading drivers made mistakes. Unfortunately, it was one of those mistakes that cost Hunter-Reay three spots on the last lap, dropping him to 18th on the results sheet and 10th in the standings.

Will Power's brake problems forced him to repeatedly run through the shortcut area at Turn Nine, and eventually caused him to crash in the shortcut with three laps to go. With the shortcut off the course, the stewards left Power there and allowed the 80-lap race to run to its conclusion. But it came back in play on the last lap as Hunter-Reay needed that area to maintain his spot after encountering braking trouble on the back half of the course. But as he went down into the shortcut, Power's car forced him to take evasive action, allowing Oriol Servia, Mario Dominguez and Bruno Junqueira to sweep by with two turns to go.

"Once we got put to the back of the line, we tried a lot of stuff to strategize our way back to the front, but with no yellow and a track that is difficult to pass on, we just couldn't make anything happen," Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke said. "The good news is that the car was fast, we just didn't get a chance to use that speed as much as we would have liked to. But the car is in one piece and we'll head to Detroit and start again."

The result dropped the #17 car from a tie for 8th in the points to 10th, but Hunter-Reay is just three points out of ninth, five out of eighth and 17 markers away from seventh-placed Marco Andretti.

-credit: rlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Marco Andretti , Will Power