'Stolen win' could propel Hunter-Reay to another series crown

Ryan Hunter-Reay has experienced the exhilaration of a dominating race victory in his Indy car career and now the sensation of "stealing one."

'Stolen win' could propel Hunter-Reay to another series crown
Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, second place Josef Newgarden, third place Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda
Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda

Hunter-Reay set Indy car records for most and consecutive race laps led and laps led by a race winner when he led all 250 laps of a Champ Car-sanctioned event in Milwaukee on June 5, 2004, for his second career victory.

He led the final two laps to win the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB on July 12. His previous laps led low in a win was nine in earning his win in 2008 at Watkins Glen.

Tony Kanaan led a field-high 247 laps but couldn't hold off Hunter-Reay, who pitted for fresh Firestone Firehawks on the No. 28 DHL car on Lap 284 under caution. Hunter-Reay advanced nine positions in eight laps following the Lap 292 restart on the .894-mile, variably-banked oval - turning his fastest race lap of 179.405 mph on Lap 296 - two laps before he overtook Kanaan's No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

"I've learned in the years of experience that I've had in the Verizon IndyCar Series that you just have to keep your head in it," said Hunter-Reay, who posted his third victory of the season. "No matter what, you have to charge hard and be ready for it. Whether it's a street circuit, short oval, races can turn. We made the right call and we had the car that could take it."

Kanaan's tire degradation was pronounced as he dropped 2 mph each lap from 176.103 mph on Lap 298 to 172.597 on Lap 300. The hard-charging Josef Newgarden, who also was on fresh tires when he took the green flag on the final restart in 11th position, overtook Kanaan to tie his career best of second place for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Kanaan, who has led a combined 325 laps in the past two races, earned his fifth consecutive podium finish at Iowa Speedway.

"I don't want to say I was sitting there smiling in the car, but it was a lot of fun," Hunter-Reay added. "I don't know how to describe it other than to me it felt like a video game because you're picking them off. It was just like warp speed. Cars were just flying by one after the other. I knew we had a shot at it, but that was pretty cool how it ended. I didn't think we'd have enough time."

There are six races over the next seven weeks for Hunter-Reay to make hay in the championship. He reclaimed third place in the standings with the 14th victory of his career - 32 points behind the front-running Helio Castroneves of Team Penske. Will Power is nine points out of first place.

A streak akin to 2012, when Hunter-Reay won consecutive races at Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto to aid his title pursuit, would place him in solid contention heading into the Triple Crown series double-points season finale Aug. 30 at Auto Club Speedway. Last year on those three racetracks, Hunter-Reay won at Milwaukee, was runner-up at Iowa but finished 18th and 19th in the Toronto doubleheader after qualifying in the top six for both races on the temporary street circuit.

The Honda Indy Toronto - twin 85-lap races with Race 1 on July 19 featuring a standing start - is up next. Both races carry full points. The ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest is Aug. 17.

"We've just been historically good on short ovals," said Hunter-Reay, who extended Andretti Autosport's winning streak to five years at Iowa Speedway. "The record looks really good. We got a win out of it, making the right call. But we're going to go back and do some homework for Milwaukee."

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