Hunter-Reay Scores Popular First Win at Watkins Glen Opportunistic passes, avoiding the mistakes of others and a strong sprint to the finish netted Ryan Hunter-Reay his first IndyCar Series victory Sunday at Watkins Glen International Raceway.
Hunter-Reay Scores Popular First Win at Watkins Glen
Opportunistic passes, avoiding the mistakes of others and a strong sprint to the finish netted Ryan Hunter-Reay his first IndyCar Series victory Sunday at Watkins Glen International Raceway. In doing so, the Florida native became the first driver other than Scott Dixon to win in four IndyCar races at the historic 3.37-mile road course in upstate New York.
Hunter-Reay started third, moving up to second by passing outside front-row starting Justin Wilson on the opening lap. During the middle portion of the race, Hunter-Reay joined the group running on a two pitstop strategy, while the rest of the field elected to make three stops. As a result, by Lap 45 of the 60-lap event, Hunter-Reay was running fourth behind Darren Manning, Dixon and Ryan Briscoe. But he successfully avoided trouble when Dixon spun while warming his tires in preparation for a restart, collecting Briscoe in the process. On the restart, Hunter-Reay dived under Manning heading into the first turn and was never headed, holding off Manning during one final restart on Lap 54 to win by 2.4 seconds.
It was another typically successful weekend for Honda, engine supplier for the full IndyCar Series, in the middle of a run of six consecutive race weekends. A total of 26 Honda-powered drivers ran 11,009.9 miles of practice, qualifying and racing this weekend without a single engine-related failure.
Following Hunter-Reay to the finish, Manning ran second in the best IndyCar result for A.J. Foyt Racing since Airton Dare won in Kansas on July 7, 2002. Tony Kanaan ignored pain from a broken left wrist -- suffered when suspension failure led to a crash during race-morning warmup session -- to round out the podium finishers. Buddy Rice held off several late-race passing attempts by Marco Andretti to finish fourth, his best result of 2008. Dale Coyne Racing's Bruno Junqueria and Mario Moraes continued the trend, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, in their best finishes this year.
For two-thirds of the day, the race was "clean and green" with just a single caution flag, a two-lap yellow when Team Penske's Helio Castroneves briefly encountered gearbox problems that would blunt his efforts today. But from lap 40 on, the race was interrupted no less than five times, causing 14 of the final 20 laps to be run under caution for various spins and collisions, all without injury to the drivers involved.
In addition to the Dixon-Briscoe collision, A.J. Foyt IV was eliminated in a similar accident with Milka Duno under caution on Lap 48. Panther Racing's Vitor Meira led four laps, but was bounced into the Turn 7 barrier following contact with rookie E.J. Viso on Lap 40. Enrique Bernoldi crashed in Turn One on Lap 45, and his Conquest Racing teammate Jaime Camara crashed out on Lap 52 for the final caution.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Rahal Letterman Racing Honda) Started 3rd, finished 1st, 1st career IndyCar victory, also has 2 Champ Car victories: "I'm so happy I can't even tell you. We were pushing so hard, I was driving my rear end off there at the end. The car was great, I have to give it to the team. These guys perform flawlessly. week-in and week-out. This is a huge win. I'm an American kid; we've got Ethanol on the car and Izod on the car, and to win on the Fourth of July doesn't get any better than that."
Darren Manning (#14 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda) Started 8th, finished 2nd, best finish of 2008, first laps led in 2008: "This is a great result, and something that we really needed after the last couple of races. It's great to finally get back to the road courses again. I tried everything I could to hold off Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and get a win for A.J. [Foyt], but they were just too strong for us today. But I think we were the next best car out there in the closing laps and it's just a fantastic, fantastic day."
Tony Kanaan (#11 Andretti Green Racing Honda) Started 6th, finished 3rd, raced with a hairline fracture of the left wrist sustained in a crash during pre-race practice: "I'm not tired, but I am in pain. My arm's in pretty tough shape right now but this was a good result in the championship. We made up a lot of ground on everyone who's ahead of us in the points, so we did what we needed to do. It's good that I can rest my arm for a day or two now, but Nashville's next week and that will be a tough race, too."
Erik Berkman (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "Congratulations to Ryan [Hunter-Reay], Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and the Rahal Letterman team. It's great for the series for an American driver to score his first IndyCar victory on the Independence Day weekend -- and he beat an Englishman [Darren Manning] to do it! Thanks also to the associates at Honda Performance Development and our technical partner Ilmor for another flawless weekend for the Honda Indy V-8. We're in the middle of a tough stretch of six consecutive race weekends, and so far every thing is going perfectly for us."