With 20 laps to run in the Iowa Corn Indy 300 it looked as though the race was getting away from Andretti Autosport and that their run of five consecutive wins at Iowa Speedway would be at an end. Then came a late caution for Juan Pablo Montoya's crash, and what would prove to be a game-changing decision by team boss Michael Andretti to call Ryan Hunter-Reay in for a fresh set of tyres.
"The gamble with that is when you do take new tyres, you might not have enough time," said Hunter-Reay after the race. "Every track is different with how they come in, fall off. It was a pretty big gamble. Thanks to Michael Andretti for making [the call]."
“We stole it today but I'll take it any way we can get it," admitted Andretti. "What's really weird is that we talked about it before the race: with 15 laps to go and a yellow comes out what are we going to do? When we talked about it we said we should think about pitting, then when it came time to do it I was like, 'Screw it.' What were we going to do, lose three spots?
"I knew if we came in a lot would come in behind us, and you saw what happened," he continued. "We've lost many that way and to keep the record going here at Iowa – we love coming to Iowa it's such an awesome racetrack and we've got such great luck here. It was a day we probably we're supposed to win but, like I said, we'll take it any way we can get it."
It was certainly a barnstorming finish to a race that had already been a roller coaster ride for Hunter-Reay.
"What a crazy day," the race winner said afterwards. "That was unreal. We started off with a bang, went for it. Picked up like six spots from the start, turn one and two. Settled into a good rhythm. We were really good on the first two stints.
"We had trouble on the track. We had trouble in pit lane. We had trouble all over the place. It wasn't going our way. We were constantly seventh, eighth, ninth. Just couldn't get anything to really go right, you know."
"Then at the end Michael Andretti made a bold move there, a pretty bold call, to call me in and take stickers," he explained. "I didn't think we'd have enough time because of the way things were panning out with Montoya's car and the wall. Credit to the safety team, they got that car cleaned up and we had just enough time to make it happen. We passed Tony coming to the white flag. It was a lot of fun the last few laps!"
It was certainly a welcome relief for Hunter-Reay, who has been in something of a relative slump since winning the Indianapolis 500 in May, and he was happy to once more be back in a winning groove.
"Things were just not going right, [but] that's why you've just got to keep your head in it and be ready for whatever comes in the Verizon IndyCar Series," he said. "I was really frustrated at times. 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. No matter what, you have to charge hard and be ready for it.
"Whether it's a street circuit, short oval, races can turn," he summed up. "You have to put yourself in a position every time to take advantage of that, put yourself in a better position, get that car in front of you, whatever it is, just keep plugging away."
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing saw what the 2014 Indy 500 champion was up to when he dived onto pit road, and decided that it was worth a try for their man Josef Newgarden - who it turned out was already thinking exactly the same thing.
"They made it pretty quick," Newgarden said of the decision to call the #67 in under the caution. "That's what I wanted to do. Looking where we were, we were sitting about eighth right before that last restart. It was like, you know, we just do tyres. There's no reason not to with being in eighth position.
"Before I could even say anything, they said: 'We're going to pit for tyres.' I said: 'Perfect, that's a good call," he continued. "As soon as they did it, I knew it was the right thing to do. I just didn't know how
effective it was going to be!
"It was crazy how effective new tyres were compared to 30, 35-lap tyres," he added. "That was the weirdest experience I've had in a race. It's almost unfair. You put on tyres like that and you just have so much more grip than everybody.
"Ryan got a good jump and I got a good jump with and we kept carving up to the top and I knew the laps were clicking down and with about five to go, I realized 'OK, this is going to get really good.' Just not enough time to get Ryan [but] I think it's really cool finishing on the podium."
After a troubled season so far in 2014, Newgarden said that getting the result this week was crucial to the team: "There was performances earlier in the year that were stronger than some of the mid-season performances, for whatever reason it didn't work out," he admitted. "That's the way it goes. You don't do anything different. You just got to keep your head forward. Hopefully the breaks start falling your way. Tonight I think they fell our way for sure, absolutely. There's no denying it.
"You keep positive. You keep focused. You keep doing everything that's in your control, keep trying to do things right. Hopefully they just keep coming your way. That's what we got to try and do," he said. "I'm just happy for our group really because they work hard for it and to get a result every now and then is something you need obviously and we've been waiting for it."
"It was great to have a run that was representative to our pace. We were definitely a top ten car tonight," he added. "We definitely probably got more than we deserved tonight, but sometimes you just got to take that."