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Hunter-Reay takes advantage of Power cut

19 April 2010


Ryan Hunter-Reay prevailed in a breakneck Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, holding off Justin Wilson to give Andretti Autosport its first victory since 2008.

Hunter-Reay, the newest member of the Andretti Autosport quartet, received a bear hug from CEO Michael Andretti in Victory Circle after succeeding in a race slowed by a lone full-course caution - tying an IndyCar Series road/street course record - and beating Wilson to the line by 5.6031secs to claim Andretti's first win as a team since Tony Kanaan's at Richmond nearly two years ago.

"It was the most fun I had in a race car because it was handling so well," said Hunter-Reay, who is the first American to win at Long Beach since Andretti himself in 2002, "My mom is out there today - she passed along recently and this race is for her. Over the last couple of laps, I said 'this is for you, Mom'."

Hunter-Reay also became the first American driver to win an IndyCar Series race since he last won, at Watkins Glen in July 2008, while the victory was the first for the Andretti team since it was renamed following a winter ownership shuffle, ending a drought of 28 consecutive races without a win.

"I love this place," Andretti commented, "It's where I got my first win as a driver, in 1986, and now its where I got my first win as a sole owner."

Having topped Friday's practice session on the iconic street course, Hunter-Reay qualified second to points leader Will Power in Saturday's Firestone Fast Six, but was perfectly placed to take advantage of an uncharacteristic blip for the Team Penske driver, whose car appeared to lose momentum exiting the hairpin.

"Man, that was awesome," Hunter-Reay admitted, "The car was so much fun to drive - it was some of the most fun I've had in a race car because it was handling so well. I was in a great zone and we were the fastest car out there today. We deserved it."

Power eventually finished third in the 85-lap race and, despite missing out on a possible third win in four races, heads to the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway next month having extended his lead to 42 points over Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves. Hunter-Reay is now third overall, with Wilson fourth as a result of their Long Beach performances.

Power has finished fourth or better in each race this season, having won in Sao Paulo and St Petersburg, but had no answer to either the problem that afflicted him in the early part of round four or to a charging Justin Wilson later on, ending a streak that had seen a Team Penske car finish first or second on street or road courses since Hunter-Reay won at Watkins Glen two seasons ago.

"Overall, it was a good day, but on one lap I got stuck in first gear," the Australian revealed, ending rumours that he had pressed the pit-lane speed limiter by mistake, "I have no idea why that happened, and I hope it doesn't do that again because I slowed down. I was able to get out of it and speed back up, but it hurt my placement. Once Justin passed me, I tried for a couple of laps, but there was no point in putting the car in the wall. The Verizon Wireless car is still leading in points, and the team has a goal of winning the championship, so we are still in line for that. It was great to be on the podium again this weekend."

While Hunter-Reay improved on the second place he took in the season-opener in Sao Paulo, Wilson's runner-up spot equalled a similar result from St Petersburg, maintaining Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's strongest start to a season since co-owner Robbie Buhl won at Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000, but he wasn't happy with the antics of fellow Briton Alex Lloyd, who caused a collision that broke the DRR car's front wing and dropped Wilson back down the order.

"I am really disappointed," Wilson commented, having had to fight his way back from fifth place, "Alex was a lap down and he nearly took Ryan out a couple of times. Once Ryan got past, it got Alex off line and slowed him up. I dove down the inside of turn eight, and I braked pretty late, [but] I just got the door slammed in my face. Even if you aren't going to give way to the leaders, you need to leave room at the apex to back out.

"But there's nothing you can do about it. We had to come in and change the front wing and were just in mad fuel-saving mode after that. It's just a shame that it happened. Fortunately, the Z-Line Designs car was fantastic - to have a front wing change and come back in finish second is an amazing day."

Scott Dixon claimed fourth place on 'a tough day' for Target Chip Ganassi, claiming that the team may have opted for the wrong gears - 'our first gear was too long, and it was hard to get out of it, while our sixth gear was too short', the Kiwi reported - while Tony Kanaan finished a season-best fifth on a good afternoon for Andretti Autosport.

"I am happy for Ryan, and I think he deserves this win, as he was quick all weekend, but we lost a couple of positions on our pit-stop," the Brazilian sighed, contemplating a lost potential podium, "It was a hard race and seemed to be very physically demanding, but we are on the right track, and I am looking forward to heading into the ovals."

Mario Moraes finished a season-best sixth, with Penske pair Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, Dan Wheldon and Mike Conway rounding out the top ten.

The only caution of the day came when rookie Mario Romancini made an optimistic move to the inside of Graham Rahal at turn one, putting the Dollar General car into the wall and both drivers out of the race.

"To end it that way is just incredibly frustrating," Rahal admitted, "I just said 'what are you thinking?', and he said 'I'm sorry. I missed my braking mark a little'."


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