24 June 2012
Hunter-Reay doubles-up in the Iowa night-time
Ryan Hunter-Reay won his second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series race with victory at Iowa Speedway, in a night race that proved costly for many of the leading lights.
If anyone was in any doubt that Andretti Autosport's strong form at the Milwaukee Mile last weekend had been genuine, then their reprise performance at the Iowa Speedway will have put paid to such thoughts. For the second time in a week, the team claimed two of the three podium positions at the end of a fierce night of racing; and for the second time, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay who walked away with the race win.
It was also the second time in a week that the drivers had to wait for the weather to clear up before they could get underway. A line of thunderstorms had provided an unexpected extra light show for fans, but at the cost of pushing back the start-time - already an unusually late 9pm local time, 3am on Sunday morning in the UK - by a further 40 minutes by the time that the jet dryers had done their work on the 0.875-mile oval.
Just as the drivers were getting ready to go green, Alex Tagliani's car stalled and pulled down to the infield apron at turn 3 with a problem, meaning that the race started under yellow while track workers attended to the stricken #98. The car was refired, and - while already two laps off the lead - Tagliani dutifully set to work to move back up through the field as quickly as he could.
But during this delay, a much bigger problem had struck the polesitter, Dario Franchitti: with almost no warning, the Honda engine in the #10 had sent out a huge plume of smoke and the car had died on the spot. "It was making a very strange noise," said Franchitti as he stood in pit lane watching the green flag come out at last. "I'd actually just come on the radio to say 'Is this thing making an odd noise?' and then it let go. Really disappointed.
"One of those things," he added. "We'll move on, but I'll tell you I think it's going to be a hell of a race."
Franchitti's early exit left Helio Castroneves at the head of the field when the green flag finally came out, the race already scored as having reached lap 10. Castroneves led his team mate Ryan Briscoe and Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti to the line, while behind them Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's new young star Josef Newgarden got a great initial start and passed James Hinchcliffe, only for the #67's handling to quickly wane leaving him passed not only by Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay but also by Panther's JR Hildebrand
Hildebrand then misjudged a move on Hunter-Reay and clipped an element of his front wing on the rear wheel guard of the #28, forcing him into pit lane for a new component: "We kind of washed up into his wake and when you're that close the car doesn't really turn as much as you think it is," he explained. "I missed that by probably a matter of inches, but that obviously put us a few laps down."
Hinchcliffe was looking stronger and stronger as the drivers settled down and the track started to regain some of the grip that it had previously had before the rain storms passed through, and he took over second place from Briscoe on lap 33. Then - after initially being stymied by slower lapped traffic - he moved past Castroneves and into the lead on lap 52.
Also looking strong at this early stage were the KV Racing cars of Tony Kanaan and EJ Viso. Unfortunately, Viso's evening would prove to be much shorter than he was hoping for: on lap 68 he was running the low line on the inside of Will Power competing for eighth place, when Power started to move down the track and squeezed him right down to the line until contact was made. Power spun out, and pancaked Viso against the SAFER barrier in turn 2.
Viso was furious: "This is not the usual Will that we used to know by being clean, this is the second race that he affects somebody on my team and it's very disappointing," he fumed. "He just doesn't use his mirror. I had a run at him, I was into corner one and he just blocked me, blocked me, and I couldn't get lower, I already had my front left tyre inside the apron and the yellow line. He just kept going lower and I had nowhere to go."
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