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Hunter-Reay overpowers Penske to win in Alabama

"We had a good start and I thought I was pacing myself well, we could have had a top ten day without the couple breaks against us," he said. "It was a good day with a bad stall and unfortunately after that point we were saving fuel so it made it tough to make up ground.

"There are a lot of positives to take out of it," he added. "I know that I can compete with these guys and look forward to getting even better at Long Beach."

Castroneves and Hunter-Reay came in together next time by, and there were further problems in the Penske pit this time with the team struggling to engage the fuel nozzle. That wiped out Helio's lead and he barely made it back out on track ahead of Hunter-Reay. But ahead - and in the lead - he nonetheless still was, and initially he was helped further by having Justin Wilson between him and the Andretti Autosport car.

That didn't last long as Wilson himself pitted two laps later, and Hunter-Reay engaged turbo-thrusters to scythe through the gap and he was soon all over the back of the Penske #3, which was now labouring on a set of the harder tyres for its final stint: the disparity in pace between Castroneves and his soft-shod pursuer was such that the pass for the lead when it came through turns 5 and 6 on lap 76 was no surprise and the outcome a formality.

Nor did Castroneves have any time to consider a counter-attack, as he was under pressure from Scott Dixon who had himself charged through the field on soft red-walled tyres in the last few laps to put the Ganassi into third spot ahead of his junior team mate Kimball and a now-waning Power. Helio had no chance against this, his prime tyres now shot after the effort of trying to hold onto the lead, and he was made to surrender second place to the Kiwi next time through.

The only question remaining was whether Dixon had enough left in the #9 to make a play for the race win: he charged hard and closed down the gap between himself and Hunter-Reay to under a second, but in the end he ran out of time to push it further - and Hunter-Reay always looked in confident control of the situation to make it back-to-back wins for Andretti Autosport team in the first two outings of the 2013 season.

"It really was a perfect weekend," smiled team president Michael Andretti of his squad's season so far. " We got the pole in both races and the win both races and led most of the laps, you can't ask for much more than that.

"I'm really happy and proud of the whole DHL crew. They did a great job all weekend, and the whole Andretti team and it was really good," he added. "We knew we had to get it done because we had the reds and Helio had the blacks, and that's how Helio was able to get us, so we had to try to return the favour."

Dixon meanwhile was left to rue the positions he lost in that messy start, without which the victory might have been his.

"Today was a day of catch up, a big fumble at the start with Will and it backed the whole line up and we dropped to like sixth or seventh," he agreed. But later, things couldn't have been better in the latter stages of the race: "It was just one of those days where the car was really fast. I think we had the speed to win the race quite happily but we were just playing catch up all day."

The third man on the podium, Helio Castroneves, was relieved that Penske's emergency back-up plan had worked as well as it had done after the problems for the team at the start of the race.




Related Pictures

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The start of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports park - April 2013. (Photo Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Start of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park (Photo Credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe exits the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park (Photo Credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Will Power runs off at turn 1 at the start of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park - April 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
The sidepod of Ryan Hunter-Reay`s #1 Andtreii Autosport Dallara-Chevrolet showing evidence of contact with Helio Castroneves during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park - April 2013. (Photo Credit: Marshall Pruett for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the #1 DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet celebrates his victory Sunday, April 7, 2013 after winning the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt for Chevrolet)
Will Power (center), driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 with second-place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya (left), driver of the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, and Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Huggies Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. Power has the driver championship points lead heading into the final two races of the season.  (Photo by Lesley Ann Miller/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. Power has the driver championship points lead heading into the final two races of the season.  (Photo by Lesley Ann Miller/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. Power has the driver championship points lead heading into the final two races of the season.  (Photo by Lesley Ann Miller/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Briscoe enters Turn 3 during practice for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay enters Turn 3 during practice for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe flashes across the start/finish line during practice for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a sixth-place finish Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. The finish was good enough for Power to retake the drivers points championship lead from teammate Helio Castroneves. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon (right), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. Sebastien Bourdais (left), driver of the #11 Hydroxycut KVC Racing Technology Chevrolet IndyCar V6, finished second. It`s Dixon`s first victory of the season. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. It`s Dixon`s first victory of the season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. It`s Dixon`s first victory of the season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon in action on his way to victory in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course on Sunday August 3 2014. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)

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