With two laps remaining Roberto Gonzalez made a quick visit to the pits with a car on fire, which was extinguished quickly, whilst Rodolfo Lavin collected the wall meaning the race ended under yellows.
“It's a shame, we had a really strong car in the race, we had a penalty at the beginning but we went through that and we starting going forward really quick and up into seventh position then two laps to go we had a problem,” explained Lavin afterwards. “I lost the rear end and corrected, then went really, really high and touched the wall, I just couldn't control it.” No matter, Lavin was still classified in ninth place come the chequered flag.
Hunter-Raey's performance marks the first time since Bobby Rahal at Nazareth in 1992 led a Champ Car oval race from start to chequered flag.
"It's great, what a day, geez!" said the race winner as fireworks exploded overhead. "It was such a battle – I mean, with the traffic you couldn't relax for a second, it was unbelievable. The team did a great job though – I owe it all to them.”
So any concerns from inside the cockpit for the race winner? “Just the traffic,” he explains. “Geez, there were some squirly cars out there, it was tough for sure. I just had to keep it all together and stay sharp the entire time."
Coming home in second place after seeing off the early race challenge of his team-mate, was Patrick Carpentier. “I tried really hard,” he explained, “for a while I was behind him [Hunter-Reay] but it was getting a little bit too loose, the whole car was just sliding, just going and going, and I said 'man, there's no way I'm going to catch this guy so I settled for second and at the end I just stayed there and tried to save second place.”
So what of the side by side incident with Paul Tracy? “I went really sideways at the exit there, and I just kept the car in the middle of the track and went in there, and I think I was deeper than Paul thought I would go and he tried to go faster on the outside and he went way too fast – he tried to make it but then he couldn't make it, but that's racing,” reckoned Carpentier to the encounter.
Ultimately, and undeniably, today was Ryan Hunter-Reay's day, and it's unlikely it will be his last Champ Car win.
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay
2. Patrick Carpentier
3. Michel Jourdain Jr
4. Jimmy Vasser
5. AJ Allmendinger
6. Bruno Junqueira
7. Oriol Servia
8. Mario Dominguez
9. Rodolfo Lavin
10. Mario Haberfeld