A large, if invisible pit fire in the stall of American Spirit Team Johansson rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay was perhaps the most dramatic image of Sunday's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, an image that can be looked at with relief in the knowledge that nobody was injured.

Despite severe understeer and a slick 1.647-mile Denver street circuit, Hunter-Reay battled for points from his 12th place starting position, chasing Alex Tagliani and Roberto Moreno for position up until his third and final mandatory pit-stop under yellow flag conditions on lap 80 of 106.

Hunter-Reay arrived in the pits running in tenth position for a short stop, looking for just enough fuel to finish the final 26 laps. In a battle for position in the pits, Hunter-Reay was cleared to leave his pit-stall when the fuel nozzle became stuck in the car. A massive fire broke out immediately, but the No.31 crew and track fire crew extinguished the invisible, methanol fire within minutes. There were no injuries in the fire.

"The Sparco equipment did a great job for me today," said a rather shaken Hunter-Reay afterwards. "I was in the car with everything around me on fire, including me for about 10 - 15 seconds and I have no burns anywhere and neither does anyone on my crew. I was told verbally and motioned to go, so I did, the next thing I knew, I felt a massive heat wave coming over me and realized I was on fire. We think there was something wrong with the redhead (fueling apparatus).

"It is a huge disappointment because we had very consistent race going today, I forced a couple of experienced drivers into mistakes and we definitely would have walked out of here with some points. We fought the car all weekend, it's been frustrating, but we can chalk it up to a learning experience and turn our focus to my home race in Miami, which I am really looking forward to."

Hunter-Reay's retirement promoted teammate Jimmy Vasser into the points picture after the veteran American lost a lap to the leaders when he and Paul Tracy made contact on pit road.

Vasser started the race in 13th position and was passed by Mika Salo on the start as the former Ferrari Formula One driver made a rather hairy first Champ Car start. He re-passed Salo just a few laps later, bought also fought a loose car, making his charge through the field a tall order.

Suffering the same understeer problem that mysteriously appeared on virtually every Reynard in the race, Vasser had a strong first stop, but his luck faltered on the second stop. While exiting his pit stall, he and Paul Tracy collided. Vasser's right front wing and tire made contact with Tracy's left rear as Tracy entered his pit box. There was no significant damage, but Vasser's #12 Reynard stalled during the incident.

Vasser returned to the track one lap down, in 15th position and although a late race-yellow allowed Vasser to get his lap back, he could only pick up positions due to the retirement of other entries.

With late race attrition quite high, Vasser finished the race in 11th position to score two Championship points.

"I guess just about everything that could go wrong went wrong today," remarked a frustrated Vasser afterwards; "It was a long race for sure. My car was getting better and better as the race progressed. By the end of the race, I the best car I have had all weekend. We hung in there and fought hard today but it was a tough weekend for sure."