Ryan Hunter-Reay finally achieved the break-out victory that he has threatened on more than one occasion this IndyCar Series season after surviving a chaotic end to the Camping World Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International.

A largely uneventful first half to the opening road course event of 2008 suggested that honours would be decided between polewinner Ryan Briscoe and points leader Scott Dixon, but a mistimed caution - at least as far as the leaders were concerned - turned the race on its head, and when the yellow was elongated by several further incidents - including one involving the erstwhile pacesetters - Hunter-Reay was left poised to open his account.

Briscoe had taken the early initiative, converting pole into a healthy lead, while Dixon, Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan all got by front row partner Justin Wilson at the green flag. Dixon's start was adjudged to have been a little too eager and the kiwi was dropped behind RHR, but it mattered little as the laps played out and he retook the role of leading pursuer.

The first chance for anyone to make a break courtesy of an alternative strategy came when Helio Castroneves Watkins Glen jinx struck again on lap five. The Brazilian, polewinner for the past three years, had already had to start from the very back after a throttle problem in qualifying, but was making rapid progress when his Penske entry slowed dramatically as he rejoined the 'short' circuit layout. Castroneves managed to nurse the car back towards the pits, but opted to stop just shy of the entry, forcing a full-course caution and earning himself a tow into pit-lane.

After a comical interlude, in which the safety crew refused to push him to his pit and he looked set to be restarted by a rival team, Castroneves was eventually 'rescued' by his crew and pushed to safety while an electrical-related gearbox problem was addressed. In all, the two-time Indy 500 winner lost a couple of laps before rejoining, presenting an opportunity for early pit-stops for those towards the back.

Indeed, almost everyone from tenth back opted to stop, although it proved costly for Wilson, who exhibited the first signs of the gearbox problem that would eventually sideline him on lap 17.

It had not been a good start for the British drivers, with Dan Wheldon making contact with countryman Darren Manning on the run to the chicane firfst time around and suffering a suspension breakage that would leave him 18 laps adrift when he was finally able to rejoin. Returnee Jay Howard also succumbed early as the lone Roth Racing entry suffered a mechanical gremlin after just 15 laps.

The yellow period allowed the leaders to stretch their first pit-stop to lap 21, with Briscoe and Dixon pitting in unison, and rejoining in the same order, albeit now behind Vitor Meira, who had been among those to take advantage of Castroneves' problem to top off his fuel load. The Brazilian led for only four laps, however, before having to pit again, promoting Briscoe back to the front and setting him on course for the bonus for laps led.

Hunter-Reay was back in third at this point, and coming undewr pressure from both Kanaan - despite the AGR driver having injured his wrist in a morning warm-up shunt - and Bruno Junqueira, enjoying by far his best outing of 2008 with Dale Coyne Racing. The crucial moment came just a couple of laps on, when both RHR and Kanaan pitted ahead of the leaders and, despite the pair coming close to touching as they battled over what had become ninth, were 'rewarded' by the first of the late afternoon flurry of cautions.

Meira, having led, was battling over position in the lower reaches of the top ten when EJ Viso sensed an opportunity to pass the National Guard car. Unfortunately the move did not work out and contact between Viso's left rear and Meira's right front sent the Brazilian hard into the turn nine wall.

Briscoe and Dixon could only pit once the field had been bunched up behind the safety car, losing their advantage over the chasing pack, but benefited when most of the field came in. Among the few who didn't was Manning, who had been refuelled not long before the incident, and now appeared to hold the aces when the restart came.

The Briton's chances of making it to the chequer improved when Danica Patrick spun in pit-lane, narrowly avoiding hitting Dixon's crew as it cleared up after the Kiwi's stop, prolonging the yellow for another lap or so. Then, when the green did re-appear, it lasted barely a couple of corners before Enrique Bernoldi speared off, injuring his back as he took the aerial route over the kerbs.

Bizarrely, the caution was then extended even further by two incidents while the pack was running at a controlled pace. First, Milka Duno's efforts to keep her tyres up to temperature resulted in her wiping out AJ Foyt IV between turns eight and nine and then, two laps later, Dixon made a similar error, losing the Ganassi car over the kerbs as he weaved left. The Kiwi's mistake - which he openly admitted had been 'bloody stupid' - had a knock-on effect for Briscoe was left with nowhere to go but into the back of his fellow antipodean, forcing both to make unwanted pit-stops for repairs before rejoining in 15th and 16th.

The race finally returned to green on lap 52 - the caution having originally been called on lap 38 - with Hunter-Reay and Kanaan both keen to find a way past Manning. The Briton was unable to repeat the jump he made at the previous, aborted, attempt at a restart - a move helped by the four-way scrap for second in his mirrors - and was powerless to prevent Hunter-Reay from squeezing through into turn one. Kanaan also had a look but was rebuffed into the chicane, before Manning then took a look at repassing RHR.

The pressure on the new leader was lifted when Jaime Camara crashed out after a touch from Will Power, and Hunter-Reay made no mistake when the race restarted for the last time six laps from home. While Manning initially fended off renewed attempts from Kanaan, the Ethanol car was able to make a break that would be enough to give Hunter-Reay his first IndyCar Series win, and the first for a single-car team for more than two years.

Manning held on to second, providing a welcome boost to his chances of remaining with the Foyt Enterprises team, while Kanaan settled for third as his injured wrist began to give him pain.

Buddy Rice took fourth despite late race pressure from marco Andretti, the veteran improving on last year's sixth place at the same event and giving Dreyer & Reinbold a useful shot of points. Behind Andretti, Junqueira and Mario Moraes did the same for the tiny Coyne team, while Graham Rahal, Hideki Mutoh and Viso rounded out the top ten.

Dixon and Briscoe came home eleventh and twelfth, the Kiwi chastened and apologetic, his Australian rival phlegmatic after their coming together. Dixon's poor result, in particular, would have been good for his title rivals - had so many of them not run into problems of their own. Castroneves finished a lap down in 16th and Wheldon parked up when it became apparent that he had too few laps to overxcome the 18 he lost having his suspension repaired, allowing Kanaan to make major inroads into the three drivers ahead of him in points at the start of the day.

Like Meira, Wilson and Wheldon, KV Racing Technology could have scored well after promising practice and qualifying runs for Power and Oriol Servia, but both struggled with electrical problems. Servia eventually succumbed to his, but had already seen a potential top five finish go west with a drive-thru' for breaking the pit-lane speed limit by 2mph, while Power came home as the last car on the lead lap, in 15th.