After a two and a half hour rain delay, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama would get underway and quickly, Ryan Hunter-Reay showed he was the driver to beat in the 100-minute time limited race. Hunter-Reay took the lead on lap 16 when pole sitter Will Power got off course in the wet conditions. Hunter-Reay then pitted a couple laps later, though would get the lead back at he end of the pit cycle before cruising to victory.
“I’ve been anxious (to compete) since we left Long Beach,” Hunter-Reay said. “What a dream to have a car like that at that distance. Great to get the No. 28 DHL car with a Honda at a Honda (sponsored) race into Victory Circle. (Long Beach) should have been a great result, but we got it today.”
For Hunter-Reay, it marks his 12th career win and second straight on the 17-turn road course. It also marks Hunter-Reay’s first win of the season after contending for the win in the first two races of the season.
Teammate Marco Andretti finished second to give Andretti Autosport a 1-2 finish.
“I’m really proud of this whole team,” team owner Michael Andretti commented. “Marco (Andretti) did a hell of a job. He drove his way to the front there and Ryan (Hunter-Reay drove a perfect race. Feels good after the last one for sure.”
Andretti drove hard throughout the second half of the event, including an impressive pass on Will Power through turn three. It marks Andretti’s first podium finish of the year after a pair of poor showings on the first two street courses of the year.
“Heck of a team effort,” Andretti commented. “I’m so proud of Andretti Autosport. I’m really proud of how we can adapt to different conditions. Not only the drivers, but the teams. They gave us good cars.”
Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon rounded out the podium for his first podium of the year.
“It was definitely an interesting race with the weather mixed in there,” Dixon commented. “Hopefully we put on a good show for everybody. We were trying. We seemed to burn up the front tires quickly. The same thing happened on the wets after Helio (Castroneves) jumped the start and passed a couple of cars which is typical, I guess. We had to fight back and had a good pit stop exchange. (Will) Power pitted early and we were able to put down some good lap and gain some spots. We just didn’t have enough for Marco. He did a hell of a job, so congrats to Andretti for a 1-2 finish.”
Simon Pagenaud finished fourth, followed by Will Power. Power holds on to the points lead, 18 points ahead of Hunter-Reay.
“The Verizon Chevrolet was really fast on the wet tires and I just got in trouble in turn 5,” Power commented. “I keep moving my braking point further and further into the corners and I got caught going too far. It’s tough to not push past the limits with wet patches everywhere. We really didn’t have the pace in the dry anyway, but that sure didn’t help our cause when I went off course. We may have just been a bit heavy on downforce. Still a fifth-place finish today and we have the points lead going into the month of May.”
Justin Wilson finished sixth, followed by James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball.
The wet conditions weren’t friendly to all the drivers as many found trouble early in the event.
On lap 21, rookie Mikhail Aleshin spun in turn five after contact from Sebastian Bourdias. Aleshin would then run into more trouble later in the race, as he brought out hte final caution of the race due to heavy contact with the tire barrier in turn 14.
“I was overtaking cars one by one which was exactly what I set out to do,” Aleshin commented. “I had a really tough battle with Bourdais and everything was fair until he took me off the track in Turn 5. The car stalled and it took two laps for me to get restarted and join the race again. Honestly, I was really upset with being a lap down and I was pushing as hard as I possibly could to make up every bit of ground. I pushed too hard in Turn 13 and touched the wet area on the track, which sent me straight into the wall.”
On lap 27 on the restart, Juan Pablo Montoya got off track , going down a couple laps in the process.
“We had a good car in the wet,” Montoya commented. “I thought it did a pretty good job in the wet. We had trouble with the radio, so I tried to plug myself back in while driving. So that was fun. I had a good restart on cold tires. We were going through the esses, and I was right behind the No. 9 car (Scott Dixon) . He had a big moment, and I lifted then ended up having a bigger moment myself. I went in and I kind of referenced and measured with the wet, and I did the same thing I was doing in wet. He lifted more than I expected and I had to lift a lot more and it started tail slapping. After that, something broke in the car..I don’t know what happened.”
Rookie Carlos Huertas also ran into trouble as he got off course on lap 31.
With a successful three races to start the season, the stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series head into the all important month of May, set to tackle the first ever Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10th.