In another thrilling Iowa Corn 300, Ryan Hunter-Reay successfully defended his 2014 victory, holding off Josef Newgarden Saturday night at Iowa Speedway for his first – and Honda’s fourth – Verizon IndyCar Series win of 2015.
In 2014, Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport team gambled on making a pit stop for fresh tires during a late-race caution, and he charged through the field for victory. But in tonight’s 300-lap run, Hunter-Reay was in contention throughout the race, and successfully battled Newgarden though the final 24 laps as the pair repeated its 1-2 finish from last year.
Hunter-Reay also emerged victorious at Iowa Speedway in 2012, and his Andretti Autosport team has now won six consecutive Indy car races at the short, but very fast, Iowa oval.
Graham Rahal battled through mechanical issues – including a deflating tire leading to an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 55. Falling two laps off the lead pace, Rahal also fought recurring gearbox issues, which necessitated lengthy stays in the pits and finished fourth, just 4.6 seconds behind Hunter-Reay. The effort moved Rahal to second in the drivers’ championship, 42 points behind series leader Juan Pablo Montoya.
Carlos Munoz finished fifth, his best result since winning at Detroit in May, to give the Andretti team two drivers in the top five. Teammate Marco Andretti continued his run of top-10 finishes, taking the checkers in seventh. He remains the only driver in the series to complete every race lap this season. Continuing his substitute role in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe, veteran Ryan Briscoe finished eighth, equaling his previous best result of the season at Texas Motor Speedway.
After back-to-back short oval races, the Verizon IndyCar Series now takes a week off before heading to Honda’s “home” road-course circuit, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, for the Honda Indy 200 on Sunday, August 2.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 9th, finished 1st, first victory of 2015, third Iowa win in last four years: “I love Iowa Speedway, and certainly this team does. We had to work for it. It was a lot of hard work out there tonight. But we felt we had something for them. We went out and earned it. We were a little loose at the start of the race, but I knew we had a strong car. Once the sun went down, the car just came to life. At the end, when it was just me and Josef [Newgarden], I knew we had a shot at it. The car was on rails out there. We’re having a tough year, but tonight was a different deal. This is a huge win for us. It’s great to be back in Victory Lane.”
Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda) started 17th, finished 4th: “That was my hardest race ever. First we had the right rear [tire] go down and then the car just wouldn’t shift. You don’t know how tough that is around here when you’re in traffic and you need to go down to fifth, fourth gear at times and I couldn’t do anything. It was a killer for me. We were quicker than [winner] Hunter-Reay, which is frustrating. When the car was working right, we passed all those guys, but now I’m spent. The car was good, very competitive over the long run and that’s what helped me. Nights like tonight are what build character, and what builds champions. It speaks volumes for this team that we are second in the points. We can win Honda a championship. We’ve got three more races to go and we’re just going to keep our heads down and go forward.”
Allen Miller (Race Team Leader, Honda Performance Development) on tonight’s race: “Congratulations to Ryan Hunter-Reay on defending his Iowa Corn 300 win from last year, and to Andretti Autosport for winning its sixth race in a row here at Iowa. Congratulations and 'Thank You' to all our HPD associates. All the hard work that everyone has been putting in really paid off tonight. Congratulations as well to Graham Rahal, who struggled with some shifter issues throughout the race which ended up putting him two laps down, but he battled through them for a solid finish and now stands second in the drivers' championship. Now, it's on to Mid-Ohio, where we will fight for another victory in front of a large group of Honda associates and fans."