Ryan Hunter-Reay bounced back from disappointment two weeks ago at the Grand Prix of Long Beach – when the 2012 crashed out of the race while challenging for the lead – to score a resounding Verizon IndyCar Series victory Sunday at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, leading a 1-2 finish for Honda and Andretti Autosport. Teammate Marco Andretti finished second.
In a race delayed more than two hours, after severe storms moved through the Birmingham, Alabama, area just prior to the scheduled race start, Hunter-Reay proved to be more than capable of adapting to changing track conditions throughout the 1-hour, 40-minute event, taking advantage of a mistake by early leader Will Power to claim an advantage he would maintain – except during routine pit stops – the rest of the day. It was Hunter-Reay’s second consecutive triumph at the challenging Barber Motorsports Park circuit, and the first win of 2014 for Honda.
For his part, Andretti gained three positions, from 10th on the starting grid, in the opening lap. Once the field changed over to dry weather, “slick” tires at the first round of pit stops, Andretti’s Honda Dallara became even faster, passing Scott Dixon and Power to finish second, his best result of the season. Simon Pagenaud continued his strong early-season performance, recovering from an opening-lap off-course excursion to finish fourth; while sixth-place Justin Wilson led a three-car formation of Hondas at the finish, just ahead of James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden, as Honda drivers claimed six of the top eight finishing positions.
The Verizon IndyCar Series now heads “home” to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the month of May, starting with the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis road race on Saturday, May 10, followed by the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda) started 11th, finished 1st, 1st win of 2014 and 2nd consecutive win at Barber; 12th career IndyCar victory: "“With the rain and the wet conditions on how we started out there, it was tough. Then we went to the Firestone reds [dry-weather slick tires], and man...on [the still] wet surface, it was really tough just to keep the car on track. Once we got out front, though, we started checking out, and the car was a dream to drive. This is why we race. I can’t thank the team enough. It’s a shame the race ended under yellow, but we won with a Honda at the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama…how cool is that?”
Marco Andretti (#25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda) started 9th, finished 2nd: “I just put my head down and looked forward; awesome job by Andretti Autosport. The Snapple car didn’t have much for Ryan [Hunter-Reay], so we definitely need to hit the drawing board and see how he kicked my butt today. I was driving blind today. I didn’t have a radio, so the only way I knew when to pit was when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Ryan stop, and thought ‘I guess I’m coming in the next lap’. It was definitely a blind race, but I just had my head down and tried to hit my marks.”
Mark Crawford (IndyCar Project Leader, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race win: “After showing so well throughout the practice and qualifying sessions this year, it’s great to finally get a win to go with the speed the Honda engine has already demonstrated. The engines obviously worked very well in far-from-ideal conditions in the race. Congratulations to Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and the entire Andretti Autosport team on an excellent effort and result today. Ryan made it almost look easy out there, but we know it wasn’t! Now it’s on to Indianapolis and lets get two more wins: at the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis and, of course, the ‘500’.”