By Josh Farmer, Contributing Writer
Following a convincing win in Sunday’s Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit, Ryan Hunter-Reay has a good reason to be on cloud nine.
After finishing second in Saturday’s 75-lap doubleheader, the driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport had the perfect mix of strategy and a hard-charging drive to snap a 42-race winless streak on Sunday in what he described as one of his finest performances.
“To be that much faster than the rest of the field, it’s got to be one of my top races,” said the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “I mean, I’ll always put 2014 Indy 500 as my top one because going back every lap with Helio (Castroneves) like that, it’s a different type of race. This one was based on pure speed, not making any mistakes and going fast and jumping in the fountain.”
Hunter-Reay started in 10th place and executed a three-stop strategy which left him in second place behind teammate Alexander Rossi after his final stop on lap 52. Hunter-Reay put on a charge during the final stint, erasing Rossi’s eight second lead in nine laps.
He forced Rossi (who led 46 laps) into a mistake heading into Turn 3 on Lap 64 and took the lead for good.
Hunter-Reay described the final stint as methodical but aggressive.
“Just kept my head down, and then after the last stop, there was nobody in front of me, and they said, Alex is the leader and Ray (Gosselin) got on the radio and said, you’re going to catch him by the end of the stint, just keep your head down.
“So I just went for it, just kept doing low 75s, and little did I know there was a car on the straightaway and then there was a car halfway down, and then it was — and then we just closed the gap until I was right up his gearbox with 11 or 12 to go, and I think we were strong enough there to potentially expose a weakness.”
In the two and a half years since his last win, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner contended for wins, but could never quite close the deal. He acknowledged that while the dry spell was getting to him, he never lost confidence in himself or his team.
“It went through my head a lot, but I know I have the team behind me to do it,” he said. “I know I can do it with the right car. I know I have the talent to win the races, and just have to think positive.
“I’ve got the best job on earth, so I come and show up in the morning and there’s a yellow car there with my name on the side of it, and I go to work as an IndyCar car driver, and I absolutely knew we could get back in Victory Lane, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
The win vaults RHR to fourth in the championship, just 31 points behind points leader Will Power. With the monkey finally off his back heading into next weekend’s DXC Technology 600 at the Texas Motor Speedway, RHR admitted that this could be his best shot at a title since he won it in 2012.
“We finished second twice, fifth here and there, and we’ve been in the top 5 a lot, so we’ve been strong, and like I say, I think maybe with the universal aero kit, we have a better shot at contending for the championship like we did when it was a spec aero kit back in ’12, ’13, ’14,” he said.
“I’m on that page, and I hope this is the first to a string of wins. You never know when it comes, you know, and 2012, what, we won Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto back-to-back. Going into the Milwaukee race I didn’t expect for that to happen, but you’ve got to be ready for it, and that’s where we are. Hopefully we can keep that rolling.”