By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season has been one to forget but Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway gave his season a bit of a lift.
The No. 28 Andretti Autosport DHL Honda started 15th at Iowa but finishing third was almost like a victory, which is saying a lot considering that Hunter-Reay won three times in a four year span.
The 2012 series champion moved his car to sixth place by Lap 60, gaining roughly one position every ten laps after getting to 12th on Lap 2.
Hunter-Reay alternated between fifth and sixth during much of the first half of the race before making fifth his normal position until his pit stop during the caution for Conor Daly’s wall contact.
After a good pit stop and an alternate strategy went south for a fellow competitor, Hunter-Reay found himself in third by Lap 185 and spent all but 17 of the remaining laps there. Finishing there was a dream with how the weekend started.
“When we showed up here this weekend, like last year, we had a really ill-handling car,” Hunter-Reay said.
“Felt like it just always wanted to turn around, get into the wall. Within an hour and a half of the practice time that we had, we made some good changes to it, especially in the warmup. And we made the right changes going into the race. So credit to the engineering team of the 28 car. We definitely got a good setup on it.”
Looking at Hunter-Reay’s results, Iowa must’ve been a big race circled on his calendar. After a fourth at St. Petersburg, Hunter-Reay saw only one other good result all season; a third at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Engine failures, a wreck at Texas and various other mishaps made Iowa Speedway’s result a welcome change from bad fortune.
“It’s rewarding, especially after the season — all the misfortune we’ve had. It’s been one of those seasons where we just can’t seem to get a break or — like I’ve been saying, I just want — I don’t need good luck, I don’t need bad luck, I just want none at all.
“I just want no variables to come into play that are outside of our control, and that’s what we had today, so it was nice to finish on the podium, and appreciate the remark. It’s nice to be on the podium here after such a hard year last year.”