Photo: Walter G. Arce Sr./ASP, Inc.

Hunter-Reay Earns First Win Since 2015 at Belle Isle

By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor

DETROIT – In Saturday’s first Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, Ryan Hunter-Reay fell just shy of claiming his first victory in three seasons.

On Sunday he wouldn’t be denied.

Hunter-Reay overcame a 10th-place starting position with a three-stop strategy and pressured Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi into a late mistake to secure Sunday’s Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. The victory was the Floridian’s 15th-career triumph, and his first since Pocono Raceway in August 2015.

While Hunter-Reay ended up in victory lane at day’s end, early on it appeared Rossi would be the one to take the checkered flag.

One day after gaining the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead with a podium performance in Race 1, Rossi delivered an impressive qualifying effort in the wet to secure his third-career IndyCar pole in Detroit. The Californian led the field to green – after dodging a crashed pace car, no less – and drove off with a dominant early lead.

With his strong advantage and no need to try any trickery, Rossi and the No. 27 team opted for a standard two-stop strategy in the 70-lap race. Hunter-Reay and the No. 28 team elected to roll the dice on three stops.

With a three-stop strategy, Hunter-Reay found himself off-sequence with the rest of the leaders and able to make good time on-track. The move allowed him to overtake a slew of his competitors over the middle section of the race, and by the time he’d completed his final stop the 2012 IndyCar champion trailed only Rossi.

Hunter-Reay emerged from his final Lap 52 stop with a 7.6-second deficit to Rossi for the top spot, but he quickly began to close the gap. By the time the field hit 10 to go, the distance between the teammates had dropped to two seconds. Two laps later Hunter-Reay was in Rossi’s wake.

While he had a faster Honda, Hunter-Reay would need some help to overtake Rossi on the tricky 14-turn, 2.35-mile Detroit street circuit. That help came on Lap 64, when Rossi locked his brakes up heading to Turn 3 and wound up in the turn’s runoff area.

Hunter-Reay eased his way past his teammate to take a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

Rossi continued on after the incident, but he’d suffered a flat left-front tire. The whole ordeal relegated him to a 12th-place finish.

Hunter-Reay soared on to take the win.

Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power crossed the line 11.35 seconds behind Hunter-Reay to finish second. Ed Jones benefitted from Rossi’s issues to snag third and an unexpected podium.

Race 1 victor Scott Dixon ended the race in fourth, with Graham Rahal bouncing back from a Saturday mistake to round out the top five. Robert Wickens, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud completed the top 10.

While the pace car did crash earlier in the day, Sunday’s actual race tied a Belle Isle record for fewest full-course yellows, with a lone caution flying for a Spencer Pigot crash on the second circuit.

No other incidents forced yellow, but other competitors did find trouble.

Dale Coyne Racing teammates Santino Ferrucci and Sebastien Bourdais both encountered issues during the race, sustaining damage in the early Pigot crash and later spinning and causing damage – Ferrucci at pit exit, and Bourdais in Turn 1. The pair ultimately finished in 20th (Ferrucci) and 21st (Bourdais).

Rene Binder also saw problems, but they occurred prior to the race’s start. The Juncos Racing rookie’s No. 32 Chevrolet wouldn’t fire up on the race’s start. Chevrolet’s pace car mishap allowed his crew to repair his machine, but they were assessed a two-lap penalty for working on the car under red-flag conditions.

Next up for the IndyCar Series is a trip to the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval on June 9.

Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Dual 2 Results

  1. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  2. Will Power
  3. Ed Jones
  4. Scott Dixon
  5. Graham Rahal
  6. Robert Wickens
  7. Tony Kanaan
  8. Charlie Kimball
  9. Marco Andretti
  10. Simon Pagenaud
  11. Max Chilton
  12. Alexander Rossi
  13. Zach Veach
  14. Matheus Leist
  15. Josef Newgarden
  16. James Hinchcliffe
  17. Takuma Sato
  18. Jordan King
  19. Gabby Chaves
  20. Santino Ferrucci
  21. Sebastien Bourdais
  22. Rene Binder
  23. Spencer Pigot

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Aaron Bearden is a Contributing Writer for Motorsports Tribune, handling coverage of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and ABB FIA Formula E Championship. A native Hoosier, Bearden has attended races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he was three years old. He can be found on social media at @AaronBearden93.