By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – Ryan Hunter-Reay did not have the ideal start to his Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend, but finishing fourth was way more than he could’ve expected to start the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
“We had so much going on this weekend with the brake issues that we had in practice session two, where we lost most of the time there, then I tapped the wall in qualifying which threw qualifying out the window and then this morning with the brake failure and then before the race with the engine coughing and sputtering and we barely stayed on the lead lap,” Hunter-Reay said.
“We were lucky to do that and then we fought like hell from there to get P4, it was a tough fight to get up there.”
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner had a brake failure during Sunday morning’s warmup that resulted in his car not slowing down on the way to Turn 10, striking the tire barrier and necessitating a massive repair job before the race.
This looked like it was going to be a continuation of bad luck for Hunter-Reay. The 2012 series champion had two missed opportunities for victory last season at the 100th Indianapolis 500 and at the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
“We’ve had a lot of bad luck over the past couple of years,” said Hunter-Reay. “It was nice for it to come back our way a bit and really pan out. The fact that hard work paid off today was nice, hopefully it’ll be that type of year for us.”
Hard work was what it took not just for Andretti Autosport, but for Honda as a whole. At one point during the race, 10 of the top 13 cars were all Honda, which over the last two seasons has not been the norm.
“It was a good weekend all in all for Honda,” said Hunter-Reay. “We showed a lot of strength this weekend, hopefully we can carry that on.
“We know that this kit does have some disadvantages on the short ovals and road courses but I think hopefully [we can fight] on street circuits and on super speedways for sure.”