By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Heading into the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Ryan Hunter-Reay is looking to put the memories of last year’s race behind him.
It was that race where Hunter-Reay struggled to find grip virtually the entire month and ended up finishing the racing in 19th place. The problem continued post-500 on the series’ next oval round at Texas Motor Speedway as Hunter-Reay crashed in practice and struggled to a 15th place finish.
Following the race, the car was scrutinized by Andretti Autosport where it was found to have an apparent problem.
“We found out after Texas we had an issue with the aero pieces on the car,” said Hunter-Reay. “Specific to the No. 28, we ended up winning Iowa and Pocono because we ended up figuring those issues out. It was a bit of an anomaly for us, we couldn’t fight our way out of the hole that we were in.”
Following the fix, Hunter-Reay went on to win at Iowa Speedway and Pocono Raceway to close out the season.
Come this Month of May, Hunter-Reay and the entire Andretti Autosport team have been among the front runners the entire month before and ultimately qualified in third place, coming just a tenth of a mile an hour shorter off polesitter James Hinchcliffe.
Hunter-Reay found the feeling to be a bit bittersweet as he didn’t get the pole, but to see one of his best friends sit on the pole after nearly losing his life a year ago was truly amazing.
“I was very, very pleased for James,” he said. “He’s one of my really good friends and former teammate. Knowing what he’s gone through, it’s just an incredible story. A lot of courage involved there. To miss the pole by a 10th of a mile an hour over four laps which equates to something like six feet across the line. It’s a bit disappointing.”
Given how well this month has gone so far for Hunter-Reay, there is chance that he can repeat his 2014 winning performance. Hunter-Reay started in 19th and blasted his way to the front over the course of the first 250 miles of the race and found himself in a dogfight at the end with Helio Castroneves and teammate Marco Andretti.
A red flag for Townsend Bell’s crash on lap 192 set up a seven lap shootout between Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti. After running cautious for a few laps, Hunter-Reay took the lead for good following a daring move on the inside of Castroneves in Turn 3.
“That’s what the Indy 500’s all about,” he said. “I really didn’t know how much this race meant to me until I got to the fight at the end. It always meant the world to be, but at the end of that race I remember going down the backstretch into three when I had taken back the lead from Helio and thought to myself ‘I will do absolutely anything to win this race.”
Image: Jim Haines/IndyCar