Photo: Justin R. Noe, ASP

Hunter-Reay Surges Forward for Andretti in Barber Qualifying

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Ryan Hunter-Reay has had some success before at Barber Motorsports Park. The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion was victorious at Barber in 2013 and 2014 and is looking for another win at Barber after qualifying in fourth position.

In 2018, the Floridian has taken a bit of a backseat to current points leader Alexander Rossi. Rossi currently leads the points standings with a pair of third place finishes and a victory.

While Rossi has been the one grabbing all of the headlines, Hunter-Reay has been quietly amassing points, starting the season off with a pair of top-five finishes despite some bad luck at St. Petersburg where he had an electrical failure before the start of the race and had to start from the pits.

“We’re both really fast drivers and I think you’re going to see that any Andretti car can put in a lap,” said Hunter-Reay. “In [St. Pete] nobody really saw it but I was hunting down the leaders doing times quicker than the leaders the whole race so nobody saw that.

“At Long Beach we were plenty fast and just had a nightmare of a race there. So, I like this place and I expect us to be competing all year.”

Hunter-Reay has had a large share of bad luck the last few seasons at Andretti Autosport. With mechanical trouble and other crazy things taking the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner out of contention for a victory to end a winless streak going back to the 2015 race at Pocono.

“Sometimes you just get bad luck and sometimes you make your own bad luck,” said Hunter-Reay. “As long as at the end of the day you know why things are happening and you know what you can just chart up to bad luck, that’s important but I keep a positive perspective on it. The odds are, if you continue to be fast and be up front, things are going to go your way.”

Both Barber victories came during the original DW12 aero kit configuration. That single aerodynamic bodywork had its own challenges but the biggest difference Hunter-Reay will have to face is the tires.

“The two cars are pretty different and the tires are a lot different,” said Hunter-Reay. “Back then the tires were kind of manufactured and designed for that car. These tires, Firestone’s done a great job but they’ve been designed for a car with a lot of downforce which was the previous aero kit car so now we have these tires that were designed for loads of downforce.

“We just took a lot off and now they’re a handful and they’re fun to drive.”

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.