By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season has been mostly under the radar but the three time Iowa Corn 300 winner put the rest of the field on notice as he qualified third quickest for Sunday afternoon’s race at Iowa Speedway.
The 2012 series champion qualified with a two-lap average of 180.681 mph around the .875 mile short oval to place Hunter-Reay behind the Team Penske duo of Will Power and Josef Newgarden.
“I was hoping we had a shot for pole today so I’m a little bit disappointed in that,” said Hunter-Reay. “But when I feel like we missed it like we did and we’re P3, that’s not a bad day so far so we’ve got a lot of work to do tonight and make a good race car for tomorrow.”
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner currently sits tied for second in points with teammate Alexander Rossi but Rossi has had most of the headlines. With daring overtaking moves at Indianapolis and his skirmishes with Robert Wickens and Takuma Sato among others, Rossi has been at the forefront in many people’s minds.
However, Hunter-Reay pressured Scott Dixon all throughout the first of two races in Detroit and ended up dominating the second race on the streets of Belle Isle to win. The No. 28 DHL Honda has finished every race in the top five except for Long Beach where he finished 20th after being caught up in three separate incidents and at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis where he finished 18th after massive electrical gremlins sapped horsepower.
“We’ve been strong I feel like the whole year,” said Hunter-Reay. “We finished second at Barber, just a few whiffs there in the beginning of the season have us held back a little bit at the moment. Just have to keep being consistent and being aggressive.”
This year has been a welcome change of pace for the Andretti Autosport driver. If Hunter-Reay can achieve one more top-five finish, he will have earned his ninth of the season, equaling his combined top-five finish total from 2016 and 2017.
“It’s nice, we just have to keep it rolling,” said Hunter-Reay. “We have to get some more race wins as well, that’ll be key. I think to be in the championship hunt going into Sonoma, you’re going to have to from here just be constantly racing in the top five every weekend and get a couple more race wins for us.”
The Iowa Corn 300 broadcast begins Sunday at 1:00 p.m. CDT on NBCSN with a green flag time around 1:40 p.m. CDT.