Ryan Hunter-Reay finally ended a 18 race winless drought with a resurgent final half of the race at the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway.
RHR took the lead following the final exchange of green flag pitstops as he was the first car to pit when the final window opened. He pitted on lap 239 while running a somewhat distant second to Josef Newgarden who had dominated the race.
Pitting before his rival allowed Hunter-Reay to click off fast laps and get his tires up to temperature as the rest of the field still ran on worn tires. Newgarden pitted 11 laps later from the lead and the Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing crew performed a perfect pit stop and it was up to keep the lead.
Newgarden left the pits but soon was easy prey to Hunter-Reay as the #28 DHL Honda had a whole head of steam and took the lead with ease and began to pull away.
Hunter-Reay’s fight to the lead almost was all for naught as the race set up for a shootout when Takuma Sato crashed in turn two on lap 262. After 15 laps of caution, the race went green and Hunter-Reay picked up where he left off and drove away from Newgarden.
Behind them, the action picked up as Sage Karam became a man on a mission and aggresively moved his way to the front. As did Graham Rahal who pitted for tires under the yellow flag after getting his lap back following a gearbox issue which put him a lap down earlier in the race.
Karam and Ed Carpenter drove inches off the wall and each other lap after lap before finally prevailing. His march to the front didn’t end there as he disposed of third place Carlos Munoz while Rahal’s four fresh tires allowed him to drive anywhere he wanted and followed into fourth place.
Meanwhile up front, Hunter-Reay never fluttered and took his first win in nearly a year by .5046s over Newgarden.
“It felt like we had something (tonight),” said Hunter-Reay. “It certainly was going to be tough to beat them today, but this No. 28 DHL Honda was on rails at the end and I was driving the snot out of it.”
“This one we really had to work for, this was a hard one.This is just amazing. … We’re having a tough year but we got into Victory Lane in one of the most competitive seasons.”
Newgarden had to settle for second place after leading a race and career high 111 laps, his second consecutive top 5 finish.
“We didn’t quite have the ultimate speed,” said Newgarden. “Some of that’s down to downforce choices tonight. We had a great race car, I’m so proud of my guys. We had a really incredible car and it was fun to run here.”
Karam claimed a career best 3rd place finish but drew the ire of Ed Carpenter following the aggressive battle to the end.
“He’s just angry at my driving,” said Karam. “He says I squeezed him a few times, but it’s the same way he drove me. It’s hard racing, I’m going for wins and that’s how we’re driving. It’s close racing, it’s Indy car racing.”
The All American 1-2-3 is the first Stars and Stripes Sweep of the podium since the 2006 Indianapolis 500.
Many of the series juggernauts all dropped out as first points leader Juan Pablo Montoya hit the wall on lap 10 following a suspension failure which breifly lifted the hopes of second place in the championship Scott Dixon. Dixon ra inside the top three for much of the night following Newgarden and teammate Tony Kanaan. The Brazilian fought for the lead with Dixon and Newgarden for much of the night but his hopes for the win ended abruptly when his Chevrolet engine died on lap 189.
Dixon continued to challenge Newgarden for the lead but would soon follow his teammate to the garage as a wheel bearing broke on lap 230 and he was forced behind the wall. He returned to the race with 30 laps to go after the crew fixed the broken part and he managed to pick up one championship point from as Takuma Sato dropped out.
That played into the favor of Graham Rahal, who went a lap down near the middle of the race after his gearbox overheated. He drove through the field and worked his way back to the lead lap and caught a lucky break when the final caution fell while he was leading, which allowed him to stay on the lead lap. With four fresh tires in hand, he managed to push his way to the front and salvage a fourth place finish.
Following Dixon’s problems, Montoya still holds the points lead over new second place Rahal who is 42 points out of the lead.