By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin — Despite his best efforts, Ryan Hunter-Reay could not overcome Josef Newgarden’s pace and the Andretti Autosport racer had to settle for second place in Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America.
The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series Champion started third which became second after front row starter Will Power had a mechanical issue that dropped him through the field.
Never letting the defending series champion out of sight, Hunter-Reay only ran below second place for two laps when Scott Dixon took the lead. However, Hunter-Reay never passed Newgarden, the two of them pitting on the same lap for all three of their stops.
“I felt like we had the pace for [Newgarden], especially the first two stints,” said Hunter-Reay. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint, I didn’t know when it was going to come.
“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint. We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”
Both drivers ran identical pit stop strategy but Hunter-Reay ran his third stint on primary black sidewall tires while Newgarden ran on the alternate red sidewall tires which give more grip initially but wear out a bit faster. However, Hunter-Reay could not close the gap as Newgarden’s tires wore in the third stint.
“When [Newgarden] was on his reds and my blacks, I couldn’t keep up with him,” said Hunter-Reay. “Especially in the dirty air, we were pretty evenly matched in the last stint. Right at the end I got a little bit loose. He started to pull away a little bit more, I think the damage was done at that point.”
The only thing that could’ve helped Hunter-Reay would’ve been a caution. The 55 lap race went caution free for an average speed of 132.101 mph.
“Starting third, I’ll tell you, going green the whole way was a lot of fun,” Hunter-Reay said. “I thought we’d be a bit better, knowing how the first outing went, the first stint went, how close we were with Josef.
“Getting around here for however long it was, a full race distance, going 100%, add Road America in and IndyCar doesn’t get much better than that for a driver.
“Good, fun day. One position short.”
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner now sits tied for second in points with Alexander Rossi at 348 points. Dixon leads the points at 393 points.