By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
SONOMA, California — Ryan Hunter-Reay put in a dominating performance en route to victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Sonoma Raceway.
After starting on pole, the pilot of the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda led 80 of 85 laps and beat newly-crowned five time series champion Scott Dixon by 2.7573 second in the finale INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.
It marked Hunter-Reay’s 18th Indy car victory and became the third drought he snapped this weekend. His pole from Saturday marked his first since Long Beach 2014, while Sunday’s triumph ended a win-less streak on a permanent road course dating back to 2014 at Barber Motorsports Park, and with his previous win at the second dual race at Belle Isle, it’s the 2012 series champion’s first multi-win campaign in three years.
Even with a dominant victory to cap of the season, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion felt the day was never ending despite only having one full course caution for Graham Rahal on Lap 44, and coming in-and-out of his scheduled pit stops in the lead.
“Felt like the race just didn’t want to end. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the whole day out front,” said Hunter-Reay. “Any time I needed the pace to put it down, we leapt out to a lead, I was able to maintain that.”
For a short while, Dixon was gaining grown on him, to the point it came down to 0.67 seconds between the two, but the “Iceman” couldn’t catch the No. 28 DHL Honda this time around as his Firestone reds didn’t have the wear longevity of Hunter-Reay’s blacks. Despite this, he wasn’t too concerned of how Dixon was going to race him.
“I know Scott. He wants to win every weekend. He knows I can race him clean. He races me clean,” said Hunter-Reay. “I thought we were going to have a little tussle. He was on the Firestone reds, they come up quicker in temp. As soon as we settled into a pace, I was able to pull away and open it up.”
In the final points tally, Hunter-Reay ended up fourth in the standings, leapfrogging Josef Newgarden. While his eyes are set on reaching 20 career wins, but also reflected on what might’ve been had it not been for late season bad luck that him out of contention for a second IndyCar Series title once again.
“I’d love to get into the 20s. No doubt about it. I start thinking about numbers and race wins, I can’t help but think about all the ones that slipped away,” said Hunter-Reay. “Every race car driver is like that. You think of the ones that should have been. I guess it comes with it when you concentrate on winning races like we did this weekend. That’s what we’re going to do.
“Every year I think about six races that got away from us and why. Had they not, we would be right there fighting in the championship. Should have, could have, would have.”
Over the past six races at Sonoma, Hunter-Reay has finished no worse than eighth last year, and Sunday’s victory marked his third podium result in the last five editions.
With Sunday being the last one at the 2.385-mile circuit and replaced by WeatherTech Laguna Seca next season, Hunter-Reay said he hopes it comes back in the schedule sometime in the future now that he’s scored the victory.
“I’m going to miss this place. It’s unbelievable. All these years I’ve been trying to win here, now we win, we’re not coming back,” said Hunter-Reay.
“We seem to have the secret, the setup now, and we can’t use it. I hope we’re back not in 2019, but in 2020. Hopefully we can get this resolved and get two Northern California races on the schedule.”
INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma – Results
1. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
3. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
5. (4) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
6. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
7. (6) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
8. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (5) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running
10. (14) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running
11. (20) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running
12. (18) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
13. (25) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 85, Running
14. (10) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running
15. (15) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
16. (13) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 85, Running
17. (16) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running
18. (22) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 85, Running
19. (23) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
20. (19) Colton Herta, Chevrolet, 85, Running
21. (21) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running
22. (24) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 76, Running
23. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 66, Running
24. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 38, Mechanical
25. (12) Takuma Sato, Honda, 15, Mechanical
Winner’s average speed: 99.440 mph
Time of Race: 2:02:19.1667
Margin of victory: 2.7573 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 5 laps
Lead changes: 5 among 3 drivers
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 1 – 15
Newgarden, Josef 16
Power, Will 17 – 18
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 19 – 61
Power, Will 62 – 63
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 64 – 85
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 678, Rossi 621, Power 582, Hunter-Reay 566, Newgarden 560, Pagenaud 492, Bourdais 425, Andretti 392, Rahal 392, Hinchcliffe 391.