Ryan Hunter-Reay fought off Scott Dixon to become the first non-Penske driver to win an IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park.
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion was in contention throughout the race, but he moved into the lead for the final time when he took advantage of his softer red tires to pass primary tire-shod Helio Castroneves with 15 laps to go. Castroneves immediately fell victim to Dixon as well, and what had been a 1.2-second advantage to the American was swiftly eroded as the New Zealander closed him down. But he was never able to find a way past and Andretti Autosport's Hunter-Reay crossed the line 0.6sec clear, consigning Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dixon to second for the fourth year in a row.
Hunter-Reay had to survive a couple of potential derailments en route to Victory Lane. He had found himself behind an out-of-sequence Will Power during his second stint, and despite being on the better tires, was not able to pass the Australian until he finally pitted. Shortly afterward he made contact with Castroneves just after the Brazilian passed him, but escaped damage.
"Helio and I always race clean," Hunter-Reay said. "I had a little bit of contact with him when I just couldn't slow the car down. But when we were on the new reds and he was on the blacks [at the end], he was a sitting duck.
"I was driving my tail off trying to stay in front of Dixon," the winner added. "Will did a good job staying in front of me on blacks – not sure how he did it.
"A lot of great racing out there. I just kept patient and made it happen when I needed to. It was very challenging out there today. I'd like to thank all the other drivers, though, for keeping it on track and not going yellow because, man, I didn't want it to go yellow at the end. Winning at Barber is excellent. It shows what we're about, it shows that last year wasn't a fluke. We really worked for it today. Unreal. I'm exhausted!"
Mulled Dixon, runner-up yet again at Barber, "Today was a day of catch-up: A big fumble at the start with Will (Power) and it backed the whole line up and we dropped to like sixth or seventh. I think at first I ran the blacks there was a real mismatched set for some reason and it had loads of understeer, I lost eight or more seconds on that one stint. Pulled Charlie (Kimball) back up and then the reds, got stuck behind him and had a fumble in the pits and it was just one of those days where the car was really fast. I think we had the speed to win the race quite happily but we were just playing catch-up all day."
Castroneves was third ahead of Charlie Kimball (LEFT), who was one of the surprise performers of the weekend. That was partly due to him getting more life out of the red tires than he had expected, but his highlight-reel moment came with an impressive pass on Power late in the race.
Power had already had his share of drama by that point, having run wide on the opening lap and dropped seven places. The Penske team switched to a two-stopper in an effort to salvage something, but the fact that most of the race ran under green forced Power to spend too long fuel saving to make up any ground. He ran out of E85 immediately after crossing the finish line.
"It was a tough start for us, we couldn't get in the right slot and then committed to a different strategy," noted Power, who blamed an electronic mapping problem for catching him out at the start.
Compared to some of the series' other big names, though, Power's problems were nothing. St. Petersburg winner James Hinchcliffe suffered a broken wheel in an opening-lap clash with Oriol Servia and Graham Rahal, leaving him to watch the rest of the race from behind a safety wall. It was also a tough day for Dario Franchitti, who retired with a broken header, although the Scot took some solace from the fact that he had moved well into the top 10 from his starting position of 17th at the time the problem struck.
Josef Newgarden in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car (ninth) and Tristan Vautier in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson entry (10th) earned their first top 10s. AJ Allmendinger's open-wheel return started impressively, as he passed teammate Power to surge into the top 10 before falling back, and a stall at a pit stop also cost him time. The third Penske driver finishing 19th after running in the top 10 early on.
"All in all today was a good day in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevy and there are a lot of positives to take out of it," Allmendinger reckoned. "We had a good start and I thought I was pacing myself well – we could have had a top-10 day without the couple breaks against us. It was a good day with a bad stall and unfortunately after that point we were saving fuel, so it made it tough to make up ground. But I know that I can compete with these guys and look forward to getting even better at Long Beach."
Results - 90 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Dallara-Chevy
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi Dallara-Honda + 0.6363s
3. Helio Castroneves Penske Dallara-Chevy + 17.6821s
4. Charlie Kimball Ganassi Dallara-Honda + 20.6166s
5. Will Power Penske Dallara-Chevy + 26.6469s
6. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Dallara-Honda + 27.2995s
7. Marco Andretti Andretti Dallara-Chevy + 27.7175s
8. Justin Wilson Coyne Dallara-Honda + 30.5504s
9. Josef Newgarden Fisher Dallara-Honda + 41.1029s
10. Tristan Vautier Schmidt Dallara-Honda + 50.6449s
11. Alex Tagliani Herta Dallara-Honda + 58.0458s
12. EJ Viso Andretti Dallara-Chevy + 1m01.4334s
13. Tony Kanaan KV Dallara-Chevy + 1m01.6834s
14. Takuma Sato Foyt Dallara-Honda + 1m03.1151s
15. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR Dallara-Chevy + 1m03.1495s
16. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Dallara-Chevy + 1m07.6880s
17. JR Hildebrand Panther Dallara-Chevy + 1m09.7447s
18. Simona de Silvestro KV Dallara-Chevy + 1m09.9130s
19. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dallara-Chevy + 1m11.0558s
20. Sebastian Saavedra Dragon Dallara-Chevy + 1m11.6523s
21. Graham Rahal Rahal Dallara-Honda + 1m14.0385s
22. Ed Carpenter Carpenter Dallara-Chevy + 1 lap
23. James Jakes Rahal Dallara-Honda + 4 laps
Ana Beatriz Coyne Dallara-Honda 65 laps
Dario Franchitti Ganassi Dallara-Honda 42 laps
James Hinchcliffe Andretti Dallara-Chevy 3 laps