After his victory in Saturday night's Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway, Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay has closed to within three points of Team Penske's Will Power for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead, and is brimming with confidence after his back-to-back victories on the Milwaukee an Iowa ovals.
“Two in a row, that's a game-changer,” Hunter-Reay declared. “It all comes down to consistency, and that's how championships are won. We have to go week in and week out and be consistently strong and be within the top 5. Certainly the Penske team will and the Ganassi guys, and also some wild cards will show up on a lot of these street and road courses. So we have to be good there. But we do have Fontana (Auto Club Speedway) on the schedule and our cars have been really good on the ovals, even the big ones. We just have to be consistent. That's all we are really focused on, and we are at a point now where we are happen way through the season."
Hunter-Reay reckons that his Andretti Autosport team's open vibe helps him as well as teammates Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe – and he paid credit to Andreti for his test work at Iowa in Victory Lane on Saturday night.
"There's nothing standing in the way, communication-wise, with all of us," Hunter-Reay said. "We are very open with what we find. If one of us finds something that works, we are communicating it to the others, because we know it will benefit us and it's already worked.
We have only been working the three of us together for, what – eight, nine races now – and it has a lot of potential, because the communication is great. The atmosphere within the team is the best it's been since I've been here, for sure. We are quick and as a group and after practice, we always get together like you said and we hash it out on what we thought worked for one another and what we think didn't, and that certainly makes a difference when you have a three-car team."
Hunter-Reay added that the heat-race format tried out Iowa, while interesting wasn't quite representative of the main event.
"The thing about the heat races, I love the idea but we are all on new tires, and on new tires as you saw, everybody kind of runs single file until the tires fall off halfway through the stint, which happens to be the last 30 – which is where we finished the heat races. So we were just getting to the interesting point in the tires when the checkered flag came down.
"We found out what not to do. We tried something and we figured, 'If we try it, we need to try it now because tomorrow night, we need to make this thing stick.' We found out what didn't work, which sometimes is as valuable as finding out something that does.
Hunter-Reay's focus on consistency isn't just starting. He has just two finishes outside the top 10 through nine events (both due to mechanical issues), while Power, in particularly, has been on a cold streak since crashing out at Indianapolis. Still, Hunter-Reay is taking nothing for granted.
“There's still a long, long way to go,” Hunter-Reay he noted. “I for sure don't feel like I'm almost there so to speak. I have the same feeling I had after I left Milwaukee: 'This is not good enough. We need to dig deeper.' And that's what we need to do, for sure.”