Ryan Hunter-Reay forces Alexander Rossi into mistake to win Detroit
Down but never out, Ryan Hunter-Reay broke a winless drought dating back to 2015 with a win in Sunday’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2.
He ran several seconds behind teammate and dominant force Alexander Rossi with 10 laps remaining, with the win all but wrapped up for the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion. Only one lap later, Hunter-Reay had cut the deficit and applied heavy pressure to the gearbox of his teammate.
Eight laps to go, the pressure got the better of Rossi, who locked up his brakes and allowed Hunter-Reay to begin searching for a gap. Rossi, with the slight advantage in push to pass time, pushed on and attempted to build another gap as the bright DHL colours grew clearer in his mirrors.
The pressure got the better of Rossi, and he locked his brakes into Turn 3 with only seven laps remaining. Hunter-Reay sped past and never looked back, recovering from a P10 start after spinning early in the morning’s qualifying session. As he crossed the finish line, nearly three years of pressure to win was alleviated.
“This has been a bit of a long time coming,” Hunter-Reay told ESPN, post-race, “and that was going to be a heck of a fight at the end. Good thing we pressured him into it, and we’re here in victory lane. This car deserves to be where it is right now.”
Having taken to the pits later than his teammate on a different strategy, Hunter-Reay had tires several laps fresher at his disposal. In the late stages of the race, this made all the difference.
“After I took that second set of black primary Firestones, I started getting in sync with the car and the balance starting coming to me,” he said. “As I got into a rhythm, the car was doing everything I needed it to. Everything. As we started that last stint, Rossi was more than a straightaway ahead of me. I couldn't even see him.”
“I just put my head down, and this thing was flying.”
For pole sitter and leader of the most laps Alexander Rossi, the weekend ended in a haze of confusion and disappointment.
“I don’t really understand,” he told ESPN, “so I don’t have anything to say.”
Will Power fought to P2 in a weekend to forget for Chevrolet in their own backyard of Detroit, having struggled to maintain the pace of Honda throughout the weekend and even suffering a crashed Corvette pace car, delaying the start of Sunday’s race.
Ed Jones and Saturday’s race winner Scott Dixon, teammates in Chip Ganassi Racing, finished P3 and P4. The result marks Jones’ third career podium finish, and second in his debut season with the team. The teammates finished ahead of Graham Rahal, whose car underwent a complete rebuild after a Saturday accident, and outside pole sitter Robert Wickens.
The Verizon IndyCar Series next rolls on to Texas Motor Speedway for the DXC Technology 600 on June 9, 2018. Defending race winner Will Power will look to continue his newfound proficiency for oval racing, hot off the heels of his Indianapolis 500 victory.