BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Will Power said he came in expecting to be chasing the Andretti Autosport drivers around Barber Motorsports Park.
Turns out that’s exactly what happened with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning his second straight Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday and Andretti teammate Marco Andretti taking the No. 2 spot on the permanent road course. The race finished under caution, leaving the two Andretti drivers to lead the pack to the finish line.
“To do it in that style where at the end of the race we were pulling away was thrilling,” said Hunter-Reay, who picked up his 12th IndyCar win.
It was well worth the wait after his Long Beach race ended badly two weeks ago. Not to mention a 2-hour, 26-minute rain delay that left a timed race going 69 laps instead of the scheduled 90.
The last four were under caution after rookie Mikhail Aleshin lost control and went off the track. The results left the 2012 Alabama race where neither Hunter-Reay nor Andretti finished in the top 10 well back in the rear view mirror.
“It was a huge race for us,” Hunter-Reay said. “This track used to be one of our weakest points, so to come here and put an Andretti 1-2 up is pretty impressive. And it’s a total team effort. Everybody’s been working really hard together to move in the same direction. It’s been a very strong start to this season for this team overall.”
Hunter-Reay’s aggressive attempt to pass Josef Newgarden at Long Beach led to a collision that caught up seven cars.
At Barber, Scott Dixon was third, followed by Simon Pagenaud and Power, a two-time winner at Barber who made his statement about the Andretti team after capturing the pole.
TIMED RACE: Dixon and Andretti, at least, weren’t fans of timing the race, which was limited to 1 hour, 40 minutes after the delay.
“The race should be the full distance,” Dixon said. “To have to shorten these races for TV, you know, I understand the difficult predicament that everybody is in, but these are championship races. They all pay the same amount of points.
“You decide to take 30 laps off them … I think it changes strategy a lot and you’re constantly chasing that window. Then ultimately you finish on a caution, too, which is also a bit of a bummer for the fans. In the future, hopefully we can find a way around that.”
Andretti’s response: “I don’t think I could have said it much better.”
CHARLOTTE’S WEB: Power had a slight but costly misjudgment in the tight Turn 5, which is dubbed Charlotte’s Web because of the huge spider sculpture at the spot.
“I kept creeping my braking point a little bit further and further, and I went too far,” Power said. “It’s tough to not push past the limits with wet patches everywhere. We really didn’t have the pace in the dry anyway, but that sure didn’t help our cause when I went off course.”
Hunter-Reay said there’s no margin for error on that turn.
“It was a very fine line between getting it all right or getting it all wrong,” he said. “Any guy that’s been in an IndyCar on the Web will tell you that’s how it is. You’ve got to go up the risk side to the get the reward out of it, but it’s really easy to throw it all away.”
ROOKIE PROBLEMS: Aleshin was left to walk back to pit road while the rest of the field finished and was second to last. Earlier Sebastien Bourdais had spun the Russian from behind, leaving him stalled. Bourdais received a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
Fellow rookie Carlos Munoz’s race ended after 29 laps because of mechanical problems.
NO BRIDESMAID: Dixon had finished each of the first four Barber races in second place, but dropped one spot this time.
“We went the wrong way, but it was an interesting day,” he said.
PENSKE: Team Penske’s Power and Helio Castroneves had won the first three races at Barber. Power started from the pole for the third time Sunday.
That left his fifth-place finish a subpar performance for him on the road course. Castroneves, meanwhile, received a stop-and-go penalty for stopping in the wrong pit and finished 19th, 13 spots behind where he started.
Dixon grumbled about Castroneves getting only a warning after jumping on an early restart.
He said that “seems to be typical of him, which is frustrating because he doesn’t seem to get a penalty for it.”