TORONTO – Flat oval, banked oval or street course, the Midwest or Canada: Ryan Hunter-Reay is proving he can dominate anywhere on the IndyCar circuit.
Hunter-Reay became the first American-born driver in six years to win three straight IndyCar races, taking the Honda Indy Toronto under caution Sunday. In the process, he took over the series points lead and, with five races left, finds himself in position to become the first American to win the title since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.
Three in a row, I don’t know what to think about this, Hunter-Reay said. We just need to really enjoy it. It’s nice to have realized that we’re in this position. And this is what I’ve always wanted. But now we have to take hold of it and go get it done.
Starting from the sixth position, Hunter-Reay took the lead for good on the 57th lap. He then managed to avoid a series of pileups following a restart on the 82nd lap of the 85-lap race.
The trouble began when Sebastien Bourdais was sent into the wall by Charlie Kimball on Turn 1. A few seconds later, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe, Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti became entangled in two crashes on Turn 3.
Hunter-Reay made it through the first turn, just beating Kimball to the corner and holding him off before the yellow flags came out. Kimball was second, followed by Mike Conway.
That’s Toronto, Hunter-Reay said. Turn 3 is mayhem corner.
Coming off wins at Milwaukee and Iowa, Hunter-Reay joined the late Dan Wheldon among Andretti drives to win three straight races.
And Hunter-Reay continued his surge up the standings, moving 34 points ahead of Will Power, who finished 15th, and 46 ahead of Helio Castroneves, who moved into third place after a sixth-place finish.
Kimball and Conway enjoyed career-best finishes after starting in the middle of the pack.
After starting 13th, Kimball got lucky being in the pits when the first of three cautions came up.
And he had enough gas and good enough tires to make a run at the end, jumping into second place by passing Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud.
Kimball, however, couldn’t beat Hunter-Reay to the first turn on the restart. And he had more worries, finding himself in the middle of Conway and Bourdais attempting to squeeze through a turn that was made more slippery because crews didn’t have time to sweep up the rubber on the track.
I think everybody was in a bit of a tight spot there because they didn’t sweep, Kimball said. Mike steamed up on the inside of me. I didn’t think there was room.
Bourdais saw things differently.
Too many idiots, that’s for sure, Bourdais said, before focusing his displeasure on Kimball. He shouldn’t be standing on that podium; he doesn’t deserve it.
Power finished 15th, Franchitti finished 17th and hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe finished 22nd.