BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Andretti Autosport remained perfect on the year Sunday when defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay snapped Penske Racing’s winning streak at Barber Motorsports Park.
Hunter-Reay proved to be a credible threat for the victory when he beat both Will Power and Helio Castroneves for the pole. The Penske drivers had swept every pole and all three races in IndyCar’s previous visits to the Alabama road course.
Hunter-Reay then ran a steady race and held strong in an intense battle for position with both Penske drivers to claim his first win of the season. Then he had to hold off Scott Dixon, who finished second for the fourth consecutive year.
I was dragging my tail off trying to hold off Dixon, Hunter-Reay said.
Castroneves was third to take over the IndyCar points lead, and Charlie Kimball, Dixon’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, was a career-best fourth. Power was fifth.
It was a huge turnaround for Hunter-Reay, whose previous best finish at Barber was 12th and who opened the season with an 18th-place finish at St. Pete in a race plagued by mechanical problems. But he left with his 10th career victory.
It left team owner Michael Andretti beaming after two IndyCar wins to open the season and Carlos Munoz’s victory earlier Sunday in the Indy Lights race.
It was great to get that win with Carlos this morning and for Ryan to come back, they did a great job with strategy, Andretti said. Just a perfect weekend, when you start on the pole and lead almost all the laps, it’s just how to do it.
It wasn’t all roses for Andretti, though: James Hinchcliffe, winner of the season-opener at St. Pete for Andretti, never got a chance to contend for a second consecutive victory.
A poor qualifying result put him at the back of the field at the start, where he was stuck in heavy traffic when the green flag waved. As cars jockeyed for position on the first lap, Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia made contact that collected Hinchcliffe and damaged his car. It left him with what he believed to be a tire issue, but the caution period wasn’t long enough for IndyCar officials to tow him back to pit lane.
So Hinchcliffe’s disabled vehicle sat on the course as the race went on around him. There was never another caution flag, so Hinchcliffe was stuck the entire race sitting inside his idling car.
He ran just three laps and left Alabama with a last-place finish.