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Ryan Hunter-Reay wins at Barber

Apr 7, 2013, 5:57 PM EDT

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Ryan Hunter-Reay passed Helio Castroneves for the lead with 15 laps remaining and then held off Scott Dixon by six-tenths of a second to win today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. It’s Hunter-Reay’s first win on a natural terrain road course since 2008 (Watkins Glen), and it comes after three consecutive finishes outside of the Top 10 at the Birmingham road course.

“[I was] driving my tail off trying to stay in front of Dixon,” an exhausted Hunter-Reay said in Victory Lane to NBC Sports Network’s Marty Snider. “…We’ve never had a car like this at Barber. To do that is just unreal.”

Dixon managed to get by Castroneves himself for second place, but was unable to completely reel in Hunter-Reay and was forced to settle for his fourth consecutive runner-up finish in Alabama.

“We had a strong day,” Dixon said. “The car was very quick — I think we had the quickest car out there. We just didn’t have the best of clean days.”

Castroneves slipped back to third position at the finish, but still managed to climb to the top of the IndyCar championship. He’ll take a nine-point edge over Dixon to the next race in two weeks on the streets of Long Beach, California (Apr. 21, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“We had to change the [tire] strategy in the middle of the race, we had to make time and that’s what we did,” said Castroneves, who finished the race on primary blacks while Hunter-Reay ended on alternate reds. “I thought we would be able to hold on, but it was 15, 17 laps to go. It was too many laps, the blacks were a little tough to hold on with against those guys. At least we got a podium and more points for the championship.”

Charlie Kimball put up a tremendous effort, dicing with the leaders all race long before finishing fourth. Will Power overcame a wild start to the race that saw him shuffled back to eighth and came home in fifth position.

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