Jun 15, 2013, 8:25 PM EST
He’s not as far back in the championship standings as he was this time last year, but Ryan Hunter-Reay has the opportunity to repeat his second half surge thanks to his second straight win at the Milwaukee IndyFest.
He’s the first to pull off that feat in the IZOD IndyCar Series at the Milwaukee Mile since Tony Kanaan in 2006-’07. For that matter, he’s also the only driver to win an Andretti Sports Marketing-promoted event – he is three-for-three with two wins in Milwaukee and one at Baltimore last fall.
Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 1 DHL/Sun Drop Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport, entered Milwaukee a year ago seventh in the championship, 75 points behind then-series leader Will Power. His win and Power’s 12th-place finish at the 2012 race promoted him to fourth, just 41 points back.
Of course, it also set the stage for his run of three straight victories from Milwaukee to the next short oval a week later in Iowa, and a third triumph on the streets of Toronto.
“In sports, when you get into a momentum, a rhythm, it’s not something you can put a price tag on or finger on, it just happens,” he said. “It kind of saturates the team with this feeling that, Hey, we can get it done. If we perform to our best, to our potential, we can absolutely win races.
“That carried over week in, week out. We were able to win four more races than anybody else last year. It all started here last year. This is a great place to start. Andretti has great cars. You put the two together, and hopefully it comes out the way we want.”
Hunter-Reay has improved his qualifying this year to match his race pace (starts of eighth or better in all nine races, including seven top-four starts). He was due another win after podiums at Indianapolis and the first Detroit race since his win at Barber in April.
This race was actually shaping up as a battle between Hunter-Reay and teammate E.J. Viso in the race’s first 100 laps. But a caution for their third teammate, Marco Andretti, being stopped on track, promoted Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves up the leaderboard thanks to their off-sequence strategies.
“We were setting the pace of the race early,” Hunter-Reay said. “The yellow came out. I’m not sure for what. Maybe it was for Marco. That shuffled us back into the field a bit, which put some of the guys off strategy, Helio, Takuma, etc., into the lead.”
“Yeah, E.J. is always very good here,” he added. “I saw him coming up from behind about halfway through the race. I knew it was going to be tough. I thought it was going to be between him and I at the end. He was very strong. We really seemed to click getting through traffic at the end of the race better than anybody.”
Hunter-Reay also appreciates the history of Milwaukee, the oldest active race track in North America.
“Every time I have the opportunity to race here, I feel blessed,” he said. “Such a challenging place. When you get it right, there’s no better feeling in IndyCar than at Milwaukee Mile. Indianapolis definitely is right there with it, but this place is very special.”
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