NEWTON — “It’s a great oval. This place races like no other track in the world. It’s very unique. It’s definitely a staple of the Verizon IndyCar Series. It is a major part of our racing,” 2014 Iowa Corn Indy 300 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay said following his stunning late-race run to Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway Saturday night.
Hunter-Reay said before the Verizon IndyCar Series annual stop at Iowa Speedway that he loved racing on the 7/8-mile oval, which is the shortest track the series runs on. He recorded his second win in three years at the Speedway in dramatic fashion.
On a call by owner Michael Andretti, Hunter-Reay’s No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport car was fitted with fresh tires on a late-race pit stop under caution. On the restart, he sat 10th but not for long.
Hunter-Reay passed nine cars as he chased down race leader Tony Kanaan, who led 247 laps of the 300-lap race.
“I thought we had the car to win that first stint. I thought this is going to be great.You know, when a car is hooked up like that, you get a feeling at the beginning of a race that you might have a car worthy of winning,” Hunter-Reay said in the post-race news conference.”
“I had that feeling. Then as the temperature came down, the car changed, things got complicated. Wasn’t really going our way. But we made the right call. I was really aggressive on the restart, made it through there. It was close passing T.K. coming to the white flag. But we definitely stole one tonight.”
Josef Newgarden in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry followed Hunter-Reay through the traffic on the final 10-lap dash to the finish line. Newgarden, who started 21st and was running 11th at the green flag for the final restart, also pitted for tires on Lap 284 and overtook Kanaan on the final lap to tie his career-best finish.
“Just really happy about the call we made. That was great,” Newgarden said. “It was like a video game at the end pretty much. A little unfair almost, but it was fun. I knew it was going to be interesting when I was lined up, Hunter-Reay 9th, Graham (Rahal) 10th, us 11th. You knew it was going to be an interesting end to the race. We just had to find the clean lanes and it really worked out well for us.”
Kanaan finished third to reach the podium at Iowa Speedway his fifth straight year.
“We dominated the last two races. For one reason or the other, we didn’t win,” Kanann said. “But to win a race, you got to be up front. That’s what we’ve been doing. I am extremely satisfied with the way we’re doing things in the team. A win is around the corner, for sure.”
Kanaan’s Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon could not break the trend at Iowa Speedway that no pole sitter has won a IndyCar Series race at the track. Dixon, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion who claimed his first Verizon P1 Award of the season on Friday, finished fourth.
Ed Carpenter advanced five positions relative to his starting spot for fifth place in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car. Hunter-Reay reclaimed third place in the championship standings — 32 points behind new front-runner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, who finished eighth at Iowa.
The Iowa Corn Indy 300 was red-flagged after 39 laps because of moisture on the racetrack and resumed after a 26-minute delay. The last red flag because of rain was at Sao Paulo in 2011.
The Verizon IndyCar Series has run at Iowa Speedway since 2007, but this is the first time the race has been pushed into July. As such, the Iowa Corn Indy 300 assumes more importance in the countdown to the championship.
Next up for the IndyCar Series is a doubleheader weekend at Toronto July 19-20.