Podium Finishes for Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe at Rain-Impacted Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
- Ryan Hunter-Reay leads Honda effort at Barber Motorsports Park
- James Hinchcliffe runs third as Honda drivers finish second through eighth
- Tire gamble fails to pay off for Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 22, 2018) – The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama resumed Monday at Barber Motorsports Park, with Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe scoring their best results of 2018 – second and third, respectively – to lead the Honda effort.
Heavy rains and low visibility forced Verizon IndyCar Series officials to postpone the race on Sunday after 26 laps, with the event resuming today, running to a two-hour time limit. Sebastien Bourdais and Hunter-Reay led the initial challenge to eventual race winner Josef Newgarden, but as the race progressed and additional rain showers returned to the circuit, strategies changed to adjust to the new conditions.
Bourdais and seventh-running Scott Dixon elected to stay out on dry weather “slick” tires, moving into the lead on Lap 70 as the rest of the field pitted for deeply-grooved rain tires. For a time, their gamble appeared to pay off, as Bourdais and Dixon initially pulled away from the rest of the field. But the rain increased in intensity during the final 20 minutes, and both were forced to pit for rain tires with just over 10 minutes remaining.
That moved Hunter-Reay up to second, while Hinchcliffe prevailed in a battle with fellow Honda driver and Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi to claim third. Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate, Robert Wickens, turned some of the fastest rain laps of the race to finish fourth, as Rossi faded in the closing laps. After their change to rain tires, Bourdais and Dixon took the checkers in fifth and sixth, respectively. Graham Rahal scored a seventh-place finish, with his Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammate Takuma Sato rounding out the top eight for Honda.
Video recaps from this weekend’s Honda IndyCar Series action at Barber Motorsports Park are available on the “Honda Racing/HPD” YouTube channel. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
Today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama concludes a run of three consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series races in April. The Verizon IndyCar Series now heads “home” to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for “Month of May” activities, including the May 12 Grand Prix of Indianapolis road race and the May 27 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Both races will be broadcast live on ABC.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport Honda) started 4th, finished 2nd: ““It was a good race. It was tough getting the fuel [mileage] number and trying to keep the pace up, but it was a lot of fun when it started raining, trying to find the grip again and searching around. I was almost worried that I was going to burn the front [rain tires] off. We came in early for the wets [tires]. I stayed out there as long as I could but, on the slicks, I was a lot quicker. When you have one of those [sudden snaps] with the slicks, you can absolutely lose it completely, so we thought that was the best time to come in and grab the Firestone wets. It was good from there. I just needed a little bit more time to cut in on Newgarden’s lead. Congratulations to Team Penske and [Josef] Newgarden. Great job by the DHL guys this weekend. When we rolled off the truck, we weren’t that happy with the car, but we kept working on it methodically, chipping into it and everybody just executed – so a good weekend overall.”
James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) started 5th, finished 3rd: “I feel bad for the fans as much as anything [about the rain on Sunday, and again today]. We were driving around out there [today], and it’s like ‘right, guys, its getting wetter, it’s getting wetter…. Wet enough for rains? Nah, not wet enough for rains… Wet enough for rains? Nah… Pit for rains. Are you guys sure?’ It was the right call for sure, so big props to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys; it was a solid weekend for us in the end. Two [Schmidt Peterson Motorsports] cars in the top 10 after qualifying, and then two cars in the top five in the race, I’m pretty proud of these boys and everyone on the Arrow Electronics car. It’s good to get a couple of Hondas up there, maybe not on the top step of the podium, but we took the rest of it.”
Allen Miller (Race Team Principal, Honda Performance Development) on today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama: “On a day when you don’t have the dominant car, the goal is to get the best finish you can and maximize your [championship] points total. Almost all of our teams managed that today. There were 10/10ths efforts from Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and James [Hinchcliffe], and you saw that with their podium finishes. Sebastien Bourdais was one of our fastest cars today, so I understood their gamble [staying out on dry tires as the track became increasingly wet]. If the rain had not gotten heavier, we might have had a 1-2 with Sebastien and Scott [Dixon]. Still, second through eighth shows the strength of the Honda effort this year, and we’ll carry a good lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship into the ‘Month of May’ at Indianapolis.”