Ryan Hunter-Reay Wins 2012 Grand Prix Of Baltimore
By Michael Page
Ryan Hunter-Reay came into the Grand Prix of Baltimore Sunday knowing that only a victory would give his team a chance at the overall points championship. With only one race remaining in the Izod IndyCar Series following today's run, he got it.
"The championship was on the line today, and that's really the one thing I'm fixated on winning," Hunter-Reay said. "This is all I've worked for my entire life and to come this close, I have haven't been nervous at all or anything. I've just been enjoying it and driving 110 percent and really getting along with the cars and felt like I'm in rhythm with the car."
Hunter-Reay came out of a late restart to overtake Ryan Briscoe and claim the victory in a controversial finish.
"The fact is, you're supposed to pair up," Briscoe said after the race. "[Hunter-Reay] hung back about two car lengths out of the chicane and he accelerated, and that's not how the restarts work. You come out of the last corner. You pair up side by side. Then, within the zone, when the pole sitter, regardless whether he chooses right or left -- it doesn't make a difference -- when the pole sitter accelerates, they wave the green flag, not when the second-place guy accelerates from two car lengths back, which is what happened."
But Hunter-Reay didn't quite see it that way.
"I came out of the chicane and got right next to Briscoe, and boom, the green flag was out," he said. "I think he was looking out his peripheral at me and waiting for me, the flag was green. It might have seemed like one motion to him, because, granted, he's waiting for me to catch up to him so I could see how he would think that, but I came off the throttle to wait for a moment."
Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 28 car for Michael Andretti's Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda, had to overcome a weak qualifying, during which he finished 10th, and some difficult weather conditions to earn the victory. A light rain intermittently fell for a good portion of the race, leaving the track slick in some areas. Andretti made the call on the tires, and the decision proved to be correct.
"You never like being out there in the wet on slicks," Hunter-Reay said. "Especially through fifth gear, turn one, when that's wet, oh my, that was crazy. But you know, [Michael Andretti] said to me: 'We are going for the championship. If we are going to do it, let's do it. Coming in fourth or fifth is not going to do anything for us.' "
Hunter-Reay was buoyed by the call.
"I really look up to that," he said. "That's a pretty brave move and it worked out. I had to keep the thing off the walls as long as it was drying, and when it started drying, I had a big smile on my face."
The win today was a big reward for a driver that has been on both ends of the spectrum. Hunter-Reay has had his fair share of adversity, and his hard work and determination paid off in Baltimore during Labor Day weekend.
"All things happen for a reason," he said, "and if you keep working at something, it's going to come out good, and that's how I have gone about it."
In the not-so-distant past, Hunter-Reay was unsure whether his professional race days were behind him.
"The period from 2005-2007, those were the longest days of my life," he said. "Not having a ride, an answer, not having anything. That was a long period of time. I just kept my faith at the racetrack and kept working at it."
With the uncertainty behind him, Hunter-Reay looks at his opportunity to race with a renewed vigor.
"I show up on the job," he said. "I have a beautiful Indy Car sitting there waiting for me, and that's my job to drive it. I mean, how cool is that? That's awesome, awesome -- couldn't think of anything better.
Hunter-Reay's win cuts the overall championship points deficit from 37 to 17, and puts his team in striking distance as it heads to Fontana, Calif., on Sept. 15 for the final race of the season.
"Now we go to Fontana, which is an absolute crapshoot," Hunter-Reay said. "It's wide open, and anybody's race. We're going to have a great championship showdown at Fontana."
Posted Sept. 2, 2012