BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA – Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay overtook Helio Castroneves on Lap 76 of 90 and then held off Scott Dixon to win the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama by .6363 of a second.Castroneves, who won the inaugural event in 2010 on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course, finished third and Charlie Kimball finished fourth. Will Power, who started on the front row, finished fifth.
Dixon has finished second in all four of the IZOD IndyCar Series races at Barber.
“I was driving my tail off trying to stay in front of Dixon,” said Hunter-Reay, who rebounded from an 18th-place finish in the season opener at St. Petersburg on March 24.
Hunter-Reay, who earned the Verizon P1 Award the day before in the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autsosport, jumped 13 positions to third in the championship standings heading to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 21. Castroneves, with his second podium finish, holds a nine-point lead over Dixon.
The victory was the first by a No. 1 car since Sebastien Bourdais at Mexico City in 2007.
Also on April 7, Carlos Munoz completed his domination of Barber Motorsports Park by winning the Legacy Indy Lights 100. The Andretti Autosport driver swept the weekend, topping the time chart in each practice session and earning his second consecutive pole start.
Jack Hawksworth, the St. Petersburg race winner, was 5.0684 seconds behind in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car. Teammates Gabby Chaves and Sage Karam followed. Jorge Goncalvez was fifth in the No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing car.
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA POST-RACE QUOTES:
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet, winner Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama): “I had a little contact there with Helio (Castroneves), I feel bad about it. Good thing nobody was affected by it but man, I was driving my tail off trying to stay in front of (Scott) Dixon. Will (Power) did a good job staying in front of me on blacks, not sure how he did it. A lot of great racing out there. It’s just great to get a win for DHL, Sundrop, Circle K and Chevrolet back in victory lane. A good way to start the season.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Banana Boat Honda): “We had a header problem on the Banana Boat car and that led to some electrical issues that took out the clutch. The guys worked real hard to get the car back together. Tough day for us.”
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Owner, Andretti Autosport): “It really was a perfect weekend. We got the pole in both races and the win both races and led most of the laps, you can’t ask for much more than that. I’m really happy and proud of the whole DHL crew. They did a great job all weekend, and the whole Andretti team and it was really good. We knew we had to get it done because we had the reds and Helio had the blacks, and that’s how Helio was able to get us, so we had to try to return the favor.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet, finished third): “Today was a good day. It was a little bit tough to recoup. We need to change the plan. We got boxed in and we got boxed in, Will (Power), people were shoving him in a way that was very difficult for us to get away. That was a shame on the start, but when we changed to Plan B we just decided to go for it. It paid off and it wasn’t a win but for us for the championship, it is good and right now we just have to keep going. We need to keep going and you have to put yourself out there that’s great and that is what we just did today.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, finished second): “Today was a day of catch up, a big fumble at the start with Will (Power) and it backed the whole line up and we dropped to like sixth or seventh. I think at first I ran the blacks there was a real mismatched set for some reason and it had loads of understeer, I lost eight or more seconds on that one stint. Pulled Charlie (Kimball) back up and then the reds, got stuck behind him and had a fumble in the pits and it was just one of those days where the car was really fast. I think we had the speed to win the race quite happily but we were just playing catch up all day.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): “I wish I could have taken a nap, but these race cars are going around making all this noise. It’s really rude of them. (He stood up and stretched on Lap 75) Sitting in that one position. Normally you’re working in the car. (What happened with car?): “We got hit on Lap 1 and when we got the call for one to go (for the green flag) the wheel came off. I was hoping they were going to let us tow back and throw a new one on because nothing else was bent. But you dig yourself in a hole, qualify back there and these things happen. It’s a weekend to forget. We just have to come back stronger and get the GoDaddy car back on the podium.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther DRR Chevrolet): “That was a disappointing race. On the first lap, I was involved in the first crash. I got hit from behind and I hit Hinch (James Hinchcliffe), which I’m sorry for. I saw three cars abreast in front of me and I tried to take it easy, maybe Graham (Rahal) didn’t see it and we all just ran into them. It was a bad start and it’s hard to come back from last. We had a decent car, but I had the rear bumper ripped off in that first crash so the car was not behaving at its best. We did what we could, we were never as fast as the top five cars, but we definitely as good as those running 6th, 7th, and 8th. If we would have been able to jump up front, we would have been able to stay there.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): “I thought we the RC Cola car was quicker on track than where we ended up. Coming into barber, you can always expect this to be a physical race. Not finding the podium is always tough to swallow, but having back to back top ten finishes keeps us in a good position going into Long Beach.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “We tried to top off the fuel tank early under yellow and then do a two-stopper. But the Fuzzy’s car wasn’t very good on the black Firestones. I thought the car felt good with the Firestone Red tires. We ran some pretty consistent laps for a while there. We committed to a strategy with just two stops and it just didn’t work out for us. This track is tough and it is very hard to move forward. We had a good first day here and I disappointed myself on Saturday in qualifying. But today I felt the car was better and we learned some things for the future. We had a pretty good at St. Pete and I think we’ll have a good run at Long Beach now. At the end of the today, we have to take the positives and move on.”
E.J. VISO (No 5 Team Venezuela Andretti Autosport HVM Chevrolet): “Probably not the race that we wanted. Anyways, we stayed out of trouble and we did all we could. Unfortunately in our race there were not many red flags to give us any margins to risk and to work on strategies. It was a very clean race. Not much action on track – just trying to keep the pace with the others. That’s about it. I’m very happy for Ryan – he won the race! Hopefully my turn is coming soon.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Mouser KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet): “It was just a long day. I started the race on the primary tires in order to get them out of the way and was hoping to get more speed out of the red alternates to pick up some track position, but once I got stuck in traffic in the middle of the pack there was nothing I could do. Lost a handful of spots during our pits and managed to get some of them back at the end of the race, but it was still not our day. Let’s move on to Long Beach in a couple of weeks and focus on getting a better result there.”
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Arvea KVRT Chevrolet): “It was a tough race for us. We were always in traffic and there was always something going on. At the start I kind of got pushed out and lost a few positions and had to work my way back up. You know we were always fighting with different people and different tires and it was really hard to get by, so we kind of got stuck there and it wasn’t great. But, we’ll go on to the next one and hopefully we’ll be alright there.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): “Today was a good day, sometimes sixth place feels like a win. We’ve had quite a bit of tough ones since the beginning of the season and it feels like luck might have turned around now. We had a great race car it was consistent and fast. We were able to fight with the main guys so we came back from 13th into sixth position so pretty happy with the result today, good points for the championship and great to know we’re going to Long Beach and I’ll aim for the win this year.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Today was a pretty tough race. I learned a lot and that’s good but really I was struggling with space and I asked my engineer for a little too many changes and wasn’t quite there on the pure speed. I made a few mistakes, three big mistakes that cost us a lot. I think next time I just need a better pace and to avoid those mistakes. It was definitely a good experience to finish the race and it shows you how hard it is to stay 100 percent for almost two hours. A big thanks to the team for a very good car all weekend. The race was not as good as we hoped but it’s good we went to the end and learned a lot for next time.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “It was disappointing for the result but it was a good tough race that we fought really hard to the end. We had an issue on a pitstop where we lost many positions but after that we recovered & the final stop was great, so the boys did a great job. We still have to address some things to sort out the problem before Long Beach. Hopefully we can transfer our good speed from here.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Overall it was a pretty good day for the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda. We got held up a bit on our first pit stop of the day and that cost us some track positions. But we were able to battle back and regain most of them. The Dale Coyne Racing team gave me a great car all weekend and we were able to secure another Top 10 finish. I would have loved to finish higher, but I am satisfied with eighth place on the day. I was telling my engineer that it is so nice having an offensive car compared to a defensive one. We were able to overtake a lot of cars during the race. We will keep plugging away and hopefully improve on our finish today in two weeks in Long Beach.”
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 18 Ipiranga Honda): “We ran all race up until we had the mechanical failure. I had a good rhythm going and we were able to gain our lap back. The No. 18 Ipiranga Honda team did a great job getting me quickly out of the pits today. I found out the mechanical problem just before I pulled into the pits, which is a good thing. This was my first time on this track and while it wasn’t the result I wanted, we are improving as a team each race. We will set our sights on Long Beach in two weeks and hopefully continue to improve.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): “We knew it was going to be a long day starting in the back of the field. We had a good car and were able to make it up to 11th, but I made a mistake and we lost our position and fell back to 13th. On the last lap I was confused with a call on the radio and thought it was the end of the race, so I backed off and lost 3 more positions. Disappointing way to end the day.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): “I’m really disappointed with the way our day ended here at Barber. We had an amazing car and I was really happy with it, challenging drivers like Will Power for position. Pit stops did not go as planned and we lost what we had gained, moving to the back of the field. I’m ready to move onto Long Beach and go for the results I know we can get. “
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): “I’m just happy we got points today. There’s been so many occasions where we should have had top 10, even top 5 last year and we just never were able to turn performance into results which is really a shame. We’ve always been there it’s just about one thing or another holding us back from getting a result. I think what’s different for us this year is that we’re a lot more prepared, a lot more ready to score good points each weekend. I’m a little bit disappointed. I messed up a couple of times. I really think we probably should have been sixth or seventh. I had two little mistakes over the hill on turn 13 there and just got wide into the marbles and it basically almost threw me off the race track when you get that wide. I’m disappointed that I did that, but even so we still finished with a good top 10 so solid points, but definitely more to be gained.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas / Big O Honda): “I got into Servia at the start; everyone just checked up and I had nowhere to go. I was going really slow but he hit the brakes and I feel bad. There was no way I could get it stopped and just punted him. Then I felt like we got into a rhythm and we started to pass some cars. The car kind of struggled in traffic a bit but I still thought we were going to have the pace to move forward. On old tires the car became a big handful behind guys and unfortunately I just didn’t have the pace to drive around them. On the last lap we ran out of fuel. I was hitting the fuel number that I was being told but obviously the fuel number was off. Unfortunately all of that hard work was for nothing. I ran out of fuel on the back straight and coasted across the finish line but lost a lot of positions. I worked hard today and the Midas / Big O Tires team did a good job so I am disappointed we didn’t get the finish we thought we would.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Barracuda Racing): “I’m really proud of the Barracuda Racing team today,” said Tagliani. “We were hurt by the qualifying position but I think our car was good. We had a P5 lap time in the race, so that was great. The piece that got broken in the beginning of the race made us loose when we lost a lot of downforce in the rear. That stint hurt us, but we dialed down the front aero by taking some wing out and rebalanced the car. I think P11 is a good result overall and we earned some more points. As long as we keep doing that, we’re building momentum for the championship
AJ ALLMENDINGER (No 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet): “All in all today was a good day in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevy and there are a lot of positives to take out of it. We had a good start and I thought I was pacing myself well, we could have had a top-10 day without the couple breaks against us. It was a good day with a bad stall and unfortunately after that point we were saving fuel so it made it tough to make up ground. But I know that I can compete with these guys and look forward to getting even better at Long Beach.”
JR HILDEBRAND ( No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): “I felt good all day, and the Panther team did a great job in the pits as well. But I felt like we had a couple varying scenarios that inevitably didn’t go our way. We were definitely expecting for there to be more yellow flags as the race went on, and with it being so tough to pass, we were trying to get off-sequence with the group of cars that we were around. And early in the race we had the pace to get awayfrom a lot of those guys. In our effort to get off-sequence it was always so close, but never ended up working for us, and that’s the frustrating part. We had to run a long stint there at the end and we lost a few positions, but we were able to fight hard to keep our spot in the last few laps and I think at the end of the day we need to continue moving forward and working with what we have to get better. These last two races if we would have started up front we would have stayed there, so that’s the aim going into Long Beach.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): “The Acorn Stairlifts team had good pace all weekend and I think that if we hadn’t had a problem in the race, we would have finished in the top six. We had a great strategy, we worked well in the warmup on a setup preserving the tires and had just a bit of bad fortune but I know the guys will work hard and be ready for Long Beach. On a positive note, we set the fastest lap of the race.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Honda): “It was a tough start for us, we couldn’t get in the right slot and then committed to a different strategy to hopefully get the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on the podium. We thought we had a good plan and just needed a yellow at any point after Lap 31. Unfortunately it didn’t come and we fought for the fifth place finish. It isn’t exactly what we wanted to get out of the weekend but is still a good points day and gets us closer to the top.”
From Amy Konrath, INDYCAR