4.7.13 – After a strong start to the season, Andretti Autosport continued its winning streak this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. Respectively, Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Muñoz won the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and Legacy Indy Lights 100 on Sunday, giving the team three wins overall on the 2013 campaign.
Defending series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay got back to form Sunday, winning his first race since Baltimore last September, completing a near perfect weekend which saw him take the Verizon P1 Pole Award, then keep the field behind him as he took the checkered flag. After battling throughout the race with Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power, Hunter-Reay was able to track down leader Castroneves and pass him on lap 75 of 90. “(Helio’s) tire strategy worked in our favor. We had new reds on when he had blacks on, and he was just a sitting duck at that point. I just kept patient and made it happen when I needed to. It was very challenging out there today.” Today was Ryan’s 10th career win and his first at Barber Motosports Park.
Marco Andretti continued to show his competitive nature this weekend by tallying another top-ten finish for the 2013 season. Throughout the weekend, Marco seemingly progressed during every on-track session. Starting inside the fourth row, Marco spent his day fighting his way through tough competition, and climbed his way as high as third, but sufficed for a seventh-place finish, his second top 10 in two races thus far. “I thought the RC Cola car was quicker on track than where we ended up. Not finding the podium is always tough to swallow, but having back-to-back top-10 finishes keeps us in a good position going into Long Beach.” Marco will bring the RC Cola Chevy to Long Beach in the top five in points, and will look to keep the No. 25 in position for a championship run.
Although E.J. Viso did not have the weekend he had hoped, the 28-year-old Venezuelan is not discouraged and is proud of his teammates. “Probably not the race that we wanted,” he commented. “Anyways, we stayed out of trouble and we did all we could. Unfortunately in our race there were not many (yellow) 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.” After qualifying in 16th, Viso approached the 90-lap race with an open mind and ended up finishing in 12th – picking up two spots on the final lap as he approached the twin checkers.
Following his first career win at St. Petersburg, James Hinchliffe looked poised to establish himself as the man to beat in 2013, but unfortunately a tough result in qualifying and a first lap incident ended his day early. Heading into Turn 8 on the opening lap, Graham Rahal bumped into the back of Oriol Servia, who then ran into James. Although nothing broke immediately, something broke in the left rear shortly thereafter, and James lost drive. The safety crew began to tow the No. 27 Go Daddy Chevy towards pit lane, but a tire rolled off at Turn 5. The series made the decision to leave Hinch behind the wall and would tow him back at the next yellow; that yellow never came. “Certainly not the race that we wanted, but it wasn’t really our weekend at all,” said a frustrated mayor of Hinchtown. “It’s too bad because I think the strategy we had with the tires was going to be a good one, and obviously the car was strong with Ryan bringing home the win. It sucked to have to sit there – praying for a yellow, staying in the car, hoping we’d get the car back to the pits and maybe salvage a position or two. But ultimately it didn’t work out for us.” Hinchcliffe will still remain among the top of the charts in the points chase, but gave up a good amount of ground with his 26th-place finish. Still, James looks forward to ridding the demons at Long Beach, where he recorded his first top-five finish in 2011. “There’s nothing else you can do at this point – put it behind us and move on to Long Beach, and try to put the Go Daddy car into a better position.”
Firestone Indy Lights driver Carlos Munoz had a successful weekend at Barber Motorsports Park capturing both the pole position (his second consecutive) and the win in Sunday's 40-lap race. This is the third career Firestone Indy Lights victory for the Colombian. Teammate and K12 driver Zach Veach turned the fastest lap of the Firestone Indy Lights Legacy 100 race at Barber Motorsports Park, but that wasn't enough to secure the promising rookie a spot atop the podium. Instead, Veach had a cut tire early on in the race which would send him to pit lane for service. The 18-year-old managed to finish the race, recording a ninth-place finish when the checkered flag flew.
Team owner Michael Andretti was ecstatic with the team’s results this weekend. “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 and of the Firestone Indy Lights team. Everyone did a great job all weekend.”
The IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights series will head to the streets of Long Beach for round three of competition in two-weeks’ time. James Hinchcliffe recorded his first career podium finish at the famed street circuit in 2012 while Ryan Hunter-Reay captured the checkered flags in Southern California in 2010.
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