Ryan Hunter-Reay doesn’t need to be reminded how challenging this IndyCar Series has been for him, but he gets a reminder this weekend at Iowa Speedway.
The short track in Newton, Iowa, is the last place the one-time series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner won a race. That was 19 races and a full year ago.
Meanwhile, series leader Juan Pablo Montoya has nearly doubled Hunter-Reay in points this season, and Hunter-Reay ranks 14th in the standings. Ten drivers ahead of him have won races since he last did.
Hunter-Reay’s struggle has been so pronounced that even talk of having the eighth- or ninth-best car in last week’s race in Milwaukee sounds encouraging.
“It’s disappointing, relatively speaking, compared to years past and our history at Milwaukee both as a team and me as a driver,” said Hunter-Reay, who drives for Andretti Autosport. “It’s not ideal, but we’re working (at improvement) by chipping away at it instead of (swinging) for big chunks.”
The Iowa track couldn’t come at a better time for Hunter-Reay — who also won the 2012 race — or for Michael Andretti’s Honda-powered team. The past five winning drivers at this oval track came from Andretti Autosport, including Tony Kanaan (2010), Marco Andretti (’11) and James Hinchcliffe (’13). But since Hunter-Reay won last July 12, only Carlos Munoz has won for Andretti, and that was in a rain-interrupted race in Detroit in May.
Saturday night’s race is the 13th of 16 this season, which means time is running out for Hunter-Reay to return to victory lane. Of course, he’s not the only notable driver still seeking his first win of the season.
The list of season non-winners includes Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, and Ganassi Racing’s Kanaan.
Castroneves has won at least one race in 15 of the past 16 seasons. Pagenaud, who won a pair of races in ’13 and ’14, was considered a sure bet to win when he joined Roger Penske’s operation during the offseason. Kanaan has 17 career wins.
Just as surprising is that Josef Newgarden (CFH Racing) and Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH) already have two wins each. Hunter-Reay said those Chevrolet-powered teams have “done a great job of taking it to the big teams.”
“It’s kind of been refreshing,” he said.
Kanaan figures to be strong in this Iowa Corn Indy 300 after leading 247 of 300 laps in last year’s race. He settled for a third-place finish when Hunter-Reay and Newgarden charged from the back in the final 10 green-flag laps with new tires.
This will be the third of three consecutive oval races, and Graham Rahal won at Auto Club Speedway and finished third in Milwaukee. Bourdais won the latter.