After both contended for the victory in yesterday’s second race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, have discussed the end of their races on Sunday; with the Andretti Autosport team-mates leaving Motor City with vastly different emotions.
In Saturday’s first race of the weekend, both Hunter-Reay and Rossi would finish on the podium. However, both had a sense of underlying frustration, with Ryan and Alexander believing that they could have won the race had things played out a little differently.
Hunter-Reay believed that he had the speed to hunt down the eventual race winner, Scott Dixon, in the closing stages of the race, but he felt he was hampered by the numerous late-race cautions and their subsequent race restarts. Rossi also felt he could have been in with more of a chance of winning, stating after that race that he felt he had run much of the race whilst being held up by slower cars.
For much of Sunday, Rossi looked in imperious form. Like he had done back in Long Beach in April, Rossi claimed pole position and, at various points in the race, had a strong advantage over the rest of the field. However, Hunter-Reay, who qualified down in tenth after a mistake during qualifying, was on an alternate three-stop pit-strategy compared to Rossi’s two-stop strategy. This allowed Hunter-Reay to gain vital track position by running in clear air, allowing him to move up to second for the final stint of the race.
With Hunter-Reay having stopped once more than Rossi, it was down to him to close up a near-eight second lead over the final eighteen laps. However, had had much fresher tyres to help him accomplish that goal. A fantastic run of consecutively quick laps put Hunter-Reay right on Rossi’s gearbox for the closing ten laps, with Rossi ultimately succumbing to the pressure from behind and the fading grip of his older tyres.
Rossi would suffer a heavy front brake lock-up on two successive laps, with the second spelling the end of his bid for victory. He was forced to take to the escape road at turn three, giving Hunter-Reay the lead and the race win shortly thereafter.
For Hunter-Reay, it was the end of a long wait for his seventeenth career victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series. His last win had come back in 2015 at Pocono. After the race, he heavily praised the team that gave him the equipment he needed to chase down Rossi and seize his first win in nearly three years.
“You know, after I took that second set of blacks, the Firestone primary tires, I started to get in sync with the car and the balance started coming to me,” Hunter-Reay said, “I was really worried in the beginning because we were really loose, and then as I got into a rhythm, the car was doing everything I needed it to – everything.
“When we started that last stint, [Alexander] Rossi was more than a straightaway ahead of us. I couldn’t even see him. I just put my head down and this thing was flying. It was such a great car.
I’m so happy for this No. 28 DHL Honda team. I wish my wife and the boys were here with me because they’re the best, and this has been a bit of a long time coming. That was going to be a heck of a fight at the end, but good thing we pressured him [Rossi] into it and we’re here in victory lane. It’s awesome – this car deserves to be where it is right now. That was a heck of a car, heck of a strategy, great in the pit lane and I drove my rear end off.”
Whilst Hunter-Reay was obviously jubilant with the way that the final laps had panned out, his team-mate Rossi was understandably less pleased. After his lead-ending lock-up with seven laps to go, things went from bad to worse. His left-front tyre, which had born the brunt of both of his lock-ups, developed a puncture that would force him to make a late pit-stop.
The run into the escape road, coupled with the puncture and pit-stop, saw Rossi tumble down the order from the lead to an eventual twelfth place finish. What was, perhaps, worse, was the fact that Rossi had also dropped from the lead of the championship down to third place. Of course, there are plenty of races for Rossi to return to the top, but yesterday’s race was a prime opportunity for him to further extend his previous lead in the standings.
After climbing from his car, Rossi stated how disappointed he was with the result, before going on to admit that he did not know what really caused the late-race lock-ups.
“It was a pretty disappointing day considering we led the most laps and started on pole,” Rossi said, “For sure we didn’t have the pace for Ryan [Hunter-Reay] – he was just on another level. So hats off to him and the DHL team, they certainly deserved to win. But the Ruoff Home Mortgage car definitely had a second-place finish in it.
“Unfortunately, with less than 10 laps to go, our luck changed. We’re not really sure what happened, we’re going to investigate to see if something went wrong because it was a very abnormal issue to have when we hadn’t experienced anything remotely similar all weekend.”
Rossi will not have long to wait to get his opportunity to rebound from the disappointing loss. The ninth round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, the DXC Technology 600, will take place this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 9.