Ryan Hunter-Reay may not have started a tradition, but he hopes he started a pattern.
And a post-victory jaunt into the iconic James Scott Memorial Fountain at Belle Isle Park may not have the resonance of kissing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway bricks, but it was as refreshing as ending his 42-race winless streak on Sunday in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
“Yesterday, when I had an interview for (finishing) second, when I was on with the local (TV) news, they said, ‘So, if you win this thing tomorrow, are you going to jump in?’” Hunter-Reay recalled with a smile. “I'm like, ‘Yes, I'll jump in, I want to win that bad.’”
So, after winning Sunday’s race by more than 11 seconds, among the first people the Andretti Autosport driver encountered was the same TV crew.
“First thing I got out of the car were those two guys that I said, yes, I'd jump in the frigging fountain. I got right in, no problem.”
Hunter-Reay’s predatory overtake of teammate Alexander Rossi seemed much the same – no problem – but belied the effort he and his No. 28 DHL Honda crew exerted in using a three-stop strategy to seize control in the final seven laps of 70 around the Belle Isle temporary street course.
In doing so, Hunter-Reay picked up his first Verizon IndyCar Series victory since Pocono Raceway in August 2015 and ruined what looked like a perfect plan coming together for Rossi. Hunter-Reay closed a seven-second gap to Rossi following the last round of pit stops and forced Rossi to slide off course, take the lead and win for the 17th time in his Indy car career.
Rossi was on a well-orchestrated two-stop strategy, but locked his tires on consecutive laps with Hunter-Reay in hot pursuit. After the second lockup, Rossi’s left front tire shredded and he slid into the Turn 3 runoff on Lap 64, opening the door for Hunter-Reay to grab the lead.
“I got to him, I think, with 11 laps to go, on his gearbox, and from there, I just started to see where am I catching him, what corners is he weaker,” Hunter-Reay explained how he sized up his prey. “I found that Turn 1 and 2 was the place that I was catching him quite a bit, so I just kept putting pressure on.
“I thought that the gap and the interval that I closed on him, that at some point that weakness would be exposed, so I was going to take my chances. I found out that (opportunity) was out of Turn 2. … I kept getting that little bit of front lock from him, so that kind of started to open the door. Then it opened.”
Rossi, who had won races after his two previous Verizon IndyCar Series poles, said he didn’t understand what happened to his car’s performance at the critical juncture.
"It was a pretty disappointing day considering we led the most laps and started on pole," said Rossi, who wound up in 12th place and lost the points lead he had taken in Race 1 on Saturday.
"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."
Team Penske’s Will Power finished 11.3549 seconds back in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, allowing the recent Indianapolis 500 winner to re-assume the championship lead.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ed Jones and Scott Dixon finished third and fourth, respectively. The weekend was fruitful for Dixon, who won on Saturday and trails Power by five points in the standings. For Jones, the third-place finish equaled his career best.
Rossi fell to third in the championship, 11 points back. Hunter-Reay is fourth, 31 points back, but encouraged after wondering when a litany of near-misses would be converted to wins as in his 2012 championship campaign.
“It went through my head a lot,” he admitted. “But I know I have the team behind me to do it. I know I can do it with the right car. I know I have the talent to win the races and just have to think positive.
“I've got the best job on earth, so I come and show up in the morning and there's a yellow car there with my name on the side of it, and I go to work as an INDYCAR car driver. I absolutely knew we could get back in victory lane, it's just a matter of putting it all together.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series is in action again this week with the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear Race 2 Driver Quotes:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a rough day. We did what we could and we fought hard, but just didn't come up with much from a results standpoint. It's a tough pill to swallow, but sometimes you have days like this. It was fun having Hitachi here this weekend. They are super supportive of our race team, so I'm disappointed we couldn't do a little better for them and especially for Team Chevy too. We will go to the next one."
MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We probably had the pace to be in the top 10. We got a great start, but it just was not our day today. I'm learning a little bit more every time (on saving fuel), but it's time to start running at the front, not the back. Hopefully, we'll have a good race next weekend."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): "A really disappointing day for us. The Arrow Electronics car changed a lot from yesterday, which we weren't expecting... Ultimately, our day was dealt a blow when we pitted after a car spun on track thinking it was going to be a yellow, and the yellow just didn't come out; it just really compromised our strategy. We lost a ton of track position, lost a lot of time behind guys on the two-stop strategy. It was one of those days where if it could go wrong, it did. Unfortunate way to end the weekend because the cars genuinely had pace. We'll put our heads down and be stronger in Texas."
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): "Mixed emotions today. When you start on the front row, you hope to be fighting for a podium. Unfortunately, we just couldn't find the balance to increase the tire longevity to compete. We committed to the three-stop strategy pretty early on and we took the lead for a little bit in the second stint, and I honestly thought things were looking pretty good. We had to pit a bit early, which is how we lost out to (Ryan) Hunter-Reay and then we just kept losing track position not coming out in clean air. Coming home in the Lucas Oil car P6 - we can't really complain... We qualified third on Saturday, second today, so you hope to at least finish in the top five both days. I think we are a little disappointed, but a good points weekend."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "That was a job well done there by the whole PNC Bank team. I'm just not sure what happened to the red (Firestone alternate) tires there as they just really fell off and went away on us. We didn't really change anything on the car from yesterday other than a few little things to stabilize the rear end. It was a good day overall for us and we got some good points."
ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was a fantastic day for the NTT DATA team. The guys really did a good job with the car this weekend. We started off a bit slow, but the important thing is that we improved every session and earned our way here today. Today's podium was another step in the right direction for the No. 10 NTT DATA team and I'm looking forward to getting back after it at Texas in a few short days."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I feel like this was about as good as we could get, given how fast (Ryan) Hunter-Reay was. There was just no way anyone was going to beat him. We just seemed to struggle a little bit on full tanks and cold tires, but very happy with the result. You know, I feel like with what we had, that's the most that we could have got out of that race, so very happy."
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Great day for us. I had to redeem myself for this morning. The good part about it, what is awesome is when your boss (A.J. Foyt) is behind you regardless what happens. I was really down after qualifying today because I made a mistake. It looked like he was trying to find the reason that I crashed so that it wasn't my fault. I said, 'A.J. it was my fault.' So that gives me a lot of confidence and a lot of motivation just to go and do it. And the guys did a great job in the pits. We had a fast car. I had a lot of fun. I'm exhausted, but it's our best result of the season so far at one of the most difficult tracks and with one of our worst qualifiers. So pretty happy."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): "I'm definitely proud of the performance and the effort that everyone on the United Rentals team put in. The guys did an amazing job last night. We had to switch to a backup and they were here until 12:30 in the morning. Luckily it was a bit of a late start today, but the guys got very little rest, but again, they put a car on the track that had no mechanical issues, no problems whatsoever. It was a decent points day. We should have put it all together yesterday, but that's on me. I'm obviously still a little upset with myself from yesterday, but overall it was a good rebound today."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): "It's a shame. We struggled all weekend and then finally hit on something for the race. The SealMaster Honda No. 18 car was really good, and for the first time this weekend, I was finally able to race with people. It looked like we were going to have a top-five finish, then I barely touched the wall in Turn 7 and bent the left rear toe link. It collapsed in Turn 1, sent me into a massive spin and that was that. I feel bad for the guys. They worked hard all weekend and did a good job in the pits. We just have to move on and see what we can do in Texas."
SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): "I can't thank the guys on the No. 19 Paysafe crew at Dale Coyne Racing enough. From the engineering team to the mechanics, they gave me an absolute stellar race car. I'm just upset, being a rookie, that I made a rookie mistake coming out of the pits and spinning the car. Despite that, we showed incredible pace throughout the race. These guys really deserve a good finish. I'm very happy that I was able to come out and participate this weekend in Detroit and I hope to be back."
JORDAN KING (No. 20 Allegiant International Chevrolet): "It was a long, long race. The only thing keeping me motivated was my lap time delta. I was just trying to beat my lap time delta every lap. Our speed was all right - we maybe could have had a top 10, but the first stint did not allow for that. We struggled a bit with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) and probably stayed out a bit long. By the time the pit sequence was through, we were a big chunk of time behind people. After that, on the blacks (Firestone primary tires), we were all right. Pace seemed pretty good, but I had no one behind and no one in front - it was just a long race."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It wasn't just a spin, I got hit from behind by (Santino Ferrucci). First, we banged wheels, then he just kind of punted me in Turn 5. It is very disappointing to end the race this way. The Fuzzy's Vodka was strong yesterday and we were hoping to move forward in today's race. It's unfortunate when drivers come into the series and do silly things like that because they don't respect that all of us are out here racing every weekend for the championship."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): "Today was defiantly better than yesterday. We made big progress on the car. Still not enough though. We rallied as a team. It was a much more decent showing. We need to continue to progress and evolve. Street courses are definitely our weakest area at the moment. We are going to be on the superspeedway next week and we have been strong on those. We are going to try and get a hat and cowboy boots, especially with DXC being the title sponsor of the event. Overall, tough weekend and a lot of adversity, but the team did a great job."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): "I'm really proud of the resiliency of this Carlin team. We didn't get the job done all that well this morning in qualifying, but we had a nice clean race, good solid pit stops, and a really good strategy. It felt like I raced pretty cleanly and we had good pace in clean air, which helped us get good mileage when we needed to. I'm just so happy for the No. 23 car guys for getting a top-eight finish today. With Max (Chilton) coming home in the top 11 today, hopefully, we can get both of us into the top 10 in Texas next weekend."
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): "I felt like it was a much better race for the Relay team today even though the results didn't show it. We got caught up in the beginning with our Reds (Firestone alternate tires) falling off, so we had to switch from a two-stop to a three-stop strategy - which was something we were hoping we wouldn't have to do. I feel like that cost us and placed us back in the 10th to 15th range. Everybody did an incredible job from my Relay crew to my engineer, Garrett. I'm just thankful we were able to walk away with two average finishes. That's what this rookie year is all about - learning from each race and I can honestly say we've learned a lot so far."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda): "It was a pretty disappointing day considering we led the most laps and started on pole. 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."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "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. 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."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Fifth Third Bank Honda): "It was a tough day. I think everything was against us; the strategy, timing and when we caught the traffic. At one stage, we were competitive, but it was not so long. Once we caught the tail of the group, it was so difficult to overtake. I tried really hard. It's a shame there were no yellows, so today was really tough to have that aggressive strategy work."
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): "It was a solid day, but a long day. It was basically a green race apart from the start. We had more pace today than we had yesterday and the team had really great stops every time we came in. I think I did the best mileage that I've done in my entire career by them telling me the fuel number and me sticking to it. Unfortunately, Charlie (Kimball) got me in the last stint and then I was in the marbles and was passed by a few others. We then had their pace and got one back, but it dropped us just out of the top 10. This has been a positive afternoon for the team as a whole, though, and we'll concentrate, moving forwards, on getting both cars in the top 10."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): "Definitely a trying weekend for us in Detroit, especially Race 2 today. I thought we had the right strategy, but one of the cars spun coming out of pit lane and I picked up some debris. This caused us to think the tire was going flat, so we came to the pits, which cost us a lot of time. After that we just wanted to make it cleanly to the finish because we didn't really have anything to gain at that point. Now we look to Texas next weekend. We finished fifth last year, so I'm hoping we can manage a finish like that again."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 AutoNation / Curb Honda): "The AutoNation car was great this weekend. Unfortunately, today we got caught out in a three-stop strategy and kept getting caught in traffic. The car had the pace, I had the pace, we just couldn't take advantage of it. We passed a lot of cars today and it was a lot of fun out there, it just wasn't the result we wanted."
Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix pResults2
Results Sunday of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.35-mile Raceway at Belle Isle Park, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (10) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 70, Running
2. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 70, Running
3. (4) Ed Jones, Honda, 70, Running
4. (5) Scott Dixon, Honda, 70, Running
5. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 70, Running
6. (2) Robert Wickens, Honda, 70, Running
7. (22) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 70, Running
8. (21) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 70, Running
9. (12) Marco Andretti, Honda, 70, Running
10. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 70, Running
11. (17) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 70, Running
12. (1) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 70, Running
13. (7) Zach Veach, Honda, 70, Running
14. (18) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 70, Running
15. (19) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 70, Running
16. (6) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 70, Running
17. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 69, Running
18. (11) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 69, Running
19. (14) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 69, Running
20. (13) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 69, Running
21. (16) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 67, Running
22. (23) Rene Binder, Chevrolet, 66, Running
23. (15) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 21, Mechanical
Winner's average speed: 105.176 mph
Time of Race: 1:33:50.5784
Margin of victory: 11.3549 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 3 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 3 drivers
Rossi, Alexander 1 - 22
Wickens, Robert 23 - 28
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 29 - 33
Rossi, Alexander 34 - 46
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 47 - 52
Rossi, Alexander 53 - 63
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 64 - 70
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings:
Power 309, Dixon 304, Rossi 298, Hunter-Reay 278, Newgarden 270, Wickens 232, Rahal 221, Andretti 197, Bourdais 194, Pagenaud 188.