Izod driver, RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.37 Andretti Autosport, won the Izod IndyCar race Sunday afternoon as part of 36th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He led three times for 64 laps, the most of the three leaders in this 85-lap race. LBGP was his second IRL victory, the first being 2008 at Watkins Glen.
RHR dedicated the race to his late mother, LYEIA HUNTER-REAY, who died 14 November 2009 of cancer. She always came to his races.
Hunter-Ready turned the fastest race lap of 100.417 mph on Lap 82.
RHR said LBGP was like a home race for him.
At this point, RHR is running selected races. The victory could be a boost to his team’s finding the funding to keep him in the car for the rest of the season.
Today’s win was the first victory for an American driver since RHR won at The Glen. The last American driver to win at LBGP was team owner, MICHAEL ANDRETTI in 2002. He also won his first race at LBGP, and Thursday was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.
Another special aspect of LBGP for RHR is the anniversary of meeting his fiance BECCA GORDON (sister of ROBBY GORDON) when she was a Celebrity driver in 2004.
JUSTIN WILSON/No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold finished second, 5.6031 seconds behind. Close on his heels was Pole Sitter WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske. Wilson never led. Power led twice for19 laps.
Wilson had charged back to third after pitting for a new nose caused when he was hit by a lapped ALEX LLOYD/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing. at which point he thought another year with Long Beach Bad Luck. Then Wilson executed a killer smooth pass on then second placed Power, who then dogged Wilson to the finish. They finished 2.9833 seconds apart, but it was a nail biter. Sometimes it looked as though they were literally as well as figuratively nose to tail. Wilson was watching his fuel, and ran out of fuel on the cool-off lap. He was towed in.
Wilson said “It was a pretty eventful race.”
JIM MICHAELIAN, President/CEO of the Grand Prix of Long Beach Association, said it was a great weekend, energy wise and attendance wise. There was an estimated 65,000 on Sunday and 170,000 for the three-day weekend. Good weather, good vibes, everything going on time and good concerts. He was pleased!
Power is still leading the Driver’s standing. He had a bit of bad luck when the car was stuck in first, not known why. His other bad luck was something in his drink bottle causing his tongue to turn bright orange, for which he blamed his crew. He is really looking forward to the oval at Kansas, up next.
“What I needed was a yellow before the first pit stop and it didn’t happen. I got stuck in first gear on Lap 18, and was surprised how little position I lost. I just kept my cool and made the best of it. We’re still ahead in points.”
Fourth and fifth were SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Chip Ganassi Racing – who led a lap, and TONY KANAAN/No.11 Andretti Autosport.
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO/No.78 HVM Racing was the top female and Rookie, finishing seventeenth – the last car on the lead lap. She also was the only person left running in either category, and the last car on the lead lap.
Eighteen drivers finished the race. The DNF’s were mostly due to contact, with two mechanicals.
Power has 172 points for the lead, followed by HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske with 130, and RHR is third with 129 points. Wilson is fourth-125, and Dixon is fifth-112.
The first/only yellow, on Lap 59 for five laps, was caused by MARIO ROMANCINI/No.34 who hit GRAHAM RAHAL/No.67 Sara Fisher Racing, causing both to go head on into the tire wall. Young Rahal was definitely not a happy camper when he jumped out of the car to vent his frustrations with Romancini before he could get out of the car.
MILKA DUNO/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing opted not to qualify, started last and was lapped by Lap 10 – which turned out to be her last lap as she retired with handling problems.
Other retirements included Rookie BERNARD BAGUETTE/No.36 Conquest Racing for mechanical and ALEX TAGLIANI/No.77 FAZZT Race Team, Rahal and Romancini for their crash damages.
There were no penalties in the race, which lasted 1:47:12.5404. The average speed was 93.619 mph.
RHR had been asked Friday if he was concerned about the bumpy track with lots of rubber. Yes. He worried that Drifting would change the braking points. This is a case where you have that rubber, but it’s no laid down from Drifting, it’s just pilling up – like sand all over the course. It’s nasty business. We have our own volcanic crisis going on here. (referencing the Icelandic volcano eruption shutting down European airports.)
Saturday Hunter-Reay was to co-drive in the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series with team owner SCOTT TUCKER. But Tucker, who had entered in both of his Level5 Motorsports Oreca FLM09, could only accrue points in one of his two cars and didn’t run the second car with RHR.
The next IndyCar round is on the oval at Kansas Speedway on May Day.