Josef Newgarden’s last-lap lunge for a podium finish in the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio left NTT INDYCAR Series veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay “baffled”.
“I’m not really sure what Josef was thinking there doing that”, said the Andretti Autosport driver. Running third and fourth on the final lap of a thrilling race, the current INDYCAR points leader made a late move on Hunter-Reay into the Keyhole. The end result was an avoidable collision between both cars that left Newgarden’s Penske Chevrolet beached in the Turn 2 run-off.
“He tried to go around the outside and the line through that corner is that you do a diamond and you come back to the apex so he had to expect I was coming back at some point”, explained Hunter-Reay.
“With the championship like that, it totally baffled me”, concluded the 38-year-old who recorded only his second podium of the 2019 season at Mid-Ohio.
Hunter-Ready just happy to be back on form
Able to finish the race, despite Newgarden’s ill-timed efforts to pass, the American’s overwhelming emotion was one of relief for his DHL Honda crew.
“It was nice to just get back on form where we should be”, he said after ending a 10-race streak without a podium.
Despite the early season promise of a podium at the INDYCAR Classic in March, recent races have been painful for the 2012 series champion. 11th and 16th place finishes at Road America and Toronto were rounded off with a disastrous 16th at Iowa.
“We stumbled at Iowa”, admitted Hunter-Reay. “We really gambled when it went cold at night. We thought it was going to be more of an understeering race, and we put all our money down on the table and we lost it all in the first hand.”
From the low of Iowa to the high of Mid-Ohio
With only a handful of laps remaining at the end of Honda 200, the contrast between Iowa and Mid-Ohio could not have been more stark. Satisfaction at finishing on the podium was tempered by a sense of what might have been for the 18-time INDYCAR race winner.
“We were closing in on these guys”, said Hunter-Ready. “To see how quickly we were closing on Dixon and Rosenqvist I thought they were in traffic and I thought, man, this could go anybody’s way.”
“They ran a great race, good strategy, and we were closing on them, but just came up a little bit too short”, he concluded.
Momentum and luck finally going Hunter-Reay’s way
Understandably the upturn in form has left Hunter-Reay hungry for his first win in over a year. Off the top step of the podium since race 2 in Detroit last year, the Honda driver believes momentum – and luck – is finally turning his way. “If we keep knocking on the door like that we’ll win plenty.”
The closing four races of the 2019 season offer plenty of cause for optimism for the Honda driver. As a previous race winner at Pocono, a podium finisher at Portland and one of only two active drivers with open-wheel experience at Laguna Seca, Hunter-Reay has every reason to be confident a win is just around the corner.