The ‘Clawing’ Begins For Hunter-Reay

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 4 2013

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport will start Mid-Ohio from P1 Sunday. (INDYCAR/LAT USA file photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Well-aware it’s “go-for-broke” time, reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay gambled on tire selection Saturday afternoon en route to qualifying on-pole for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hunter-Reay posted a lap of 1 minute, 05.3519-seconds/124.385 mph around the 2.258-mile/13-turn layout in Lexington, Ohio, to earn the Verizon P1 Award for Sunday’s 90-lap/203.22-mile race.

During the Firestone Fast Six, the drivers competing for pole received 10 minutes of track time with a guarantee of five minutes of green flag time. RHR finished five-thousandths of a second off the track record of 1:05.347 shared by Dario Franchitti (August 1999) and Gil de Ferran (August 2000) during the session to claim his third pole of the season and first in eight starts at Mid-Ohio.

With six races remaining on the schedule, RHR is third in the championship standings – a considerable 68 points behind frontrunner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske.

“Last year we clawed back from bigger deficits,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 1 DHL Dallara/Chevrolet fielded by Andretti Autosport. “Being late in the season, we need to go like we did last year at the end of the season, which is go-for-broke. We’re not interested in banking results right now and going for second or third in the championship, because nobody really remembers who finishes second a couple of years from now.

“We’re going for it. Hopefully, this is the first step in it. But we have a long way to go, including (Sunday’s) fight for the win. It’s going to be a long, hard race going up against the Ganassi and Penske boys and my teammates as well.”

Sunday’s race is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) live on NBC Sports Network, with pre-race coverage at 3 p.m. Live radio coverage will be on XM Radio Channel 94 and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 212. In addition, IndyCar live timing and scoring with the radio broadcast can be found at www.indy.car.com.

Team Penske’s Will Power, the 2012 pole-sitter and fastest after Friday’s two practice sessions, was 0.1840-seconds back for his fourth front-row start of the season. Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who has won the past two races at Mid-Ohio and four of the past six, will start in Row 2 alongside Marco Andretti, RHR’s teammate who made his first appearance of 2013 in the Firestone Fast Six.

Hunter-Reay, third-fast after Friday’s practices, said data from those sessions aided in his team’s Firestone Firehawk tire strategy for qualifying.

“It took a lot of guts to do that strategy there,” said Hunter-Reay, who opted for used softer compound “red” tires over the harder compound “black” set. “We put ourselves at risk there in that middle session to go on used reds against a field this competitive, but the risk paid off. That was definitely the most nerve-wracking part of that session, going out on used reds.

“We’ve been working on (the setup) steadily, but the track conditions _ you know it’s been raining and then the track comes back, and then it rains overnight _so it’s been a big engineering exercise trying to stay on top of the grip of the track. But as always, these guys have done a great job. Hopefully we can put the weekend together and have a good one here. I love Mid-Ohio, and it’s great to have the No. 1 DHL Chevy on top.”

Hunter-Reay added he is eager to add a win at Mid-Ohio to his championship resume. “That’s the one thing I’m missing,” said RHR, who bagged poles earlier this season at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., and the Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. “I’ve finished on podium here a bunch, started on the front row before but never had the chance to win this race; I’ve never won this race. We need to bring it home, for the championship, too.”

Meanwhile, Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball tied his career-best qualifying effort of fifth while teammate Franchitti will start sixth. Championship leader Castroneves, who has a 29-point lead over Dixon, will start 15th in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. It’s Castroneves’ fourth non-top 10 qualifying result of the season and the first since The Milwaukee Milwaukee in mid-June. Castroneves finished second in that 250-lap race on the historic oval.

Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is the first race during which optional road-course aluminum steering arms provided by Dallara are available for IZOD IndyCar Series teams. The arms apply pressure from the steering rack to the uprights and allow the front tires to turn left-and-right. Steel steering arms are standard on the 2012 Dallara chassis.

Aluminum steering arms, designed to fail just above the track rod buckling load, could aid in reducing the transfer of energy to the steering rack and into the car upon impact. Steel steering arms have a tolerance 2.5-times the track rod buckling load.

“The aluminum steering arms can help reduce the likelihood of driver hand and wrist injuries in certain circumstances,” said Will Phillips, vice president, technology, INDYCAR. “Dallara continues to try to improve all safety aspects of the car with input from INDYCAR and IZOD IndyCar Series drivers. Currently, the components remain optional for the teams as we continue to collate any incident data.”

Six teams have placed an order for the aluminum steering arms.

The new Acura NSX, which is being developed for 2015 at Honda R&D Americas in Ohio, will make its public debut Sunday before the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. The prototype model will be driven by Honda engineer Jason Widmer around the 2.258-mile/13-turn road-course. The 2013 Honda Accord Safety Car driven by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford was built at the facility in Marysville, Ohio.

In addition to the R&D facility, Honda operates multiple manufacturing plants, which employ more than 10,500 associates, in the state. Honda also is a major sponsor of the Mid-Ohio School, providing a fleet of Honda and Acura vehicles for the school’s teen safe driving and high-performance driving programs.

Retired driver Sarah Fisher, an Ohio native and co-owner of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, will add a second car for German road-racing ace Lucas Luhr for the IZOD IndyCar Series event at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway on Aug. 25.

“The decision (to add Luhr) stemmed from our decision with Steve Weirich and RW Motorsports,” said Fisher, whose team fields Josef Newgarden in the No. 67 SFHR Dallara/Honda. “Steve came on to partner with us to run Bryan Clauson at Indianapolis in 2012. As part of that relationship, we needed to run his car _ the third car that we rotate through our stable _ at some point during the season. Indianapolis didn’t really look to be the best for that this year for us. As we were talking to Honda and some of the opportunities, Sonoma seemed to fit very well into what we were trying to accomplish. That’s where we targeted to start the program.”

Asked about the possibility of expanding to a two-car team fulltime, Fisher said, “We’ve wanted to be two cars from Day One and we’ve explored it here-and-there. It absolutely has to be the right program. For us, (Sonoma) is one more of those weekends to explore what is it going to take; what do we need when we align it and make it happen.

“It’s really an exploratory venture for us as well as satisfying what we need to do for Steve Weirich and RW Motorsports. Certainly, having two cars is very valuable, especially with the changing metrics, changing tires, changing things that are ever-evolving in our sport.”

Fisher acknowledged that veteran road-racer Greg Pickett, whose resume includes competition as owner/driver in the SCCA Trans-Am and American Le Mans Series, will be involved with fielding the second car. “I’ve not spoken with Greg a whole, whole lot, but this is sort of an introduction to him and what he does,” Fisher said. “I admire extremely a lot what he’s done in the ALMS and I know he’s a championship-winning owner and driver, too. He put together a great race team.

“For me, it’s having him on-board supporting it, more from a sponsorship standpoint. The ability to give him a headset and see what INDYCAR is all about, rather than coming as a race fan. He has an interest in what INDYCAR does, what the IndyCar Series is overall and who knows where it will go. It’s exploratory on that end as well. We’re just really happy to see more and more partners and more and more people have an interest in our sport. We feel a responsibility to expand the IndyCar Series as owners.”

Gabby Chaves earned his first Firestone Indy Lights Sunoco Pole Award during qualifying for Sunday’s Mid-Ohio 100. Chaves, driver of the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 13.3306-seconds. Peter Dempsey earned his first front-row start of the season in the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing car. Jack Hawksworth and series championship point-leader Carlos Munoz will start on Row 2 for the 40-lap race.

Qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio with position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis/engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara/Chevy, 01:05.3519-seconds (124.385 mph)

2. (12) Will Power, Dallara/Chevy, 01:05.5359 (124.036)

3. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara/Honda, 01:05.7051 (123.716)

4. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara/Chevy, 01:05.8566 (123.432)

5. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.4415 (122.345)

6. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.5854 (122.081)

7. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara/Honda, 01:05.9405 (123.275)

8. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara/Honda, 01:05.9412 (123.273)

9. (78) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara/Chevy, 01:05.9621 (123.234)

10. (16) James Jakes, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.1778 (122.833)

11. (55) Tristan Vautier, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.3379 (122.536)

12. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara/Chevy, 01:06.4071 (122.409)

13. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara/Chevy, 01:06.2198 (122.755)

14. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara/Chevy, 01:06.1856 (122.818)

15. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara/Chevy, 01:06.2280 (122.740)

16. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.1989 (122.794)

17. (18) James Davison, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.2839 (122.636)

18. (4) Oriol Servia, Dallara/Chevy, 01:06.2109 (122.771)

19. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.5334 (122.176)

20. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara/Chevy, 01:06.2537 (122.692)

21. (6) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara/Chevy, 01:07.0895 (121.164)

22. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.4002 (122.421)

23. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara/Chevy, 01:07.4107 (120.586)

24. (98) Luca Filippi, Dallara/Honda, 01:06.8757 (121.551)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 4 2013
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