2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has had an up-and-down start to his 2014 season. The road course expert scored a second place finish to start the year at St. Petersburg and looked to have strong form headed into Long Beach for the second race of the season, sitting on pole for the California classic. Then an incident late in the race between Hunter-Reay and teammate James Hinchcliffe threw a battle for the lead out the window along with the cars of several other drivers. Entering the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, Hunter-Reay looked to rebound from the embarrassing Long Beach wreck and continue his championship form in the hills of Alabama.
Qualifying showed Will Power to be the quickest driver of the week, laying down a blistering lap in the 1:08s on worn Firestone reds. Hinchcliffe rebounded from his disappointing finish at Long Beach by joining Power on the front row, qualifying just a few hundredths ahead of Hunter-Reay. Josef Newgarden was also involved in the Andretti skirmish during the previous race, but didn’t show any signs of slowing down with a fourth place qualifying effort. Scott Dixon was the only member of a struggling Chip Ganassi Racing operation to make the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and finished ahead of only 2013 title rival Helio Castroneves in the final session.
Sunday’s race was initially delayed by over an hour due to severe storms passing through the Birmingham area that included lightning and flooding of the track. Once the storms had passed, spectators resumed their positions and track officials made sure the track was in raceable condition. Once the green flag dropped, Power immediately began to set sail from the rest of the pack. However, the Australian road course expert made an unusual mistake by missing the hairpin on lap 16 and handing the lead to Hunter-Reay. The driver of the #28 DHL Honda never looked back and comfortably held the lead after pit stop cycles put Sebastian Saavedra in the lead for a short time. A late wreck by Michael Aleshin caused the race to end under yellow when the race hit it’s allotted time to be run.
Great race until the yellow and those storms were just crazy!