Hunter-Reay sweeps practice sessions at Barber

rhrbarber2Focus forward has served Ryan Hunter-Reay well during his motorsports career — when he was out of an open-wheel ride following the 2005 Champ Car season, when he was bent on proving his race craft in ’07 in a part-time gig with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and especially when he was pointing to his first series title in 2012.

So, following what was a disappointing race day April 13 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif., he focused on the next race — the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, which he won last year at Barber Motorsports Park. Great timing, and after pacing the field in both practice sessions, great confidence boost.

Hunter-Reay, who was involved in a Lap 56 incident involving six other cars during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach while running at the front, swept the top spot on the time chart on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber road course. His lap of 1 minute, 8.7836 seconds in the No. 28 DHL car for Andretti Autosport was a tenth of a second quicker than the one he posted in the 45-minute morning session.

“The track was good; this is quite a bit hotter than we’re used to here at Barber,” he said. “It takes some getting used to and the track conditions have certainly changed, but we’ve tested here quite a bit – we tested here in the offseason and we definitely can’t get enough of Barber. It’s going to be a little bit hotter (April 26 for qualifications) and the track temp is going to go up, so we’ll look at what we did her last year preparing for qualifying.

“The Andretti Autosport car is great right now, we’re not where we want to be yet, but I expect to see all four of us up front.”

Hunter-Reay, who earned the Verizon P1 Award last April and won the race by .6993 of a second over Helio Castroneves, enters the 90-lap race fifth in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

“In 2013 at Barber, we had one of those race weekends you strive to achieve each time you show up at the track,” he said. “Taking the win from pole at such a challenging track was a tremendous achievement by our team as a whole, and proved that our preparation for the road courses had paid off. Hopefully we can defend our win, but it will be tough as hundredths of a second in qualifying could prove to be the difference-maker.”

Sebastien Bourdais, who also had a race to forget on the streets of Long Beach, checked in .1475 of a second behind Hunter-Reay as mid-afternoon track and ambient temperatures rose.

“We know how slick this place can be when it gets hot and how much tire degradation can be a factor,” said Bourdais, driving the No. 11 Hydroxycut/KVSH Racing car. “We come here (in March) and test for two days and it’s drizzling and it’s British weather in the 50s, no wind, and the track is awesome – and the car feels great and it’s super fast. And then we come back and the track is 125 degrees, and it’s gusty, and you’re like, ‘Is this the same car?’

“You’re 2 seconds slower and you’re P1. And that’s interesting. I think it’s very difficult to anticipate what might happen; the track might not pick up any speed at all and it’s getting very slick out there. We’ll see what happens.”

Josef Newgarden, who advanced 13 positions last April to claim his first top 10, was third quick overall based on his morning time of 1:08.9336 in the No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car. He was sixth in the afternoon (1:09.0877). Will Power, a two-time race winner and pole sitter at Barber, was fourth overall (1:08.9746) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, and James Hinchcliffe was fifth (1:09.0036) in Andretti Autosport’s No. 27 United Fiber & Data car.

Castroneves, who won the inaugural race at Barber in 2010 and has finished third the past two years, also posted his best lap in Session 1 (1:09.0094) in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske car for sixth overall.

Practice 1 Results:

Pos. Car # Driver Best Speed Best Time Behind Total Laps
1 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 120.267 1:08.8470 Leader 9
2 67 Josef Newgarden 120.116 1:08.9336 0.0866 10
3 3 Hello Castroneves 119.984 1:09.0094 0.1624 6
4 25 Marco Andretti 119.838 1:09.0930 0.2460 6
5 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 119.758 1:09.1395 0.2925 7
6 27 James Hinchcliffe 119.586 1:09.2391 0.3921 11
7 19 Justin Wilson 119.497 1:09.2906 0.4436 7
8 11 Sebastien Bourdais 119.234 1:09.4433 0.5963 9
9 8 Ryan Briscoe 119.219 1:09.4521 0.6051 11
10 77 Simon Pagenaud 119.196 1:09.4654 0.6184 8
11 20 Mike Conway 119.140 1:09.4978 0.6508 7
12 12 Will Power 119.129 1:09.5044 0.6574 6
13 17 Sebastion Saavedra 119.071 1:09.5383 0.6913 11
14 34 Carlos Munoz (R) 118.727 1:09.7400 0.8930 9
15 15 Graham Rahal 118.648 1:09.7860 0.9390 14
16 98 Jack Hawksworth (R) 118.503 1:09.8718 1.0248 12
17 10 Tony Kanaan 118.264 1:10.0126 1.1656 11
18 83 Charlie Kimball 118.204 1:10.0486 1.2016 12
19 16 Oriol Servia 118.200 1:10.0508 1.2038 8
20 14 Takuma Sato 117.971 1:10.1867 1.3397 10
21 7 Mikhall Aleshin (R) 117.920 1:10.2171 1.3701 11
22 18 Carlos Huertas (R) 117.018 1:10.7585 1.9115 15
23 9 Scott Dixon 4.239 32:33.3824 31:24.5354 1

(R) Rookie

Practice 2 Results:

Pos. Car # Driver Best Speed Best Time Behind Total Laps
1 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 120.378 1:08.7836 Leader 13
2 11 Sebastien Bourdais 120.120 1:08.9311 0.1475 12
3 12 Will Power 120.044 1:08.9746 0.1910 18
4 27 James Hinchcliffe 119.994 1:09.0036 0.2200 19
5 3 Hello Castroneves 119.898 1:09.0586 0.2750 18
6 67 Josef Newgarden 119.848 1:09.0877 0.3410 17
7 9 Scott Dixon 119.742 1:09.1484 0.3648 13
8 77 Simon Pagenaud 119.739 1:09.1506 0.3670 19
9 8 Ryan Briscoe 119.639 1:09.2084 0.4248 19
10 34 Carlos Munoz (R) 119.600 1:09.2307 0.4471 21
11 25 Marco Andretti 119.440 1:09.3235 0.5399 11
12 83 Charlie Kimball 119.325 1:09.3906 0.6070 17
13 14 Takuma Sato 119.172 1:09.4793 0.6957 15
14 19 Justin Wilson 119.146 1:09.4943 0.7107 16
15 20 Mike Conway 119.130 1:09.5041 0.7205 18
16 7 Mikhall Aleshin (R) 119.128 1:09.5049 0.7213 20
17 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 119.120 1:09.5098 0.7262 16
18 17 Sebastion Saavedra 119.043 1:09.5548 0.7712 17
19 15 Graham Rahal 118.871 1:09.6552 0.8716 17
20 18 Carlos Huertas (R) 118.625 1:09.7998 1.0162 19
21 10 Tony Kanaan 118.605 1:09.8116 1.0280 14
22 16 Oriol Servia 118.507 1:09.8695 1.0859 13
23 98 Jack Hawksworth (R) 118.201 1:10.0502 1.2666 17

(R) Rookie

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