By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Game-changing win has Hunter-Reay thinking title
2. Inside the Box Score – Iowa Corn Indy 250
3. Andretti to compete at Surfers Paradise
1. Game-changing win has Hunter-Reay thinking title: The 3½-foot tall green ethanol pump trophy caught the attention of Ryan Hunter-Reay a few years ago at Iowa Speedway.
“I think it’s the coolest thing. It’s got a plug in the back and it lights up,” said the driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car, who late June 23 prevailed in the entertaining Iowa Corn Indy 250 on the .894-mile racetrack to become the first driver with consecutive oval victories since Helio Castroneves in 2010. “I’ve wanted that trophy for a long time.”
Nothing against the understated Milwaukee IndyFest first-place trophy, which tangibly represents Hunter-Reay’s and Andretti Autosport’s resurgence in a season with the new car-engine package, but his wife, Beccy, will be seeking that “perfect place for it” in their Fort Lauderdale, Fla., residence.
“It’s going front and center,” he noted.
The feat has sliced Hunter-Reay’s deficit to IZOD IndyCar Series championship front-runner Will Power from 75 points to three entering the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8 (side note: That’s the same day Beccy will drive an electric Mitsubishi in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, so there might be another trophy to display in their home).
“Two in a row, that’s a game-changer,” said Hunter-Reay, who vaulted to second in the overall standings and is tied with Tony Kanaan for first for the A.J. Foyt Trophy that is presented to the driver with the most points in oval races.
“It all comes down to consistency, and that’s how championships are won. We have to go week in and week out and be consistently strong and be within the top 5. Certainly the Penske team will and the Ganassi guys, and also some wild cards will show up on a lot of these street and road courses. So we have to be good there.
“But we do have (Auto Club Speedway) on the schedule and our cars have been really good on the ovals, even the big ones. We just have to be consistent.”
Hunter-Reay has two finishes outside the top 10 through nine events (both mechanical issues), and his rise in the championship hunt the past two weeks with 102 total points has paralleled Power’s slide (30 points scored on 12th- and 23rd-place finishes; the latter because of contact). Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is 15 points out of the lead, and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves is 25 points back.
“There’s still a long, long way to go,” Hunter-Reay cautioned. “I for sure don’t feel like I’m almost there so to speak. I have the same feeling I had after I left Milwaukee: This is not good enough. We need to dig deeper and that’s what we need to do for sure.”
2. Inside the Box Score – Iowa Corn Indy 250: Numbers to note following the Iowa corn Indy 250, the ninth of 15 events of the 2012 IZOD Indy Car Series season.
1 – Lap led by James Jakes at Iowa. It was the first time he led a lap in his IZOD IndyCar Series career…Driver to win the IZOD IndyCar Series title and at Iowa in the same season (Dario Franchitti, who did it twice in 2007 and 2009).
2 – Drivers to win back-to-back races in 2012 – Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power.
3 – Points separating Will Power (286) from Ryan Hunter-Reay in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings.
4 – Podium finishes for Marco Andretti at Iowa including his season-best second-place finish this year.
6 – Different teams represented in the top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.
7 – Wins for Ryan Hunter-Reay in Indy car competition.
10 – Lead changes among eight drivers at Iowa. Most this season outside of the Indianapolis 500’s record 34 lead changes.
13 – Different drivers to finish on the podium in the first seven races of 2012.
16 – Different drivers with at least one top-five finish in 2012.
20 – Positions gained by Simon Pagenaud en route to his fifth-place finish at Iowa, most of any driver in the field.
28 – Poles for Dario Franchitti, passing Al Unser for eighth on the all-time list
136 – Points scored on ovals by Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan, who are tied for the lead in the A.J. Foyt Trophy standings.
190 – Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland.
3. Andretti to compete at Surfers Paradise: Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti confirmed that he will co-drive a V8 Supercar with Todd Kelly in the Gold Coast 600 in October. Dragon Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais also is part of the international lineup to be paired with a regular driver.
Bourdais, who claimed the Dan Wheldon Trophy as top international driver at the Gold Coast 600 in 2011, is scheduled to resume IZOD IndyCar Series competition in two weeks at the Honda Indy Toronto.
The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series race continues with the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8 at the Streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place. The race will be televised by ABC at 12:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Toronto 100 on July 7 on the Streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. on July 12.