Andretti Autosport remained perfect on the year Sunday when defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay snapped Penske Racing’s winning streak at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
Hunter-Reay proved to be a credible threat for the victory when he beat both Will Power and Helio Castroneves for the pole. The Penske drivers had swept every pole and all three races in IndyCar’s previous visits to the Alabama road course.
Hunter-Reay then ran a steady race, and held strong in one intense battle for position with both Penske drivers, to claim his first win of the season. Then he had to hold off Scott Dixon, who finished second for the fourth consecutive year.
“I was dragging my tail off trying to hold off Dixon,” Hunter-Reay said.
Castroneves was third to take over the IndyCar points lead, and Charlie Kimball, Dixon’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, was a career-best fourth. Power was fifth.
AJ Allmendinger ran seventh for most of his IndyCar debut but finished 20th after stalling his car during his final pit stop. But he was praised repeatedly by team owner Roger Penske, even after the mistake in the pits.
“Finish this and just learn, learn, learn. You are doing fine,” Penske radioed Allmendinger.
It wasn’t all roses for Andretti, though: James Hinchcliffe, winner of the season-opener at St. Pete for Andretti, never got a chance to contend for a second consecutive victory.
A poor qualifying result put him at the back of the field at the start, where he was stuck in heavy traffic when the green flag waved. As cars jockeyed for position on the first lap, Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia made contact that collected Hinchcliffe and damaged his car.
So Hinchcliffe’s disabled vehicle sat broken down on the course as the race went on around him. His Andretti Autosport team was powerless to do anything except wait for another caution flag to get Hinchcliffe towed back to them so they could attempt a repair.
They never got another yellow flag, and Hinchcliffe was stuck the entire race sitting inside his idling car. .
Munoz wins Indy Lights
Carlos Munoz picked up the third Indy Lights victory of his career with a wire-to-wire win at Barber Motorsports Park.
Munoz started the Legacy Indy Lights 100 on the pole and gave Andretti Autosport its second consecutive win in the 40-lap Firestone Indy Lights race on the 2.38-mile road course after Sebastian Saavedra won last year.
Munoz finished seventh in the season opener at St. Petersburg after starting up front but called this a “perfect weekend.”