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VICS: Hunter-Reay Looks to Capitalize on Past Success at Iowa Speedway

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The Verizon IndyCar Series descends upon Iowa Speedway this weekend and one driver in particular is looking to continue his dominance at the 7/8-mile track.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is the defending race-winner of the Iowa Corn 300 and has won three of the last four races at the track in Newton, Iowa. The Andretti Autosport team, for which Hunter-Reay competes, has won seven of the nine races at the track dubbed “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet.” Hunter-Reay (2012, 2014 and 2015) joins Tony Kanaan (2010), Marco Andretti (2011) and James Hinchcliffe (2013) in a stretch of six straight Andretti Autosport victories at the track.

“It’s just a blast to drive that track. It’s one of the most physical tracks we go to – we pull 5 Gs (G-forces) in the corners there,” Hunter-Reay told Rubbings Racing this past week when discussing the upcoming race weekend at Iowa Speedway.

“You have to have a car that is well-balanced, but it has to handle over the bumps. Over the years the bumps get more drastic in some areas and you constantly have to tweak the setup to drive around it. The track has a lot of character and it’s not just super smooth and straight forward. If you go up a lane, it’s going to be bumpier and you’re going to pay the price for it. If you’re down a lane, you’re going to be using the tires more.”

Hunter-Reay is very familiar with tires at Iowa as they were the key to his victory in 2014. Under the final caution of the race, Hunter-Reay took four fresh tires while the leaders stayed out. When the race returned to green with just eight laps to go, Hunter-Reay charged through the field from the 10th position to earn the victory.

While Hunter-Reay said it “felt like a video game” during his post-race interview after the 2014 victory, last year’s win is the most memorable to the 35-year-old driver.

“Having won at that time was absolutely massive for the team and for me after such a hard year,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished outside the top-10 in nine of the 12 races prior to the win at Iowa last season. “It was such a tough year and we were really struggling at times. To win at Iowa was fantastic.”

Hunter-Reay went on to finish seventh, first and second in the final three races of 2015 after the victory at Iowa and gained valuable positions in the championship standings, finishing sixth.

This season, Hunter-Reay heads to Iowa on the heels of several solid results, finishing on the podium at Belle Isle and fourth at Road America in addition to running strong before the race at Texas Motor Speedway was postponed.

The third-place finish in the second race at Belle Isle tied Hunter-Reay’s best finish of the season.

“It was nice to get the third at Detroit. Obviously we want more. We had a big missed opportunity in the Indy 500 after having dominated the first half of the race and to get taken out on pit lane was a bit of a frustration.”

Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, appeared to be on the way to his second Borg-Warner trophy during the 100th running in May, leading a race-high 52 laps and outside of pit stops, never running lower than the second position. An accident on pit road just past the halfway point resulted in a 24th-place finish.

“Like I said, an opportunity lost. We had a few street courses that were tough for us. All in all, other than that, it’s been a decent season so far,” Hunter-Reay said of 2016. “Missing out on the double points at Indy was certainly a tough one to take.”

While currently 11th in the championship standings, just six points separate Hunter-Reay and the seventh position, held by his Andretti Autosport teammate Carlos Munoz.

“Everybody has a story as to why they should have finished better somewhere, but we certainly have had a few missed opportunities that were lining up to be good races for us. At Texas we were running second and we had a good race going so it would have been nice to finish that out.”

The Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway was postponed a day in June and then halted due to more rain after 71 of the scheduled 248 laps and will be resumed on August 27. Hunter-Reay was running second to leader James Hinchcliffe when the race was halted for the rain.

“I’ve never had that before where we’ve had to go back and finish a race, but I was hoping we were going to get that one in. The car was pretty good and we marched up from 11th on the grid all the way up to P2 by the first round of pit stops.”

Hunter-Reay has at least one victory every season since 2010 and has finished on the podium in every Iowa Speedway race since 2012.

Does he have Iowa circled as the best shot to pick up that first victory of 2016?

Not necessarily. Obviously we see Iowa as a potential opportunity given our history there. So yeah, it’s something that we are looking forward to and we have to capitalize on it with the fact that we run pretty strong there.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be very tight. It is always there. Hopefully we will be at the front end of it.”

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About Brian Eberly

Brian Eberly (@beberly18) is a Certified Public Accountant and Manager of Field Accounting at a transportation company, but when he isn’t at the office you can most likely find him at a racetrack, watching a race on television, or following the action on social media. Eberly became interested in NASCAR in the nineties when Jeff Gordon was dominating the scene, and became hooked when he attended his first race with his dad in 1999 at Michigan International Speedway. Eberly has been writing about NASCAR since 2012 for various websites. An Illinois native and Northern Illinois University graduate, Eberly travels throughout the Midwest covering racing events in multiple series. When not following racing, he can be found on the golf course (usually trying to find his golf ball) and following the Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Bulls, and of course the NIU Huskies.

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