LONG BEACH, Calif – Ryan Hunter-Reay stormed out the gates strong on Friday on the streets of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver was fastest in the initial NTT IndyCar Series practice on Friday morning then backed that up with being P2 in the second session later on in the day. In qualifying though, he will start seventh after just missing from being on tire strategy.
“Obviously, disappointing to not make into the Firestone Fast Six,” said Hunter-Reay on Saturday. “We had a unique situation with the tire opportunity in qualifying. We ended up using used reds (Firestone alternate tires) to try and move into the Fast Six, and it just didn’t seem like we had the performance on them while the others were on new. It was definitely a bit of a fumble considering the speed we’ve had. We’ll have some cars to pass tomorrow to get to the front, but we’ve had good pace this weekend and still have our sights set on a podium finish or the DHL team.”
While that all should give him high hopes for Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network) he’s cautiously optimistic still, despite such strong speed.
“Yeah, when I finished sixth, I got penalized, as well,” Hunter-Reay said on how much bad luck he’s had on the 1.968-mile street course since his 2010 win. “I haven’t had a drama-free Long Beach other than 2010. We were leading in ’14, had a gearbox failure. I mean, ’11, had a gearbox. ’14, made an over-opportunistic pass. Was leading then, as well. It’s one of those tracks you have to put it all together.”
Despite that, Hunter-Reay still enjoys each time he comes back to the Long Beach race track. He thinks it just suits his driving style and that the speed on Friday was due to all the hardwork that they’ve put on his No. 28 Honda over the last few years.
“Really, we’re just getting back to finding our baseline,” Hunter-Reay continued. “Last year, we had very competitive cars. Again, this year rolled off with a really good setup I think. It was a good starting point. We’ve made some changes to it trying to find what to do, what not to do, as you regularly would on a street course.
“The tricky part of a street course is you have to keep up with the racetrack, you have to be proactive with keeping up with it. As you go through the race weekend, it’s constantly changing conditions.”
If he can win though, he will at least keep the streak of recent winners going. Over the past seven years at Long Beach, we’ve seen seven different winners. If Hunter-Reay can win on Sunday, then he’d be the eighth straight.