FORT WORTH, TX – After Takuma Sato’s self inflicted mistake on Lap 61 of Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600, it appeared that Ryan Hunter-Reay would be the car to beat in the ninth race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season at the Texas Motor Speedway.
He had a bullet in his No. 28 Honda and couldn’t be caught. But, the only problem was, it was like he was too fast. Being too quick meant that he was burning more fuel and wasn’t getting the fuel economy that the other leaders were getting.
He was on pace to make five pit stops in the 248 Lap race, the others were only going to make four. Hunter-Reay, got the caution he needed when his teammate Zach Veach spun on the backstretch on Lap 135, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for him to not have to stop again.
So, despite leading a race high 90 of 248 Laps, Hunter-Reay had to settle for fifth.
“I thought for sure tonight was the night we were going to pull the DHL car into victory lane and get some cowboy hats and shoot some guns,” said Hunter-Reay. “It wasn’t meant to be, unfortunately. I think leading that much maybe put us in a position where we were pitting a lap or two early and then that kind of snowballed on itself. It became a fuel mileage race with the way the yellow.”
Hunter-Reay keeps rattling off top 10 finish after top 10 finish. Over his last 11 NTT IndyCar Series starts, the Andretti Autosport driver has brought his No. 28 Honda home inside of the top 10 nine times. In fact, he’s only been outside of the top eight just twice since last Labor Day.
Furthermore, over his last 33 starts, he has 24 top eight finishes. That’s remarkable. Despite that consistency, Hunter-Reay only has two wins and nine podiums. He just seems to be a fourth to eighth place finisher.
That happened last weekend in Belle Isle. He finished fifth and fourth respectively on the 2.35-mile street course. Last year, he was second and first respectively in the same race weekend.
Where Hunter-Reay has an issue with all of this is, yes he has four straight top eight finishes, but all three come with warning. Hunter-Reay, says he didn’t deserve any of those finishes as his car was never a factor on the oval at Indy and he thinks that he fluked into an eight place run. Then, in the first race on Belle Isle last Saturday, Hunter-Reay says that the team still had some issues and was lucky to salvage a top five. On Sunday, he didn’t have the pace in qualifying but found his way into the top five. Then, he had a tire going down in the end but was still able to hold his teammates behind him off en route to another top five.
On Saturday night, he had the pace, but not the fuel mileage.