NEWTON, Iowa —
Series leader Helio Castroneves was eighth. His lead over Hunter-Reay was cut to nine points — the exact number Castroneves earned Saturday by winning the pole through heat qualifying races.
“We drove as hard as we could. When they told me I came in eighth, I was like ‘What?’ I certainly felt we had a better car than that,” Castroneves said.
It was clear from the opening lap that nobody had a better car than the No. 27 of Hinchcliffe.
He immediately grabbed control of the race from Will Power, who counts just one oval among his 18 series victories. Power fell behind by as much as a lap midway through the race and finished 17th.
Hinchcliffe also held off a furious challenge from Rahal off a restart about 90 laps from the finish. Though Rahal technically took the lead for a lap, Hinchcliffe hung on to the low groove, running side-by-side with Rahal, before bursting clear.
Hinchcliffe had only led 99 laps in his three-year IndyCar career before Sunday. He surpassed that total less than halfway through the race.
“We got (Power) on lap one there and really never looked back. The car was solid,” Hinchcliffe said. “When we needed it, the car was awesome. We were fast up front by ourselves. We were good in traffic.”
Hunter-Reay fell behind Castroneves by 25 points on Saturday after a poor showing during the qualifying heats. It only got worse for Hunter-Reay roughly 40 laps in when he rear-ended Rahal, forcing his team to change out his front wing. But he scrambled from the back for an impressive podium finish.
“It was a really good day for points, to finish second after being dead last, and just (Saturday) we had the nightmare of a day,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s a bummer when you have that good of a car to finish second. But considering we came from the back of the pack to finish second in such a tight field, I have to be happy about that. Somewhat pleased, I should say.”