BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Individuals at Barber Motorsports Park certainly have a sense of humor. At the tail end of a 2-hour, 30-minute rain delay to the green flag of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Jimmy Cliff's "I Can See Clearly Now (the Rain is Gone)" covered the grounds through loud speakers.
Twenty-three Verizon IndyCar Series cars rolled off on rain tires for what was declared a 100-minute timed race, and 69 laps later a soggy but beaming Ryan Hunter-Reay saw Victory Circle for the second consecutive year.
Hunter-Reay, driving the No. 28 DHL car, led Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti across the finish line under caution because of a late-race incident.
"(Long Beach) should have been a great result, but we got it today."
It was the 12th Indy car victory for Hunter-Reay, who moved 18 points behind championship leader Will Power heading into the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the reconfigured road course May 10. Hunter-Reay capitalized on a Lap 16 mistake by Power, the pole sitter, whose No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car slid off the wet racing ribbon in Turn 5 when the brakes locked up. Power, also a two-time winner at Barber, quickly recovered but was 4.0830 seconds behind at the completion of the lap.
Hunter-Reay then overtook the No. 17 AFS KV AFS Racing car of Sebastian Saavedra for the lead on a Lap 34 restart, and only had to cleanly get through the final round of pit stops for his ninth win with Andretti Autosport. The last 1-2 finish by Andretti Autosport was at Iowa in June 2013 (James Hinchcliffe and runner-up Hunter-Reay).
“I’m really proud of this whole team," said Michael Andretti, whose team notched its 49th victory. "Marco did a hell of a job. He drove his way to the front and Ryan drove a perfect race. Feels good after the last one for sure. We were lucky that Will made that mistake, and that gave up the top position. That was really important. Just the way everything fell with the rain and how it dried out. It came to us. It was a great day.”
Marco Andretti, who started ninth in the No. 25 Snapple car, went almost the distance without radio communication with the pit lane crew. He overtook Power for second on the Lap 34 restart and held off repeated challenges by reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon.
“I just put my head down and looked forward; awesome job by Andretti Autosport," said Andretti, who recorded his first podium finish since Sao Paulo last May and tied his best finish since June 2012 at Iowa Speedway. "The Snapple car didn’t have much for the DHL car so we definitely need to hit the drawing board and see how he kicked my butt today. I didn’t have a radio, so the only way I knew when to pit, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Ryan stop and thought ‘I guess I’m coming in the next lap.' It was definitely a blind race, but I just had my head down and tried to hit my marks.”
Dixon was the runner-up in each of the previous four races on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. Simon Pagenaud, driving the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car, and Power are the only drivers to place in the top five in the three races.
“The Verizon Chevrolet was really fast on the wet tires and I just got in trouble in Turn 5," Power said. "I kept moving my braking point further and further into the corners and I got caught going too far. It’s tough to not push past the limits with wet patches everywhere. We really didn’t have the pace in the dry anyway, but that sure didn’t help our cause when I went off course. We may have just been a bit heavy on downforce. Still a fifth-place finish and we have the points lead going into the month of May.”
Justin Wilson finished a season-high sixth in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing car. Hinchcliffe, who started on the front row, placed seventh, followed by Josef Newgarden. Tony Kanaan gained 14 spots relative to his 23rd starting position and Charlie Kimball placed 10th in his backup No. 83 Novo Nordisk Ganassi Racing car following an incident in the morning warm-up.