Since 1978, no driver has been able to win both at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway in the same season. Ryan Hunter-Reay is the latest driver to take a shot at winning Indy car’s Triple Crown -- the 500-mile races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Auto Club Speedway.
Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, rebounded from a disappointing June to post back-to-back top-10 finishes at Houston. He’s third in the championship and trails Helio Castroneves by two points for season.
Catching up with Hunter-Reay, a native Floridian and driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda, heading into the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco.
Q. You’ve talked about how difficult it is to win any race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but 500-mile races seem to be even more of a challenge. Is it a daunting challenge to win two 500-mile races in the same season?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It does, absolutely. I mean, coming off the heels of the Indy 500, I'm pretty confident in our oval package, especially on the bigger ovals. Hopefully we can make a big run for it.
We had a good test (at Pocono). It's something I'm looking forward to. Obviously the Triple Crown would be a huge honor to be a part of.
One step at a time. One stint at a time. We'll see how Pocono goes. One thing's for sure, it's going to be a hard-fought race.
Q. Pocono is a unique track on the race being a two and a half mile tri-oval. You mentioned you had a good test. What is the key to success at Pocono, and what will that extra 100 miles on Sunday mean to the way you approach the race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, they don't call it The Tricky Triangle for nothing. It is a very tough track, especially in an Indy car in Turn 3. It's low grip. When you get into traffic, it's not as easy to follow as it would be at Indianapolis, say.
It would be more difficult than that. The dirty air has a certain effect on the car in Turn 3. It makes it hard to follow. Makes it hard to set up passes. You really have to work on your racecar. You've got to make it actually balance well in Turn 1 and Turn 3, which is a difficult thing to do.
So we'll have our work cut out for us starting in practice for this weekend's race.
Q. You're third in points, but it's a double points race so you can gain a lot of ground back this weekend. How critical is Pocono to your championship hopes?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It is. It's absolutely critical. Even the double points races, even the doubleheaders; we came off a double points race at Houston. It was two races, but still double points.
Here we have one race with double points at Pocono. We go to Toronto, and that's another race with double the points.
We go to Fontana with double points. I don't know, maybe we should make the whole series double points at this point. There's a lot riding on every weekend. You can have huge swings in your championship fight because of it.
Especially as the season goes on, as you get later in the season, it becomes more and more valuable to score points in these big races.
Q. What do you see as what stemmed the tide a little bit for you and your team? After winning at Indy, you had a couple weekends there at Detroit and Texas that really kind of set you back a good bit.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, absolutely we did. We came out of Indy with a pretty strong points lead. Left Texas looking like we were a little too far out of first.
But we've done a good job at Houston to close that gap a little bit. Certainly closed up on Helio. We're now two points out of second place. As I mentioned before, we've got a string of races here coming that could really play a huge part in the championship fight.
At Houston we really salvaged quite a bit. We were running fourth in the first race when the yellow came out, and everybody that was running from the back up to the front, we went from 4th to 12th and still came out 7th.
On Day 2, we had a broken rear shock. We were limping around but we still finished 6th.
To me, Sunday at Houston was a win for us. We should have probably finished 18th, 19th, 20th, and we ended up with a 6th. Really happy with the way Houston went and I'm looking forward to going to Pocono. Feel like I have unfinished business there.