Ryan Hunter-Reay finished eighth Sunday in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono but he should have felt like a winner.
After slamming the third turn wall twice on Saturday during qualifying, Hunter-Reay was battered and bruised but X-rays showed nothing was broken, so he gingerly walked to his DHL Dallara-Honda for 500 miles around the Tricky Triangle.
He started last, charged into the lead by Lap 100 and then dropped back following a poor pit stop. And only two things hurt at the checkered flag: his body and his feelings.
“It’s a bummer not to finish better because I was able to get to the front and I was thinking we were going to have a good day,” said the 36-year-old veteran whose left hip and knee were beaten up. “But this was a road course car and we had a lot of downforce piled on – too much, as it turned out.
“As the race went on we kept taking downforce out but not enough because I could get huge runs on Dixie (Scott Dixon) and Helio (Castroneves) but then when I popped out I was just struck and I couldn’t complete the pass.”
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner was asked how much pain he was in for almost three hours.
“None during the race but when I got out, it felt like a truck hit me,” he replied. “I didn’t sleep well last night and I was really dragging my rear end around this morning and I’m super stiff right now. But it was good to be able to get back in the car and race. Turn 3 talked to me a few times during the day but it was good, hard racing…
“I was lucky not to break any bones and I’m very thankful for the safety of this car and the safety team we have is the best in the world. The fact that I was able to race today is unreal.”
The final oval race of 2017 is this Saturday night at Gateway in Madison, Ill. and RHR thinks he’ll be feeling much better by then. “But first I’m going to go lay down and try to sleep for 12 hours, because I’m worn out.”