It’s been three years since Ryan Hunter-Reay won an IndyCar race, but it wasn’t because of lack of talent or speed. A couple close calls and a myriad of mechanical mayhem kept the 2012 IndyCar champion out of Victory Lane.
And it was starting to grind on him.
“It did. It went through my head a lot,” he said after charging from 10th to capture Sunday’s second Dual at Detroit. “But I know I have the team behind me to do it. I know I can do it with the right car. I know I have the talent to win the races, and just have to think positive. I’ve got the best job on earth, so I come and show up in the morning and there’s a yellow car there with my name on the side of it, and I go to work as an IndyCar car driver, and I absolutely knew we could get back in Victory Lane, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
“At times with the aero kit, the manufacturer aero kit, we might have struggled a little bit. Our team did, and we just weren’t firing on all cylinders for some reason, but now again with a universal aero kit, we’re right back on a level playing field again, just like we left off in ’12, ’13 and ’14.”
The 37-year-old veteran’s last triumph was at Pocono in 2015.
“There have been a lot of circumstances that have kept this team out of Victory Lane,” said Hunter-Reay, who has driven for Michael Andretti’s operation since 2010. “If you look at the past Indy 500s, the ’17 and ’16 ones, I think we could have won both of those. Led the most laps in one of them, didn’t get to finish the race. It’s been heartbreaking stuff.
“Catching James Hinchcliffe at Long Beach  in the last five laps or whatever it was, the electrical system shuts down. And leading in 2016 at Pocono and the same electrical problem shuts the car down. So there’s been a lot of frustrating things like that that have kept us from potentially being in Victory Lane.”
But Sunday afternoon was a command performance as he earned his 17th career win. Starting 10th, he opted for a three-stop strategy and played it perfectly. He was a second a lap faster than pole-sitter and teammate Alexander Rossi as he was running him down in the closing laps.
“Today the car was awesome. I mean, it was — we were at times lapping, I think, a second and a half faster than anybody on the track,” he said after forcing Rossi into a mistake with nine laps to go and winning by 11 seconds over Will Power. “And that car definitely ended the race where it should be, and that’s in Victory Lane. So really proud of the 28 DHL Honda team. These guys have worked really hard, but they gave me a great racecar, the engineering side. I’m just really proud of what they’ve done.
“My engineer Ray Gosselin, he wanted this race as bad as me. We’ve won a lot of races together. We’ve been working together since 2011 and we’ve won a lot together, so this recent dry spell has really had us both a little eager. Today was great.”