Ryan Hunter-Reay savored a perfect race at Sonoma on Sunday, one that he controlled from the green to the checker.
“It was nice to go from pole, win, lead the most laps, the whole thing,” he said. “That’s an ideal race. May not be the most exciting thing for the fans at times, but from a racecar driver’s point of view, team owner, race team, it’s the ideal race.
“I think clean air was a big deal today; just having that extra little bit of downforce on the car. We were about 1,500 pounds shy in downforce from where we were last year, which is massive. Having that clear air allowed me to do what I needed to do when I needed to do it, maintaining the pace, controlling the pace, even going faster when I needed to.
“It was nice. Seems like the day is a lot longer when you’re out there because you just want to end the race. Can it please end now? Can it please end now? All in all, a good day, enjoyable. Pretty late. The sun was going down there in turn two, right on the horizon. It was starting to blind me going through two. I was glad it ended for that reason, if anything else.”
The closest Hunter-Reay came to a heart-in-mouth moment was when dealing with lapped traffic, including an encounter with teammate Alexander Rossi.
“Alex was fighting to get back on the lead lap,” he recalled. “That was a little tense. He passed me, I passed him back, knowing I was coming in [to the pits] that lap. But he got back on the lead lap, then charged through, had a good run.
“My only [other] tense moment of the race was catching the lapped traffic at the end. I had burned up the rears a little bit, maintaining the gap to Scott [Dixon] and Will [Power]. When I started catching those guys, that was at the time my tires were at their worst. With the dirty air, sliding around a little bit, it started becoming a little interesting at the end.
“I was able to maintain the gap and finish up front. I think that was one of the most tense moments. I had a big moment in turn two during the race where I lost the rear and had a huge correction. It was one of those that almost could have went around. From there, it was mistake-free. Just put my head down.”
Hunter-Reay’s victory gave him the distinction of being the final Sonoma IndyCar winner for the foreseeable future; a situation that he hopes will prove to be short-lived.
“I’m going to miss this place,” he admitted. “It’s unbelievable; all these years I’ve been trying to win here, now we win, we’re not coming back. We seem to have the secret, the setup now, and we can’t use it. I hope we’re back, not in 2019, but in 2020. Hopefully we can get this resolved and get two northern California races on the schedule.”