Three IndyCar championship contenders, as well as a trio of the fastest cars at Texas Motor Speedway, were figuratively out of Saturday night’s season opener almost before it started.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal suffered technical problems before the field pulled away and when they got on track they were already way behind and pretty much out of contention for a win.
“Incredibly unfortunate events got us at the start of the race — we had an issue with the electronics starting up,” said Hunter-Reay, who overcame a practice crash to qualify fourth and then fought his way back from two laps down to finish eighth in Andretti Autosport’s DHL Honda. “The team did a great job of turning the car around after my mistake and I got in it and drove the wheels off it.”
As the field took the green flag, Hunter-Reay and teammate Rossi were coming out of the pits and immediately behind the eight ball.
“We got sent to the back of the field and also picked up a drive-through penalty, so we got penalized twice because of the impound rule,” noted Hunter-Reay.
Slated to start eighth in his NAPA Honda, Rossi managed to overcome his two-lap deficit and only finish one lap behind winner Scott Dixon in 15th place.
“We were pretty optimistic for the race, starting toward the front, but unfortunately couldn’t get the car started on the grid because of an ECU issue,” said the 2016 Indy 500 winner. “I was among a couple of other cars that that happened to. We had to start from the back and had a drive-through penalty. Then during the drive-through, there was an issue with the pit lane speed limiter, which followed up one drive-through penalty with another. From that point our night was pretty much over, but we tried our best to salvage what we could.”
Rahal had qualified seventh in Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Fleet Cost & Care Honda but also got a rude awakening on the command to start engines.
“The car wouldn’t start and needed to be reprogrammed,” said the 2016 Texas victor, who wound up two laps down in 17th after losing three laps at the start. “Our car was fast and I think the guys did a great job but this one got away from us for sure. A lot of unforced errors and a couple of stop-and-go penalties, so it’s disappointing to come out of here with no points for either car.”
RLL teammate Takuma Sato had a big crash in qualifying and his team was unable to prepare his car in time to compete.
As it stands now, there’s a month before the next race at IMS and Hunter-Reay is hoping for a little better karma.
“I’m not really sure why the cartoon anvil keeps dropping on the No. 28, but it’s frustrating,” exclaimed the former Indy 500 and IndyCar champion who went winless in 2019. “We had a good car to represent our partners and team but we were robbed.”