Ryan Hunter-Reay wins Grand Prix of Alabama

Joshua Thomas

LEEDS, Ala. -- Ryan Hunter-Reay moved past Helio Castroneves with 15 laps to go and never looked back, winning the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala.

The defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion secured the pole position in Fast Six qualifying on Saturday and closed out the deal on Sunday afternoon, but not without a challenge from Scott Dixon. The two-time IndyCar champion closed to within less than a second by the final lap but just couldn't find a way around Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay finished 18th at St. Petersburg to open the season and knew that his campaign to capture a second-straight IndyCar championship would have to start this weekend at Barber. Complicating matters is that his best finish at the track was 12th. He bested that mark and then some on Sunday afternoon.

"Coming out of St. Petersburg and our stuck throttle in that race," Hunter-Reay explained. "We kind of felt like this was going to have to be the start of our season. Our team has done a great job and you really see it on the permanent road courses and superspeedways -- two of the types of tracks in which I really used to struggle."

For his part, Dixon has now finished second in four-consecutive races at the 2.3-mile Alabama road course. He said that he could easily get to within a second of Hunter-Reay but that it really changed the temperament of his car in the Chevrolet's dirty air.

"I think our car was definitely quicker," Dixon said. "We closed a pretty decent gap. But once you get within a second back or so, it's really hard to close it any more.

"We got close a couple of times. He made a mistake in 15 or 16, then also in two a couple times -- he locked up pretty big. Unless you make a really big mistake here, it's going to be pretty tough, if you're fighting with similar tires, similar tire wear and speed."

A.J. Allmendinger made his return to open-wheel racing for the first time since 2007 and scored a 19th-place in his debut for Team Penske. Allmendinger had started the race inside the top 10 and moved up to seventh after the first restart, all before fading late in the race.

Castroneves, Charlie Kimball and Will Power completed the top five.

St. Petersburg race winner James Hinchcliffe suffered a mechanical failure and finished in 26th -- the final car in full-field rundown. As a result, Castroneves inherits the points lead after just two races, taking a nine-point lead over Hunter-Reay and Dixon leading into the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Apr. 21.

The complete race results can be found below:

  1. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Helio Castroneves
  4. Charlie Kimball
  5. Will Power
  6. Simon Pagenaud
  7. Marco Andretti
  8. Justin Wilson
  9. Josef Newgarden
  10. Tristan Vautier
  11. Alex Tagliani
  12. EJ Viso
  13. Tony Kanaan
  14. Takuma Sato
  15. Oriol Servia
  16. Sebastien Bourdais
  17. JR Hildebrand
  18. Simona de Silvestro
  19. AJ Allmendinger
  20. Sebastian Saavedra
  21. Graham Rahal
  22. Ed Carpenter
  23. James Jakes
  24. Ana Beatriz
  25. Dario Franchitti
  26. James Hinchcliffe

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