The 2014 Grand Prix of Alabama proved to be treacherous on a rain-soaked track on Sunday for every driver on the course, but that didn't stop Ryan Hunter-Reay from navigating the wet conditions and emerging with his first victory of the season.
Marco Andretti finished just behind for second place and Scott Dixon came in third. Simon Pagenaud and pole winner Will Power rounded out the top five.
Here's a look at the final results:
The complete race results can be viewed at IndyCar.com.
The moisture only increased the difficulty of the highly contested race. Before taking the slick track, Power spoke of the race's twists and turns during an interview with IMS Radio Network, via Chris Estrada of NBC Sports' MotorSportsTalk:
[Winning] is the only thing that counts for us, and a part of trying to win here is getting the pole. It definitely makes our job easier. It's going to be a tough race. When it goes green, these temperatures are going to be very physical. There will be a lot of traffic and a lot of marbles so we'll do everything we can to get the win.
Power began in command, but a mishap took him out of the running early in the race, opening the door for several drivers to take advantage.
Once the engines were fired up, three parade laps took place to test out the rain tires on the wet track. Unsurprisingly, tires would be an issue throughout the race for all drivers.
Justin Wilson tweeted the track's conditions as the cars got going:
PR - The rain has ceased and we are going green next time by for the #HIGPA. Will be a wet start as the track is still very wet— Justin Wilson (@justin_wilson) April 27, 2014
Early in the race, James Hinchcliffe received a radio message that would set the tone for the day and appropriately sums up the race's theme:
After an immediate yellow flag, Sebastian Saavedra couldn't even see where he was going, according to a tweet from KVSH/KV AFS Racing:
It was clear that the conditions were posing a huge obstacle for all the drivers. Takuma Sato was the first to fall victim to the wet track, and more drivers continued to have difficulty seeing the track early on as well:
As the track began to dry, the strategies for all drivers on the course began to change and the field began to take shape, with Hunter-Reay faring well early on.
After leading through 16 laps, Power couldn't handle Turn 5 and spun off the track. He regained control, but lost the lead.
Drivers began to change tires with the conditions improving. This would prove to be beneficial for many, including Saavedra, who held the lead well into the race. He maintained the lead through another caution flag after Juan Pablo Montoya found the sand heading into 30 laps.
However, he was also the last to pit, and he gave up his lead when he finally decided to do so, rejoining the field in 20th:
Saavedra gives up the lead to make his first pit stop, dry tires on and rejoins field in 20th #HIGPA— KVSH/KV AFS Racing (@kvracing) April 27, 2014
But the real focus of the day was Hunter-Reay, who drove with consistency and confidence.
He maintained his lead through 57 laps.
The race went under a full-course caution in the waning minutes, as Mikhail Aleshin hit tires, according to a tweet from Ed Carpenter Racing:
Full course yellow on lap 65. @mikhailaleshin hit tires.— Ed Carpenter Racing (@ECRIndy) April 27, 2014
The race would finish under caution—judging how the day began, this seemed to almost be a fitting end—and Hunter-Reay took the checkered flag. He drove an incredible race on such a trying day, successfully defending his title.
Marco Andretti had a strong showing as well, finishing in second place to his teammate.
It turned out to be an unfortunate day for Power, as he finished in fifth position, but he still performed well on the wet track.
Luckily, even with the horrid conditions, only two drivers failed to finish the race. It was an all-around impressive effort from every driver involved.
With the Grand Prix of Alabama now in the books, here's an updated look at the IndyCar season standings:
The complete list of standings can be viewed on IndyCar.com.
Next on the slate for most of these drivers will be the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10, followed by the granddaddy of them all—the Indianapolis 500 on May 25.
The season is only getting underway, and if upcoming races hold a similar amount of excitement and intensity as the Grand Prix of Alabama, we are certainly in for a treat.