Edmonton Indy: No birds flying around track
Series leader Hunter-Reay involved in incident during Friday practice
EDMONTON – Minor mishaps will happen on the track, just as they do on the road, but IndyCar Series leader Ryan Hunter-Reay definitely didn’t want anyone thinking he would resort to obscene gestures during his day at the office.
Hunter-Reay, who has won the last three straight races on the IndyCar for Andretti Autosport, was nicked with an “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty late in the morning practice session after he forced James Jakes of Dale Coyne Racing off the track.
The penalty amounted to a couple of minutes in the pits before the morning session was over. Which was no major issue to Hunter-Reay. Or Jakes, for that matter.
“It really was not a big deal at all,” Hunter-Reay said. “We give each other courtesy when we’re out there, off the pace.
“I talked to him, it’s all sorted out. No problem at all.
“I wanted him to know that he was running in the racing line when others were going hot. And since then, we’ve crossed paths on the track . . . he was coming out of the pit lane and he got right out of the way.”
The incident occurred when the faster-running Hunter-Reay came up on a much slower Jakes. Hunter-Reay squeezed Jakes off the track, and said he waved at Jakes in a ‘what-the-heck’ sort of way.
But when he learned that the suggestion was he had flipped Jakes the bird during the encounter, he was quick to react.
“Some things, drivers need to work out among themselves,” Hunter-Reay said. “I think Beau (Barfield, Indycar’s first-year race director) might have thought I flipped him the middle finger, which I never did. That’s why there was no fine.”
Apprised that his supposed flipping of the bird had already made the rounds of social media and various media reports, Hunter-Reay hopped onto his scooter and tore off to intercept a veteran Indianapolis-based racing writer to set that record straight.
It still ended up being a bad day at the beach for Hunter-Reay, who was assessed a 10-spot penalty for an engine change, at the end of the day.
Teams are penalized if they make an engine change before the unit has logged 1,850 miles, or if they exceed five engine changes in a season. In Hunter-Reay’s case, the penalty is related to the mileage limit.
What that means is that the series leader can start Sunday’s race no higher than 11th on the grid, no matter where he ranks in today’s qualifying session.
It was not hard to figure out why Andretti made the change. Hunter-Reay’s car was slow in the morning, and wound up a middling ninth in the afternoon session.
“It was a rough day, for sure,” Hunter-Reay said. “It started out very rough — what were we, 25th in the first session? (He was 22nd, actually). We ended up ninth.
“We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go. It’s quite a bit different than we were expecting.”
They sure didn’t begin the day expecting a 10-spot penalty. But some drivers believe the wide-open City Centre Airport track could permit a penalized driver the opportunity to pass relatively easily and move up through the field.
So the penalty may not be as severe as it sounds, in this case.
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