NEWTON, Iowa – Owner Michael Andretti saw his drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, driving together in a pack at the front during Saturday night's IndyCar race in Iowa and held his breath, wondering briefly if they'd try to do anything a bit too risky to gain the edge.
Even the potential problems at Andretti Autosports right now are good ones to have.
Hunter-Reay grabbed the lead with 12 laps to go and held off a surging Andretti to win his second race in seven days, a week during which Michael Andretti successfully pulled off a return to Milwaukee as a first-time promoter.
Hunter-Reay is now just three points behind leader Will Power in the points race after giving Andretti Autosports its fourth win in six tries on Iowa's speedy short oval.
Andretti was second and Hinchcliffe finished 17th after he caught the wall 55 laps from the finish, dropping to fifth in points.
"I think we've been competitive all year. We've been knocking on the door and finally to break through the last two weekends has been great. Now hopefully we can carry this momentum for the rest of the year. I think we have two guys in the serious fight for the championship. Really happy about that," Michael Andretti said.
For Marco Andretti, the hope was that a return the scene of his last victory would spark a turnaround.
Andretti was certainly fast all weekend in Iowa, an all-too rare occurrence for him this season.
Andretti started third after showing strong speed during Friday's unique qualifying heats races and followed it up by finishing a season-best second. Andretti also moved up from 18th to 13th in the points chase as he continues to try to dig his way of the hole he's created for himself.
"Obviously we wanted that top spot. I'm still in that win drought. It's killing, I've got to be honest. Hopefully this will bump us up a little a bit in points and we can start the momentum now. Because it's horrendous. It's been frustrating. We ran well at Indy, but we came up short. Just a lot of unfortunate things that happened so we've just got to keep hammering," Andretti said.
The race itself wasn't a clean show at all.
It was certainly an eventful one.
The excitement began before the green flag dropped when a plume of smoke flew from Dario Franchitti's engine, knocking the two-time winner out of the race and opening up the field significantly.
The second of six cautions came out when E.J. Viso barreled into Will Power near the apron on the turn in the backstretch, leaving Viso gesturing at Power from the track and Power acknowledging his mistake in uncensored fashion on live TV.
From the broadcast booth, Franchitti then chided Viso for his public display of disaffection.
Josef Newgarden took out the leader, Ryan Briscoe, after Briscoe descended low in an effort to grab tires for what he thought was a strong shot at victory. Contact also claimed Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand, and fittingly ended under caution when Kattherine Legge hit the wall two laps from the finish.
It was such a strange night that Simona de Silvestro and her much-derided Lotus engine finished 14th out of 25 cars — albeit six laps down.
For Hunter-Reay, the back-to-back wins put him in position to challenge Power as the series moves to the road and street courses Power is so tough at.
"It all comes down to consistency. That's how championships are won. We have to be consistent. We have to go week in and week out, be consistently strong, be in the top five for sure every weekend," Hunter-Reay said.
A beaming Michael Andretti said after the race that he thought that his team had a real shot at a rare 1-2-3 finish. Those hopes were erased when Hinchcliffe clipped the wall, but in the end it all worked out yet again for Andretti Autosports.
"When you see at one point all three of them right together, you're like 'Oh boy.' You're always holding your breath watching it. But they all really take care of each other, like each other. I knew they weren't going to do anything stupid," Andretti said.