McElrea Takes First Indy Lights Oval Win

Hunter McElrea is closing in on the top spot of the Indy Lights Championship following a back-to-back win in the series.

Hunter has secured the 250th race win for the Andretti Motorsports team.

Giltrap Group sponsored driver, Hunter McElrea has just completed another impressive race weekend, at Round 9 of the Indy Lights Championship at Iowa Speedway, achieving his first oval circuit pole and converting that to his first oval win.

McElrea had some confidence heading into the race following strong qualifying trim pace they achieved in past testing, but was pleased that translated to a result on race day. He is also over the moon to claim his third pole of the season as well as back-to-back Indy Lights victories.

It was a condensed weekend with just a single practice, a two lap single car qualifying run, and the race. Which did present McElrea and the Andretti Motorsport team some challenges.

“Practice went ok, to be honest I felt like we never really got the car in the right window. It was a little messy, and in my qualifying simulation at the end of the session we just had too much understeer. I was surprised to end up 3rd, and I was confident to fight for the pole in qualifying with a better car balance.” Said McElrea

Something that was new for the field was the 'impound' rule that IndyCar uses for qualifying and the race on ovals. Essentially meaning teams must qualify with the same car setup they race on. This makes set up challenging as teams will reduce or 'trim' aero for qualifying to achieve a big speed in the peak of the new tire grip and add aero to help look after the tires and reduce the degradation of grip in the race.

Andretti Motorsport decided to prioritize qualifying performance with how important track position is around Iowa. This is because passing is very difficult, due to the dirty/disturbed air you get from following cars. This gave them more aero on than the qually runs we did at the test day, but were more trimmed out than others. McElrea couldn’t have asked for a better setup on the day.

“My engineer nailed the qualifying balance, and I was able to put two really nice laps in flat out.  This run was comfortably good enough for pole position. It was such a mega feeling to finally get a pole on an oval. It has been something that I've been trying to achieve for a long time over here in the states.”

Hunter got a great jump off the start, and leveraged clear air to extend his advantage over the rest of field.

“I was able to pull a comfortable lead to about 2 seconds. It was smooth sailing for me until I started to catch the lap traffic, then the chasing car behind closed up to me. At about the 35 lap mark I started to feel the car balance change. The tires were starting to lose grip and I had my hands full with some oversteer off exit. This made it even harder for me to keep working through the lap traffic. There were a few laps where I had a really close, tight battle with Linus Lunquist for the lead. He got a run on me, and we ran two laps side by side. I was able to just hold on around the outside, and slot back into the lead.”

A safety car period was cause for concern as McElrea got a strong restart but was promptly caught out with a huge understeer moment that washed the car wide toward the wall. This dropped the Kiwi back to 3rd and dealing with oversteer. Unable to catch the leaders back without risking the car, it was looking like McElrea would have to settle for P3 but on the last few laps, the leaders touched enabling Hunter to sneak back up into 2nd and the lead car was then issues a penalty which gave me the win back to McElrea.

“Man after I thought I lost it, I got it back! An elated McElrea said after the race.

“After everything seemed to go against me at the start of the year, it feels great to have some luck go my way! I led most laps from the pole and was the fastest car all weekend so I feel like we still deserve this result. I learnt so much this weekend, and I am going to work on in future how I can be a little stronger in traffic running on an oval.” The kiwi driver said.

After back to back wins, Hunter McElrea is now 2nd in the Indy Lights Championship and as an added bonus, he has secured the 250th race for Andretti Autosport – a milestone his team has celebrated enthusiastically with their global social media audience.

The next round of Indy Lights will be in Nashville, Tennessee, Monday 8th August (NZ time)

Related Articles

Audi's electric future debuts on ice

The Audi Ice Experience for 2022 has commenced at the spectacular Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds in the Cardrona Valley, Central Otago.

Read More

Incoming Kia Niro Plus: further range details revealed

The forthcoming Kia Niro Plus range is set to offer Kiwis greater space, a larger technology suite and more electrified mobility, with both hybrid and full electric versions available.

Read More