— BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Andretti Autosport remained perfect on the year Sunday when defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay snapped Penske Racing's winning streak at Barber Motorsports Park.
The win came at one of Hunter-Reay's worst tracks, which just so happened to be where his Penske rivals dominated. Headed into the weekend, Helio Castroneves and Will Power had won every pole and all three races since IndyCar's 2010 debut on the picturesque permanent road course.
But Hunter-Reay proved to be a credible threat for the victory when he beat both Power and Castroneves for the pole, raced both hard for the lead during a middle portion of the race, then held off Scott Dixon to give Andretti and Chevrolet wins in the season's first two races.
"Several times in the offseason, I said our biggest weaknesses were the permanent road courses like Barber and Sonoma, and the big super speedways like Texas and Fontana," Hunter-Reay said. "The guys gave me a great car. I had more pressure than anything bringing a car home that I knew was capable of winning. That was the biggest pressure."
In delivering at a track where his previous best finish was 12th, Hunter-Reay showed last year's championship was no fluke. And he proved he can bounce back after a disappointing race: Mechanical problems in the season-opener at St. Pete caused him to finish 18th in a race teammate James Hinchcliffe won.
It was Hunter-Reay's 10th career victory, and he put the No. 1 car into Victory Lane at an IndyCar race for the first time since Sebastien Bourdais won at Mexico City in 2007. He also moved up 15 spots in the standings to third.
"It really shows that we're a threat every weekend — that's what we need to be to win championships, is be a threat every weekend," Hunter-Reay said.