So, how does it feel to be the champ?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: This is unbelievable. I can't put it into words the feeling. How hard I had to fight. How we had to fight at Baltimore. Just this whole thing has not set in yet. I'm still in almost fight mode. We just came back. We really earned this one.
For all the bad luck we had this year, to get it, it feels so good. It feels like we really earned this. We really worked for it. To get it done for Andretti Autosport, DHL, Sun Drop, Circle K, these folks have been behind me. This is a dream come true. This is what I've wanted since I was 6 years old. So it hasn't all set in yet, but, my gosh…amazing.
Why can't you make things easy on yourself? Why does everything have to be drama?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: I don't know! I heard Will [Power] was close to hitting me, too. Really close, huh? Yeah. Unbelievable.
What a race though. I don't know how it seemed to you guys, but, geez, I was on the edge the entire time just trying to hold on to the car. You're right – nothing can be easy. It was stressful down to the last bit. Then the red flag comes out and I have to sit there and think about it some more while we had a good rhythm going. It was just…man. I'm still just taking it all in.
This is just amazing, you know. This is what racing is about, what sports are about. I'm going to let this one sit in for a second and really enjoy it.
I know that you were quick to wrap the American flag around you. You're the first driver from the United States to win an IndyCar Series title since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. How important is that for the series?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: It's important. It's important to me. I'm very proud of my country. I always have been. I've always looked up to the American drivers when I first started this whole deal as a fan of the IndyCar Series, a genuine fan before I raced go‑karts I followed the American greats. That really appealed to me.
Now here I am on the other side, and I see these kids that are looking up to us drivers. Man, it's so cool being on the other side of it all. I mean, to do this against the Ganassis, and the Penskes, and the talent in the series as even Dario [Franchitti] and Will and all these guys have said. I feel like I'm up against the best in the world. It's just amazing to get it done. I'm running out of words to describe it.
Do you have any words for Will Power as a fellow competitor and the fact that he crashed out?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: I think Will's one of the great talents there has been in IndyCar in a very long time. He's one of the best. His talent level, what he does on the track, especially some of these road courses and street circuits some of us haven't seen at all. He certainly would be a deserving champion if he won it.
But we had a breakout year. We really did. We fought for this thing. I certainly feel bad for Will ending up in the wall like that. They got him out there. And trust me, I was not happy when I heard we had to finish one more position up because they got him back out. That was a curve ball I wasn't expecting.
But Will coming in runner‑up quite a few seasons in a row, it's just a matter of time before he wins it with the talent that he has. He's certainly great for IndyCar in many ways.
It seemed like the decision at Baltimore to stay on the dry tires was just the crack in the door that you needed to get back into the championship race. How important and how significant was that decision when you look at it and the impact you had on the championship?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: That was massive, for sure. It's things like that where you can come back. Decisions like that that you have to make the right ones. We made the right one. At a time there, we were buried in the field. We had to come through that field, back through it again and get through some pretty fast racecars up front. [Simon] Pagenaud and [Ryan] Briscoe to win that race, to get it done in the pits, me being overly aggressive and the right strategy call. We did that last weekend, riding that wave of momentum where we can get it done where we least expected and we were struggling this whole week.
I didn't say it much to the media because I didn't want anybody to know how bad we were struggling, but it was bad. Tonight we put it together, and it was amazing. The past week has been one of the most craziest weeks in my life.
Michael Andretti mentioned that this year the team was stronger, you, James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti. You guys are such good friends. I know I've talked to some of your teammates, and this year was different for you guys. Talk about your relationship.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: We have a great relationship and we really use each other's setups a lot.
They're interchangeable, especially on the ovals. We test a lot. We throw a lot of things at the cars to find answers. James found something, I found something, and that's what we did tonight when it mattered most. We put together the best bits that everybody had, and poof, that was the first time I had driven that car and trust me, it's different. It was different from what I had the rest of the weekend.
So I really got into a rhythm with it as the race went on. I learned a lot about what I had and made the most of it, guys did a great job in the pits, and came home champions, it's amazing.