A fresh start for RHR (photo by Brian Konoske)
The February 2010 issue of RACER magazine will feature an exclusive interview with Andretti Autosport's new IZOD IndyCar Series driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay. In the article, an excerpt of which appears below, Hunter-Reay reveals the ups and downs of his career to date, the details behind his star-crossed 2009 season with Vision Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing, and his hopes for finally getting a chance to take his place among the elite players in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
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For someone who has changed teams almost every year, getting used to a new environment is nothing out of the ordinary for Ryan Hunter-Reay. It's doubtful therefore that we've seen the best of RHR on a consistent basis because there's been so little consistency around him. His time with Rahal Letterman Racing, though, showed great promise: Rookie of the Year in '07 despite competing in only six rounds, then Indy 500 Rookie of the year in '08 followed by victory at Watkins Glen.
“We were really hitting on some things in '08 at Rahal,” Ryan says. “At Watkins Glen we qualified third and ran the whole race in the top three. And a couple of other races, like Texas, we ran top three all night…. But there's more in there, for sure. It did feel like it was hit and miss. You can ask Bobby or anyone on that team: we did not have the resources we wanted. We only did two, maybe three days of testing, and we didn't have another car, so we often had to think conservative.”
Hunter-Reay hasn't lost the ability to drive like a hero, though. Aside from the crashes suffered by Vitor Meira and Will Power, some of the scariest footage in the IndyCar Series in 2009 was provided by RH-R's qualifying runs for the Indy 500. For all of us who have grown used to the current breed of Indy cars, with a mere 670hp on tap, droning around high-banked cookie-cutter tracks as if on rails, the sight of Vision Racing's No. 21 car negotiating a “real” oval while apparently handling like a one-legged kangaroo was a wake-up call. For the man in the cockpit, it was rather more than that.
“Oh, man, that was a gray time period, trust me,” recalls Ryan. “I tell you, until I'm old, I will never forget seeing Milka Duno climbing out of her car and being envious of the speed she put on the clock…and then thinking, 'How has it come to this? I'm looking at Milka and thinking, ‘Wow! You are an awesome driver.'
“So then I got into my car, and we dropped a full turn of the rear wing – and it had already been ass-happy before that! Then I was told, ‘OK, we've been bumped out, you've gotta go make the show.' But that's what Bump Day's all about, I guess.”