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IndyCar Driver Profile: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Driver: Ryan Hunter-Reay
2014 Primary Ride: No. 28 Andretti Autosport DW12
2014 Primary Sponsor: DHL
Career Verizon IndyCar Series Statistics: 111 starts, 12 wins, 22 podium finishes, 13903 laps led.
Career CART/Champ Car World Series Statistics: 43 starts, 2 wins, 3 Podium Finishes, 265 laps led.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is seeking his second IndyCar championship in three years this season driving for Andretti Autosport.
Ryan Hunter-Reay is seeking his second IndyCar championship in three years this season driving for Andretti Autosport.

Career Highlights
2012 IndyCar Series Champion
Nine-time World Karting Association Champion
One-time winner of the Long Beach Grand Prix (2010)
2007 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year
12-time IndyCar race winner

Biography

For a driver as talented as Ryan Hunter-Reay, the road to IndyCar stardom was not nearly as straight and narrow as one would expect. If anything, it was a road loaded with mountainous peaks and steep valleys.

Hunter-Reay was born in Dallas, Texas in 1980, and from a young age had an insatiable urge to race. The young Texan quickly moved up the karting ranks and won the prestigious Skip Barber National Series championship at the age of 19. His success on the karting circuits earned him worldwide attention, thus netting him a scholarship to race on the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Pro Circuit in 2000.

Hunter-Reay proved to be a quick learner, and his pro-level Skip Barber days were a rousing success. In his two years on the circuit he racked up a pair of wins and the 2000 Rookie of the Year title. Such success put Hunter-Reay on the radar of top-flightCART teams, and it looked as though he’d glide to the pinnacle of open-wheel racing with ease. With that, Hunter-Reay began his ascent up the American Open-Wheel Racing ladder.

Toyota Atlantics were the next box for Hunter-Reay to check off, and he once again took to the series like a fish to water. In his rookie Atlantics season he racked up 3 wins, a 6th place points finish, and the Rookie of the Year award. So successful was Hunter-Reay, that even Formula 1 teams and their ladder affiliates were interested in Hunter-Reay. He was a rising superstar, and it only seemed to be a matter of time before he broke through to the big leagues.

But as we all know, life is never quite that easy.

Hunter-Reay would end up getting his shot at the top-level of American open-wheel racing in 2003 on the Champ Car World Series circuit, but unbeknownst to him, the series was a sinking ship. Like many top American open-wheel prospects during the “split-era” of American open-wheel racing, financial maladies and falling popularity of open-wheel racing in the U.S. were major obstacles in the career paths of the drivers of the time. Hunter-Reay would end up being a victim of Champ Car’s failures.

Hunter-Reay was undoubtedly successful during his three -year tenure in Champ Car, regardless of the series’ myriad of issues at the time. Hunter-Reay bounced from team to team and got the most out of his car even in the first and third years of his Champ Car career when he piloted subpar equipment, even managing to score a shock win towards the end of his rookie year. His second year on the circuit was his best, as Hunter-Reay scored a dominating win at Milwaukee early in the year and delivered a solid ninth-place points finish.

Yet despite all of Hunter-Reay’s success, the crumbling foundation of the Champ Car World Series proved too shaky to stand on, and after the 2005 season, Hunter-Reay was out of the series and looking for an opportunity to drive. Luckily for Hunter-Reay, his fortunes would soon turn around.

Midway through 2007, Hunter-Reay was able to latch on to Rahal Letterman Racing to drive the No. 17 car for the latter portion of the season after driver Jeff Simmons was released from the team. Hunter-Reay made the most of the opportunity and parlayed his chance with the team into a full time gig in 2008. That 2008 season would prove to be a magical one for Hunter-Reay, as he delivered a victory in that season’s Watkins Glen event, and in the process re-established himself as a relevant open-wheel racer.
But in the spirit of Hunter-Reay’s career, such good days would be followed by trying times. The 2009 season was a mixed bag for Hunter-Reay, as he was released byRLL and raced on a part-time basis. But in 2010, his career changed forever.

Andretti Autosport signed Hunter-Reay to what was initially only a two race deal, but after a sterling performance in the season opener in Sao Paulo, Hunter-Reay earned a full-time ride with the organization. From that point on, the rest is history. Hunter-Reay, finally possessing the solid financial backing he always lacked, grew as a driver in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, which ultimately helped him build the skills needed for him to compete for the IndyCar Series championship in 2012.

As I’m sure you all know, he did just that, clinching the 2012 championship and performing at a high-level ever since then.

Now, Hunter-Reay looks to challenge once again for the title in 2014. After years of experiencing peaks and valleys in his career, the driver known as RHR finally seems to have the stability and support needed to continue to be a force worthy of being reckoned with in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

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