Ryan Hunter-Reay scored a first-class win in Sunday’s Long Beach Grand Prix Indycar race. He chased hard after early leader Will Power and got ahead when the Australian’s gearbox jammed momentarily in first. Power recovered to finish third behind Hunter-Reay and Justin Wilson, and therefore retains his championship lead over Penske team-mate Helio Castroneves. Hunter-Reay’s win moves him up to third in the points ahead of Wilson.
Hunter-Reay becomes the first American driver to win an Indycar race in 21 months since he last won at Watkins Glen in July 2008 driving for Bobby Rahal’s team. He is also the first American to win at Long Beach since team boss Michael Andretti achieved the feat in 2002.
“Long Beach means so much to me,” said Hunter-Reay. “This is where I had my first race in Formula Atlantic and in CART. This race has so much history and I’ve lived here the past six years in Dana Point just down the street. I love it here. It’s like my home race.”
Hunter-Reay’s win was fortuitous because his sponsorship package with Andretti Autosports extends only until Texas in June. Clothing firm Izod sponsors his car and is also the IRL series sponsor. Ryan and Andretti hope this latest victory will persuade Izod to extend its support until the end of the season.
“I’m just so appreciative of what Michael’s done for me,” said Hunter-Reay. “He’s put a lot of faith in me and this programme. It started as a small programme and I feel like we’re just beginning to work with the team. The chemistry is building and it’s so much fun. I wake up early every day because I’m just so excited to get to the race track and get to work.
“What Izod is doing for this series is huge. You probably won’t see the results for another few months or maybe even a year. But what they’re doing for the series and what they’ve done for me is great. They have absolute faith in me.”
Andretti said he’s working hard to extend Hunter-Reay’s sponsorship deal. “I couldn’t be more excited for Ryan,” he said. “He’s worked his butt off and he’s fit right into our team. He works really well with our other three drivers. They’re all getting along well and pushing each other hard, and you’re seeing the results on the track.
“I’m just hoping we can get the support we need to get Ryan through the rest of this year. We can’t let his car stop running and I can assure you we’re working hard to [stop that from] happening. If Ryan keeps doing what he’s doing he’s making it a lot easier for us. We’ll have to see what comes out of this after the dust settles. All I can say is I hope that sooner or later we’ll be able to announce a full season for him.”