Ryan Hunter-Reay has been driving flawlessly in recent races while favourites Dario Franchitti and Will Power have floundered amid incidents and accidents.
In Toronto last weekend Hunter-Reay scored his third win in a row and took the championship lead as both Franchitti and Power again ran into trouble. Hunter-Reay has won the last three races on the Milwaukee and Iowa ovals and Toronto’s street circuit and he’s confident that he and Michael Andretti’s Chevrolet-powered team have what it takes to win the championship.
“We have a good team that can get it done on all venues,” Hunter-Reay says. “We’re looking to make a championship run here, no doubt about it. We’re concentrating on every lap, every session and we’re not getting ahead of ourselves at all. We’ve got a long way to go.”
With only five IndyCar races remaining Hunter-Reay has passed Power for the championship lead with Helio Castroneves third and Scott Dixon fourth. Indy 500 winner and defending champion Franchitti is eighth, 105 points behind Hunter-Reay.
Ryan is 31 and has been racing Indy-type cars since 2003 after serving his apprenticeship in karts, Skip Barber’s Formula Dodge series and Formula Atlantic. He won three Atlantic races in 2002 and drove for Stefan Johansson’s Champ Car team in ‘03, scoring his first win at Surfers Paradise at the end of the season. The following year he won the Milwaukee Champ Car race, leading all the way from pole, before spending a couple of years primarily racing Grand-Am cars.
Hunter-Reay finally went IndyCar in the middle of 2007 with Bobby Rahal’s team and won at Watkins Glen the following summer before splitting the ‘09 season with A.J. Foyt’s team and Tony George’s Vision Racing. He got his big break when Michael Andretti hired him in 2010 and he has established himself as Andretti’s team leader, winning in Long Beach two years ago and New Hampshire last year before emerging this season as a championship contender.
“It’s about finding a home,” Ryan said. “It’s about being somewhere for three years. I’ve been here for three years and finally everything is clicking. Look at the Ganassi team. Dixon and Franchitti have been there a long time and that’s how people learn to work together. It’s a team sport and it’s all about chemistry and working together that’s what we have here. We’re just having a lot of fun. We’re winning races and it’s more fun when you win races.”
Franchitti took his third pole in a row in Toronto but had trouble in the pits which got him stuck at the back of the pack and he was subsequently eliminated in a collision with Ryan Briscoe. Other than winning the Indy 500 and finishing second to team-mate Scott Dixon in Detroit, Dario has been out of luck this year and the likelihood of him winning a fourth championship in a row is looking slim at best.
“It’s been one thing after another,” Dario remarked. “We’re making it really difficult this year. Stuff like what happened in the pits (in Toronto). We never see that with the Target guys but it’s just one of those things.”
IndyCar’s five remaining races take place at the Edmonton airport circuit, Mid-Ohio road course, Sears Point road course, Baltimore street circuit and the California 500 on September 15. “I think we have a really good shot at it,” Michael Andretti commented about Hunter-Reay’s championship chances. “We feel real confident at all the rest of the tracks.”