Hunter-Reay “determined” to make late run for IndyCar title

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A bad three-race stretch has done damage to Ryan Hunter-Reay’s chances for a second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series championship, but the American pilot is out to stage a rally for the title in the season’s home stretch.

This weekend, IndyCar heads for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Sun., 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), a track where RHR has had past success that includes podium runs in 2003 (Champ Car/American Spirit Team Johanssen) and 2011 (IndyCar/Andretti Autosport). He considers the difficult, technical circuit as one of his favorites.

“Mid-Ohio is the heart of American open-wheel road racing and I have some great memories over the years at this track,” Hunter-Reay said in a team statement. “I’ve been on the podium a few times here, and following tough weekends we had at Pocono and Toronto, we’ll be working hard to rebound and cut into the championship points lead.”

It certainly won’t be easy after trouble found him earlier this month at Pocono Raceway and in both races of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader.

At the “Tricky Triangle,” Hunter-Reay was hit from behind on pit road by an out-of-control Takuma Sato. One week later in Canada, he was victimized by multiple stalls on pit road in Race 1 and a late-race crash with Will Power in Race 2.

Finishes of 20th at Pocono and 18th/19th at Toronto now have him 69 points behind leader Helio Castroneves. He’s also fallen behind Scott Dixon, who won all three of those races – and has been the master of Mid-Ohio with four victories in the series’ six events there.

But it’s not quite time to put Hunter-Reay in the “long shot” category just yet. We’ve seen big comebacks before in IndyCar. Remember 2010, when Dario Franchitti erased a 59-point gap to Will Power in the final four races to win the title that year?

Considering that, making up 69 points in six remaining events wouldn’t appear impossible for Hunter-Reay.

“We’re a tenacious bunch at Andretti Autosport and we’re determined to make a late season run at the championship,” he said.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.