IndyCar Driver Review: Ryan Hunter-Reay

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

In seventh, the 2012 champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay…


Ryan Hunter-Reay

  • Team: Andretti Autosport
  • 2012: Champion, 4 Wins, 1 Pole
  • 2013: 7th Place, 2 Win, 3 Poles, 6 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 297 Laps Led, 5.4 Avg. Start, 11.6 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: Snakebit second-half of the season after he was my driver of the year in the first half. Great wins at Barber and Milwaukee and one of the drives of the year to second at Iowa. But street course results proved his ultimate undoing. The champion only twice finished better than 18th on them, mostly due to mechanical issues. When there’s 10 such races on the schedule though, that’s going to leave a mark in the points standings. Unlucky because his pace was there and there weren’t any major losses from the championship season … other than RHR’s traditional car number, 28. It turned out that 1 was the loneliest number for him this year.

Estrada says: Four DNFs in the final nine races thwarted Hunter-Reay’s bid for a second consecutive IndyCar title. That bid became legit after winning at Barber to effectively cancel out a DNF in the opening round at St. Petersburg, and he remained consistent for the rest of the first half with another win at Milwaukee along the way. But after his lost weekend at Pocono, RHR went into a slide that he couldn’t quite stop with six second-half finishes of 18th or worse. More often then not during that stretch, trouble found the American driver rather than the other way around. But that’s probably cold comfort for him and his No. 1 Andretti Autosport team.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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