Ryan Hunter-Reay enjoying the random moments of his Indianapolis 500 win ‘in the strangest places’

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INDIANAPOLIS – There are visibly obvious perks to being an Indianapolis 500 champion – namely your mug etched on the Borg-Warner Trophy and imprinted on the ticket for the next year’s race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has been taken by the unexpected moments in random airports and restaurants around the country since he outdueled Helio Castroneves for the checkered flag in the closing laps last year.

“It’s happened in strange places where people come up and say, ‘I was there in Turn 3 and say that was best racing move I’ve ever seen,’ ” Hunter-Reay said. “It made our year. Those comments have come in the strangest places. I’ve had pilots greet me on airplanes talking about the race, and you see how far-reaching this event is.

“It’s been a fun ride being the Indy 500 champion. It’s just been phenomenal.”

But while enjoying his time in the limelight, Hunter-Reay also has been out of the spotlight for much of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, particularly at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

With Honda at a disadvantage on the five and road street courses that start the season, Hunter-Reay is ranked 12th in points with a best finish of fifth at Barber Motorsports Park. He has qualified a modest 16th for Sunday’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

But it’s the same starting position as 2011 winner Dan Wheldon, and Hunter-Reay hasn’t given up hope he could snatch his first win since Iowa Speedway last July.

“There’s a lot of things I could take from last year’s race and apply to Sunday,” the Andretti Autosport driver said. “I’m trying to apply how my car felt last year, and we’re not quite there yet. Certainly, there were a lot of lessons learned in last year’s race.”

It’s not the first time Hunter-Reay seemingly has been overlooked after ascending to the pinnacle of the sport. After capturing the 2012 championship, he expressed reservations about being underutilized by IndyCar marketing promotions.

Being feted as an Indy 500 winner, though, is an automatic and unavoidable routine that lasts a full year. Hunter-Reay received his facsimile of the Borg-Warner in Saturday’s public drivers meeting.

“It’s a celebration for a full year,” 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan said. “I make sure I put the Borg Warner in a strategic place in my house, so every time I walk out of the house, I see that.”

Hunter-Reay has relived the memories whenever his 2-year-old son, Ryden, asks about the finish.

“He loves watching the highlights of that,” Hunter-Reay said. “Whenever he gets asking for it, we put it on. It is strange watching it. I didn’t remember the details of the shootout. You’re in such a special place mentally at that point. You’re using 110 percent. You’re not banking memories, you’re using everything to maximize the here and the now.”

Supercross: Husqvarna’s Jalek Swoll and Malcolm Stewart out with injury

Swoll Stewart injury
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.

“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”

The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.

Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.

Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.

He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.

Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.

Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.

Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.

Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.

The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.

Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.

Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.