IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ryan Hunter-Reay

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. American Ryan Hunter-Reay endured his second straight winless campaign but rebounded to a top-10 points finish with a strong, and gritty, end to his season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2016: 12th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 97 Laps Led, 11.8 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 9th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 72 Laps Led, 10.2 Avg. Start, 11.1 Avg. Finish

Ryan Hunter-Reay produced a nearly identical statistical season in 2017 as he had a year previously, but improved three spots in points. Two gut-wrenching DNFs cost him possible wins or for sure podiums at two of his favorite races in Long Beach and Indianapolis; meanwhile Hunter-Reay produced a gritty, determined drive at Pocono to end eighth there a day after being in the hospital following a heavy accident in qualifying.

With “RHR’s” race engineer Ray Gosselin freed from his overall technical director duties at Andretti Autosport thanks to the arrival of Eric Bretzman, Gosselin and Hunter-Reay could afford to focus on their own setup entirely. It largely paid dividends over the course of the year.

The year-to-year turnaround from a challenging 2016 season where qualifying was often miserable was remarkable to see. Hunter-Reay continued in his role as team leader, with Alexander Rossi moving up the ascendancy thanks to his own second year development.

And Hunter-Reay ended strongly, with six of his eight top-10 finishes – all between third and eighth place – coming in the final seven races of the season. That propelled him from a season-worst 15th place in the standings up to ninth.

It seems hard to believe given his talent level and longevity in the championship as the most successful active American driver, and as one of only three full-time drivers with both a championship and an Indianapolis 500 win (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan) that “RHR” has only finished in the top-five in points once in his career – his championship year of 2012. He still remains an elite driver in this series, even despite his now two-plus year winless drought, and will be one to watch next season.