IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay eager to start 2018 with new car, high hopes

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Ryan Hunter-Reay finished ninth last season in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings, but some might argue there should be an asterisk next to his season finish.

Hunter-Reay could potentially have finished higher, maybe even in the top-five – and likely might have earned more than the three podium finishes he had (Indianapolis Grand Prix, Iowa and Watkins Glen) – if he didn’t suffer, as he put it, several “missed opportunities.”

“We started the first race in St. Pete with some electrical issues in pit lane and ended up finishing the race in fourth, so a huge comeback there,” Hunter-Reay told NBC Sports.

“And then at Long Beach, challenging for the race win with just a few laps to go, and right on the gearbox of James Hinchcliffe, and the car shut off – same exact electrical issue that shut the car off while leading the year before at Pocono.

“And then at Indianapolis (500), we were challenging for the lead when unfortunately the engine expired.”

While there’s no rhyme or reason for the mishaps, there was somewhat of a common thread at least on the surface.

“These things tend to happen when we’re running upfront,” Hunter-Reay said. “If you put all those missed opportunities together, there’s a pretty good season in there.”

An even better “pretty good season” is in Hunter-Reay’s sites for 2018. Entering his 15th season in Indy car racing, including his 12th in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the 37-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident has high expectations for the 2018 season, which begins March 11 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

But he also knows what the record book says:

* Since winning the IndyCar championship in 2012, he finished seventh in 2013, sixth in both 2014 and 2015, fell to 12th in 2016 and rebounded to ninth last season.

* He’s had three podium finishes in each of the last two seasons, but also has not won a race since 2015, when he triumphed at both Iowa and Pocono, following the biggest win of his career in the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

But Hunter-Reay and the rest of the No. 28 DHL-sponsored Andretti Autosport team are “definitely optimistic about this season,” Hunter-Reay said.

Some of that optimism comes from the three-day preseason test at Phoenix earlier this month with a brand new race car that is significantly more aerodynamic than last year’s model.

“The Phoenix test went well,” he said. “It was much different than we had been used to, a lot less downforce than we’ve had in the past. There was some getting used to that driving style-wise and what you can get away with, getting into the corner and how to put the power down, but I think all-in-all, it was a pretty good test.

“We still have a some work to do. It’ll be interesting to see how it races. I think there’ll be a lot more passing than last year. We’re definitely sliding around a lot more and it’s very difficult in traffic, but my guess is it’ll race better than last year.”

And let’s not forget the sleek, sexy and bold look of the new car, likely to become a big favorite once more IndyCar fans see it both in-person at racetracks as well as on TV broadcasts as the season progresses

“Absolutely (it’s sexy and bold),” Hunter-Reay said. “The look of the car is 100 percent (improved from last year), they knocked it out of the park.

“I’m very, very happy with the good job they did on the design side of it. It’s been great and you can really see the reaction from social media, like the fans that came out for the test (in Phoenix), it’s definitely hit that note it was looking for.”

But the new look also comes with new challenges that must be overcome in the first part of the season.

“It’s all about getting the setup right,” Hunter-Reay said. “This is a completely different aero kit and aero package and a different center of gravity. Yes, there’s less downforce and you’re driving the car more, you’re busier behind the wheel of the car.

“But you have to make it work for your driving style. If you’re a guy that really wants the rear end locked down, you can do that with the setup, but you have to work to get there.

“And vice-versa. If you’re a guy that likes to have a really sharp entry and the car is kind of free and loose, you have to work to get there but have that balance that will allow you to get through a tire run and through a tank of fuel. So, there’s a lot of challenges on making that right for each different driver.”

The long off-season wait for St. Petersburg is nearly over, but it’s a race that has added meaning for Hunter-Reay.

“I’ve been on the podium at St. Pete three times, second- and third-place finishes,” he said. “But I really want to win that race. It’s my home race and I would really love to win that race.

“We made some pretty good progress at Sebring (in testing), but we know there’s probably going to be some curve balls when we come to St. Pete. I can’t really say what to expect yet. It’s going to be kind of wait-and-see because we have no idea what we’re going to get that first session. We could be right in the window, or we could be quite a ways off and we’ll have to dig ourselves out of that hole over the weekend and try to make it up for qualifying.”

And as for the overall 2018 season, Hunter-Reay adds, “it’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out with the new aero kit and how it races different at each and every track we go to, and who comes to grips with this universal aero kit first.

“Who knows, maybe somebody will make an early run, and that’s where the championship is won, on the front end of the season. If that happens, hopefully, we’re that team.”

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IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:


Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change