Ryan Hunter-Reay’s sense of urgency is business as usual in IndyCar

Hunter-Reay IndyCar
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The sense of urgency felt by Ryan Hunter-Reay during his one-year IndyCar deal for the 2021 season is simply business as usual.

When the announcement was made that Hunter-Reay would return to Andretti Autosport, its brevity might have been a cause for concern. Hunter-Reay is coming off two winless seasons, and 2021 could be pivotal. But the 2012 series champion feels the team is heading in the right direction and knows where the work needs to be directed.

Hunter-Reay views that mindset as something that has been happening his entire life.

“My whole career has been that way,” Hunter-Reay said in a preseason Zoom news conference last week. “It’s been, ‘Hey, here is your opportunity. Get in the car, we’ll let you know if you’re going to be in the car the next race.’ That’s how it always has been for me.

“That’s why I’ve always had that grab-it-by-the-neck mentality. Even when I had a three-year deal, if I had a bad weekend, it was the end of the year. I have to make sure I’m performing next weekend, otherwise somebody with a big smile is getting ready to jump into my seat. It’s just part of my mentality, part of my makeup.”

In auto racing, circumstances change quickly. Hunter-Reay earned his 18th career IndyCar/CART victory at Sonoma Raceway in the 2018 season finale. That was one of six podiums for the year, matching a career best that he recorded three times previously.

The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner has not won since and in the last 31 races, he has only three more podiums.

“(At Texas we) finally had a good, fast superspeedway car, which is a big change for us coming off of 2019,” Hunter-Reay said. “We were looking for that fast superspeedway car. We found it. We were leading the race, had a great thing going, and yeah, we were a pit stop shy on it, a pit stop long on it I should say.

“Yeah, it’s unfortunate. We had some strong results here and there, like Mid-Ohio finished third and fourth whatever, third and fifth. You look at that weekend, and that was just another string of errors that should have been a much better weekend. So we know those issues. Hopefully we can nail them down.”

Pit stops became the team’s Achilles’ heel. Knowing where they need to work is half the problem.

“I think the guys have been working really hard on that,” Hunter-Reay said. “That’s the thing; we practice really well. They’ve been putting a lot of work into it, working out, things like that. That stuff ebbs and flows. You just have to have that chemistry with the group you’re with. Everybody has to kind of just, boom, boom, boom. They get it done, the confidence rolls, and everything starts streaming.

“It’s just like racing on track. Yeah, it’s hit and miss here and there, and it’s not anybody’s fault. We’re a big team. I don’t do things right 110% of the time. When I get home, I make sure I don’t do that again, whatever it is. We’re working on that. It’s a group effort.”

After finishing eighth at Texas, Hunter-Reay came close to standing on the podium just once in the next eight races. He finished fourth in the first of two races at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, but failed to lead a lap.

Things finally began to gel at Mid-Ohio. Hunter-Reay sat on the outside pole for the first race and finished fifth. The next day he finished third and scored his only podium of 2020. As with Road America, he failed to lead a lap in either race; in fact, during the entire 2020 season he paced the field for just four circuits on the Iowa Speedway oval.

He crashed while leading on Lap 178.

“We just need to be more consistent as a team,” Hunter-Reay said. “We look at, like I was saying, Mid-Ohio should have been two podiums, and one should have been contending for a race win. We can all talk about the things that we missed. The 2016 Indy 500 says ‘the one I should have won’ next to it, things like that.

“You know what it takes to win. I do. We do. We know what we need to do to execute. Those parameters are there. We need to operate within that. Very simple.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.