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

Hunter-Reay IndyCar
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

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.”

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports