The excitement of an inaugural event such as the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville brings out a lot of starpower and occasionally, as is the case with 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and the NFL Tennessee Titans Ryan Tannehill, it connects two friends.
And it may – just may – be enough to get Hunter-Reay to don a Titans jersey prior to Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix, (5:30 PM ET, NBCSN).
The problem is Florida native Hunter-Reay is a diehard Miami Dolphins fan. That was not much of an issue when he and Tannehill first met about five years ago. Tannehill was the Dolphins’ first-round pick in 2012 and their starting quarterback for most of his tenure there. When Tannehill was traded to the Titans in 2019, things got a little more complicated.
“Safe to say I’m still a Dolphins fan, but really pulling for the Titans,” Hunter-Reay told the media in a Zoom news conference on Wednesday. “We’ve become a bit of a Titans household now.”
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Part of the reason for Hunter-Reay’s enthusiasm for the new team undoubtedly belongs to the fact that Tannehill is a 2019 pro bowler, the comeback Player of the Year that season and a member of the 2020 AFC south champions.
“Really I’m trying to convert him, because at heart he’s a Dolphins fan,” Tannehill said when he joined into the Zoom. “It’s like pulling teeth getting him to wear a Titans jersey, so doing everything I can to convert him over to a Titans fan.”
After being traded to Tennessee, Tannehill watched the team go 2-4 in their first six games. Taking over the quarterback duties in Week 7 of 2019, he led the team to the AFC Championship that year before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s exciting,” Tannehill said. “I love going to a race. My entire family loves going to races. I really love the street races, as well. To have a street race here on the streets of Nashville, downtown, around Nissan Stadium. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Fast action, competitive, and just a lot of fun.”
And if that is enough to get Hunter-Reay to don some Titans gear, he’s prepared.
“I do have a Titans jersey thanks to the Music City GP organizers,” said Hunter-Reay. “They sent me one. We followed the Titans closely last year. Ryan and the team did a great job. Thought they were really going to make a run for it. They got really close. Hope they can do it this year.”
Hunter-Reay may also hope that a little of Tannehill’s magic rubs off on him.
Currently winless in his last 42 starts, Hunter-Reay’s plans for 2022 are uncertain. Should he wind up with another organization next year, he has the example of Tannehill to show just how rejuvenating moving to a new team can be.
As for Tannehill, whose first preseason game will be against the Atlanta Falcons on August 13, he just gets to enjoy the race.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) August 4, 2021