IndyCar: Hunter-Reay joins title hunt after post-Indy depression comes to end
TORONTO – It was almost as if Ryan Hunter-Reay suffered from "Post Indianapolis 500 Depression" following his dramatic win in the 500-Mile Race on May 25, in what may have been the greatest fight to the finish in Indy 500 history.
The races that followed saw Hunter-Reay finish poorly in the Detroit doubleheader (16th and 19th) and the annual Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway (19th).
The 2012 IndyCar Series champion improved at the Houston doubleheader with finishes of seventh and sixth before more bad luck at Pocono on July 6, when a broken bolt on his suspension dropped him to an 18th-place finish.
Last Saturday’s victory in the Iowa Corn Indy 300 however, put Hunter-Reay back into serious contention for this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship. He was one of four drivers that pitted for fresh tires during the final caution period and drove his way through the field in the final 10 laps as if he was playing a video game. He became the first IndyCar Series driver to win three races this season.
That moved him up to third in the standings, just 32 points behind leader Helio Castroneves and 23 behind second-place Will Power heading into this weekend’s doubleheader – the Honda "Two in T.O." on the streets of Toronto’s Exhibition Place.
In his championship season of 2012, Hunter-Reay was able to parlay victories at Iowa and Toronto to form the foundation of his first IndyCar Series championship. He hopes to repeat that this weekend with two 85-lap races covering 149.74 miles on the 11-turn, 1.75-mile temporary street course. The races are scheduled for 3:55 p.m. ET.
"I was really frustrated at times," Hunter-Reay said. "I’ve learned in the years of experience that I’ve had in the Verizon IndyCar Series that you just have to keep your head in it. No matter what, you have to charge hard and be ready for it. Whether it’s a street circuit, short oval, races can turn. You have to put yourself in a position every time to take advantage of that, put yourself in a better position, get that car in front of you, whatever it is, just keep plugging away."
By keeping a positive approach during his post-Indy 500 depression, Hunter-Reay has elevated himself as one of the best drivers in all of racing. On Wednesday night, he was awarded the ESPY as "Best Driver" beating out NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. as well as NHRA’s John Force and fellow IndyCar Series driver and three-time series champion Scott Dixon. It was the second-straight year Hunter-Reay has won "Best Driver" at the ESPYs.
"The Indianapolis 500 is a tremendous race and this year was such a hard fought and intense battle at the end," Hunter-Reay said. "I think the fans really showed their support for the show they got from the Verizon IndyCar Series in May."
Hunter-Reay continues to reap the rewards as the first driver from the United States to win the Indianapolis 500 since Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006. A trip to the White House is in the works and Hunter-Reay would like to add a second Verizon IndyCar Series championship to his list of impressive accomplishments.
He can take a major step toward that goal at this weekend’s Toronto doubleheader.
"This is going to be a busy weekend," Hunter-Reay said. "Going to Toronto, we won there and the last time we won there came off an Iowa win so hopefully that’s an omen.
"We’ve had some bad luck since Indy but nothing really got us down. For as much bad luck as we had after Indy all the way through Pocono it’s nice to have something go our way."