INDIANAPOLIS – Once is good, but twice is nice.
Ryan Hunter-Reay has been raising the bar throughout his entire Verizon IndyCar Series career, and that isn’t about to change as the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil sits just hours away for the 2014 winner.
The 36-year-old Floridian has been up against a 22-race winless streak that dates to the next-to-last race of the 2015 season. He comes into today’s race eighth in the championship standings 74 points behind leader and defending series champion Simon Pagenaud (points from Indy 500 qualifying aren’t officially awarded until the completion of the race). From suspension issues to electrical woes, the 2017 season saw its first glimmer of hope when Hunter-Reay scored his first podium two weeks ago in the INDYCAR Grand Prix on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
With double points awarded to the winner of the Indy 500 on the 2.5-mile oval today, there is hope for the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion.
“I’d like to be (a dark horse for the title),” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. “We had so much bad luck at the beginning of the season that we’ve dug ourselves a pretty big hole. I would like to think that we can get out of it, but if we keep having performances like we did at the GP of Indy, where we had a strong run over the weekend, there’s no reason why we can’t.
“I think (Scott) Dixon is going to be really hard to beat this year. He’s a great driver, he’s in his prime and he’s getting it all done with a big team. I feel we can be that way as well, but it’s going to take stepping up big time from where we were last year at certain tracks.”
Andretti Autosport showed strong last year on the IMS oval and again this year. Hunter-Reay is looking to complete the performance this time.
One of the dominant forces in last year’s 100th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Hunter-Reay led 52 laps before a pit-lane collision with then-teammate Townsend Bell and Helio Castroneves on Lap 117. With a car he felt could win to that point, Hunter-Reay finished a disappointing 24th.
“I don’t constantly think about it,” he said. “When somebody brings it up, I do.
“But yeah, it’s unfortunate. I remember thinking in that race, ‘Man, I’ve got a rocket ship. Something silly is going to take us out of this thing or we’re going to be right there at the end to fight it out.’ And it was something stupid that took us out of it.”
The hunger for a second Borg-Warner Trophy couldn’t be any greater for the 2014 Indianapolis 500.
“I feel having won it makes you confident,” said Hunter-Reay. “At least you’re a part of that club (of winners), but it’s never enough. If you feel like it’s enough, then you probably shouldn’t be doing this.
“I want a second Indy 500 win more than I want anything.”
Coverage of the 101st Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 a.m. ET today on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
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