Hunter-Reay Eyes Long Beach Repeat
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 15, 2011 | 3:44 P.M. EST
"This is a race that means a lot to me." (Photo: IndyCar Media)
Last year’s win in the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix was a career highlight Ryan Hunter-Reay would dearly love to repeat in this Sunday’s 2011 edition.
Last year the former California resident pulled off an unlikely win in the prestigious street circuit event to score a win for Andretti Autosport and put his name on a list that includes some of open wheel racing’s biggest stars.
"This is a race that means a lot to me," said Hunter-Reay, who held off Justin Wilson to win last year’s race. "This is the 'Indy 500' of street courses. I've been watching this race since I was a little kid. To do it right now -- the timing is unreal. We've been working so hard on this IZOD car and on this team. To do it in our fourth race - we feel like we're just getting started. This is a snowball that is just starting to roll."
Landing at the Andretti organization was a big break for the American driver, who had experienced the ups and downs of professional auto racing and the business challenges that sometimes come with the career.
But after spending time with other teams, he feels fortunate that team owner Michael Andretti took a chance to bring him on board last season.
“Going from a great team at Rahal-Letterman, there was some continuity there and then the ethanol sponsorship went away,” Hunter-Reay said of the business ramifications that impacted the team.
“I was lucky enough to join Vision and then things got financially tight there and then I worked with A.J. (Foyt) . Jeez that guy is a legend and it was great to drive for him, but neither of those teams were long term solutions and I don’t think they were meant to be. So to be with Andretti and to see the horizon, to see where I’m going is great.”
Hunter-Reay has gotten off to a slow start in the 2011 IZOD Indy Car season and finds himself 17th in the point standings after two races.
But he feels there’s plenty of time to move up the rankings as well as several opportunities to get to victory lane, starting with Sunday’s 37th running of the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix.
One of the reasons for Hunter-Reay’s confidence level is the simple fact that for the first time in a while he doesn’t have to worry about outside influences and can simply concentrate on driving the racecar.
Having peace of mind about his future and the team’s solid financial footing is worth its weight in gold according to Hunter-Reay.
"I feel like I can definitely concentrate on what matters - which is driving - for the first time in so long," Hunter-Reay told the Long Beach Telegram. "I can concentrate on doing what it takes to be successful as an IndyCar driver, rather than trying to put together a budget for the next year and trying to dig up sponsors."