Though this weekend’s Bommarito 500 at Gateway will be his 250th career INDYCAR start, Ryan Hunter-Reay is paying it little mind. Following a premature end to his race at Pocono last weekend, the former champion is only interested in one statistic: a 14-race winless streak.
“To me, 250 is just another number”, said Hunter-Reay. “Like any other race I compete it in, my only goal is to win.”
Despite a brace of podium finishes in 2019, the former NTT INDYCAR Series champion is hungry for his first win of the season. Based on his form at the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway last year, Hunter-Reay could be one to watch.
“Last season we were running in the top three when we had a fuel pump failure sideline us”, said the 38-year-old.
“Hopefully we can pick up where we left off and challenge for win number 19 this weekend.”
Wrong place at the wrong time once more at Pocono
Hunter-Reay’s record of 18 wins in 249 races masks the true pace and race craft of the Texan. Often considered the unluckiest driver in the series, mechanical gremlins and being in the wrong place at the wrong time have skewed his record.
Last weekends’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono was just another example as the unsuspecting Hunter-Reay was caught up in a frightening shunt.
The crash involving the 2012 series champion, teammate Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist kicked off a post race war of words. Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi firmly laying the blame at the door of Takuma Sato, with the former branding the first lap accident “ridiculous”.
Championship-challenger Rossi, by contrast, was more outspoken: “To turn across two cars, at that speed, in that corner at a 500-mile race is disgraceful, upsetting and may have cost us a championship.”
Hunter-Reay thankful for ‘incredible support’ after 16 years
Unsurprisingly, Sato and his RLL team replied in kind and the blame game continues to rumble on. Hunter-Reay however would prefer to focus on this weekend’s race and the contribution of those that helped him reach a career milestone 250 races.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have had such incredible support over the past 16 years enabling me to compete at the highest level”, he remarked.
“I’ve had the honor of representing many great partners along the way, however I am especially grateful to DHL for their unwavering support over the past nine seasons with Andretti Autosport on the No. 28 car.”
A contender for the win but a championship outsider
Heading into the Bommarito 500 presented by Axalta and Havoline, Hunter-Reay remains in mathematical contention for the 2019 NTT INDYCAR Championship. A 191-point deficit to Josef Newgarden and the consistent performances of those ahead of him in the championship mean Hunter-Reay is more likely to be called upon to support Rossi’s bid for a maiden title.
INDYCAR’s ‘Captain America’ will step up if asked to but it is certain the former Indy 500 winner would prefer to do so by leading from the front this Saturday night.
Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline – schedule
Friday, August 23 (all times local)
1 – 2 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice #1, NBC Sports Gold (live)
5:15 – 6:15 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (single car/cumulative time of two laps), NBCSN (live)
8:15 – 9:15 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series final practice, NBC Sports Gold (live)
Saturday, August 24 (all times local)
7:05 p.m. – Driver introductions
7:40 p.m. – Command to start engines
7:45 p.m. – Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta & Valvoline (248 laps/310 miles), NBCSN (live)