AVONDALE, Arizona: Being the 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay need not be reminded that he still drives one of the fastest cars in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
However, the Andretti Autosport driver ranked 10th out of the 23 cars that participated in the Phoenix open test at ISM Raceway on Friday and Saturday (Saturday and Sunday in Manila) last week. His last victory came at Pocono in 2015 and his best points finish since the 2012 title was sixth twice, and he was ninth last year.
Perhaps what’s most impressive is the 37-year-old driver known for an incredibly intense competitive streak hasn’t gone ballistic by venting with some memorable meltdowns. Hunter-Reay acknowledges his patience has been tested, but his mind is clear and he’s reset for the 2018 season with an upbeat, positive perspective.
“With experience and years in the sport comes that lesson,” Hunter-Reay said. “You can only really stress out and concentrate on the things that you can control. Everything else, you’ve got to let it go. If you can’t do anything about it immediately, in the long term or the short term, you just have to let it be in the background.”
Although he did not repeat in the Indianapolis 500, Hunter-Reay led a race-high 52 laps in the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016, but got bumped out of contention by teammate Townsend Bell in a pit-road incident.
“What am I supposed to do at that point?” he said. “I can’t throw the team under the bus about it. It was just a series of circumstances that led to that Murphy’s Law moment.”
Last year, he was racing for the Indy 500 lead with teammate Fernando Alonso on Lap 135, then one lap later, Hunter-Reay’s Honda engine started smoking. He led for 28 laps.
Hunter-Reay has 16 victories in an IndyCar career that began in 2003. Last season, he finished in the top 10 in eight of the 17 starts with three third-place finishes and one fourth. In 2016, when he was 12th in the points, he was a top-10 finisher in eight of 16 races with three thirds and two fourths.
His goals, as always, are quite clear.
“There’s that next club, for sure, two-time [Indy 500] winners, two-time [series]champions,” he said. “That’s the only reason we’re in the sport, to win these things, win the championship, win the Indy 500. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re here for, to not only compete but to win.”
Hunter-Reay and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers open the 2018 season with the Firestone Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg in March.