Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ryan Hunter-Reay ... from 'Rookie Move' to Indy500 winner

"GOT MILK?!!!" - Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay pours the traditional award of a post race winner's quart of milk over his head in celebration of being the 98th winner of the Indy500. Partial Caption & Image: Eric Schwarzkopf (2014)

Ryan Hunter-Reay ... from 'Rookie Move' to Indy500 winner

The Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) 2014 championship season has been a real roller-coaster ride for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay (RHR), through these first five races of an 18 race season.

The lowest point for RHR and Andretti Autosport had to have been at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. With Ryan Hunter-Reay followed by James Hinchcliffe running strong in the lead for most of the race, Josef Newgarden threatened this march to the eventual win through a superb final pitstop from his Sarah Fisher Hartman crew to leapfrog to the lead on Lap 56 in Turn1.

On cold tires, Newgarden had a little wheel spin coming out of the Fountain Turn (Turn3) and RHR placed his nose diving into the apex of Turn4 causing a crash into the wall and collecting several drivers ... ending the races of Newgarden, Himself, Hinchcliffe, Kanaan, and etc. causing Andretti Autosport team-mate Hinchcliffe to say on a post wreck television pitlane interview: "a rookie move" "sad for Newgarden, TK etc."

RHR was a total goat for the move and he even had his team owner, Michael Andretti, was visibly very upset at messing up what would have been a double-podium finish for his team at the 40th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix. Of course ... Ryan Hunter-Reay, at the time, did not apologize.

The Indy500 opening ceremony along the front straight-away at the Pagoda. Image Credit: P29 qualifying/P23 finishing AJ Foyt Racing No. 41 driver Martin Plowman (2014)

Enter Alabama and the reworked, and famed, "Month Of May" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which, for the first time, featured a dedicated road course race, The Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and The Greatest Spectacle in Racing ... the Indy500.

Just four weeks ago, Ryan Hunter-Reay was crowned the winner of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park.

After a huge crash marred the standing start of the  inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Simon Pagenaud went on to win where Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second and Helio Castroneves was third.

So far, so good for RHR who was looking to redeem himself ... but was still points behind Penske Racing's Will Power who had benefited from Ryan's "rookie move" at Long Beach with the win and a strong position on the VICS season points lead.

Ryan Hunter-Reay shares an intimate moment with his young son, Ryden, on pitlane before the Indy500. The Andretti Autosport family had custom firesuits made for the drivers who had young ones attending the race ... duplicated down to the very logos their father's suits had on them - to scale. Image Credit: @Liz Kreutz via Twitter

This excerpted and edited from The Detroit News -

Ryan Hunter-Reay excited to follow up Indy 500 triumph with race in Detroit
By David Goricki - May 26, 2014 at 11:44 pm - The Detroit News

Ryan Hunter-Reay is giving American motor sports fans a hero to cheer for in the IndyCar series.

Hunter-Reay will take the Belle Isle race track this weekend for the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader with the prestigious title of Indianapolis 500 champion.

Basically, Hunter-Reay beats Castroneves by a mere 3 feet. Image Credit: INDYSTAR

Hunter-Reay, 33, became the first American to win the Indy 500 since Sam Hornish in 2006, and he earned the win in thrilling style, passing three-time champion Helio Castroneves on the final lap Sunday, then holding him off to win by less than a car length for the second closest finish in race history.

Penske Racing's 3-time Indy500 winner Helio Castroneves consoles himself just after the end of one of the most memorable Indy500 races since maybe the 1960's. An Indy for the ages. 150 laps without a yellow flag - followed by a crazy wild series of yellows and a red flag - followed by an intense battle between RHR and Castroneves. Helio started to get out of his car and then just dropped back in and held his head for a minute in complete disbelief. Somebody had to finish 2nd ... Caption & Image Credit: Norm DeWitt (2014)

Hunter-Reay talked about his win at Indy, his busy schedule and how he is excited to come to the Motor City in a few days during a phone interview Monday afternoon.

“I was running on instincts the last four or five laps, just went as hard as I could,” said Hunter-Reay, talking about how the lead changed hands several times between Castroneves and himself. “Helio knows how to win at Indy and he was tough to hold off. We ran hard but clean against each other and I felt we put on an excellent show.

“It feels so great to be an American Indy 500 champion. I idolized the Unsers, Andrettis and A.J. Foyt, all legends while growing up, had all their posters on my wall so hoisting that flag was so cool.”

Yes, Hunter-Reay quickly IS becoming the face of the IndyCar series, winning the series championship in 2012 and now the Indy 500. He has won eight races during the past three seasons, more than any other driver, and holds a 40-point lead over Penske driver Will Power (274-234) for the top spot in the standings.

Now, it’s on to the Motor City where Honda-powered drivers have won the last two years, spoiling the party of title sponsor Chevrolet and Roger Penske, car owner of Chevrolet-powered cars driven by Castroneves, Power and Juan Montoya.

“I love coming to Detroit,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished runnerup to Mike Conway in Race No. 1 last year and 18th in the second race. “It’s 180-degree opposite from Indy (2.5-mile oval). It’s a bumpy course, physically demanding, a street course similar to Toronto or Houston. There’s also a lot of points on the line so it’s going to be important and exciting.”
Hunter-Reay ended Ganassi/Target racing’s run of four consecutive series championships in 2012 when he won four of the final six races to slip past Power by a 468-465 margin to become the first American to become series champion since Hornish in ’06.
When Hinchcliffe was asked of the Long Beach fiasco in days leading up to the Indy 500, he replied: “Every driver is competitive and will go for it (lead) when an opportunity presents itself and Ryan will make that right move nine out of every 10 times. He’s the complete package, a very rounded driver. He knows how to get everything out of the car on qualifying and brings it on race day.”

Well, Hinchcliffe was also in position to win the Indy 500 with less than 30 laps remaining Sunday when he took out pole sitter Ed Carpenter while both were in the top 5. Hinchcliffe made it a three-wide situation and the two collided, taking them both out.

When Andretti and Hunter-Reay were in the press conference Sunday, the topic of Hinchcliffe’s move came up.

“Hey, he was going for it. It’s the Indy 500,” Andretti said of Hinchcliffe. “Had he pulled that move off, he’s in position to win the race.”

“Not enough patience,” joked Hunter-Reay. “Rookie move. James is a great friend of mine (laughing).”
Yes, it is a game changer, a reason Hunter-Reay was set to open the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, then appear on “The Today Show” before heading to Dallas Wednesday to promote a future race. And, an appearance on the David Letterman Show follows the Belle Isle doubleheader next week.

“It’s been crazy, not time to take a breath yet,” Hunter-Reay said. “I only had four hours of sleep.”

Well, that’s what happens Ryan when you win the Indianapolis 500. In fact, your life will never be the same.
[Reference Here]

So there is a fully redeemed Ryan Hunter-Reay in the VICS season points lead with Andretti Autosport team-mate James Hinchcliffe pulling a "rookie move' to change the complexion of the entire event.

The finishing drivers accomplishments in the top ten positions reads like a Who's Who in American motorsport racing at its highest levels.

As stated by The EDJE on Facebook soon after the event:

What a grand race for the DW12 era - Ryan Hunter-Reay and 3-time Indy500 winner Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves battle the last six laps to the end with RHR taking the win by the 2nd closest margin in 98 years.

Look at the names in the top 10 as well - Marco Andretti on the podium, Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz gets a 4th after finishing last year in P2, Penske Racing's Juan Pablo Montoya ... fresh from NASCAR finishes ahead of NASCAR driver stand out Kurt Busch who, again, drove a car fielded by Andretti Autosport. Four-time ChampCar World Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais at 7th followed by Penske Racing's former 2014 points leader Will Power ... who seems to be getting the hang of ovals, last row starter and Mazda Ladder rookie Sage Karam in 9th with J.R. Hildebrand in tenth who was going to win last year's race until he hit the wall on the last corner of the last lap handing the win to Tony Kanaan.

W-O-W !

Ryan Hunter-Reay can now lay claim to something that Helio Castroneves can not say for himself ... with this win during the "Month Of May", RHR has an Indy500 and an IndyCar season championship in his trophy case ... nice move!

... notes from The EDJE

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