Andretti Autosport principal Michael Andretti has sound advice for Ryan Hunter-Reay with five IZOD IndyCar Series races left.
“Don’t do anything different,” he said after joining Hunter-Reay in Victory Circle for the third consecutive race.
So maybe it’s not necessarily deep or inspiring, but it’s wise in its own right for the new championship leader. Hunter-Reay’s victory in the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8, combined with Will Power’s 15th place, vaulted the driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car into the front-runner’s spot by 34 points. It’s another 12 points back to Helio Castroneves in third.
Next up is the Edmonton Indy on the City Centre Airport course July 22, then three additional road/street races before the Sept. 15 season finale under the lights at Auto Club Speedway.
Andretti forecast Hunter-Reay as a championship contender entering the season, noting that he doesn’t believe the Florida resident has a weakness on any style of racetrack. Hunter-Reay’s wins have come on diverse racetracks – the flat Milwaukee Mile, the .875-mile Iowa Speedway with compound banking and on the narrow canyons of the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
“As a team owner, that’s something we liked about Ryan, that we could be competitive on all types of tracks,” said Andretti, who won at Toronto seven times as a driver (the first in 1989) but picked up his first as an owner this time at Exhibition Place. “We’re looking forward to the next how many races we have. I don’t think there’s a weak track for him.
“I don’t think Ryan should do anything different. I don’t think the team should do anything different. We should just continue to do our job. If everybody does their job, we should be OK. If there’s no mistakes made the rest of the year, I think we have a good shot at winning the championship.”
The last American series champion was Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006, and this is Hunter-Reay’s first time in the driver’s seat.
“The only nerve-wracking part about the championship chase is that you don’t want to come under anybody else’s mistake,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished third the previous two years at Toronto. “It’s not so bad if you take yourself out of the race. That’s your own fault. If somebody just cleans you out, that’s what you worry about most.
“To beat Will, Dario (Franchitti), (Scott) Dixon, a lot of these guys, it’s just going to be really tough week in and week out. It’s going to take something special from us — maybe something even more special than we’ve already done.”