IndyCar-Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We have to be solid. We have to be in the top six.”

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Ryan Hunter-Reay is having a dream season in the IZOD Indycar Series. For once in his career, he’s been able to build continuity with a team and develop relationships key to success. His reward? Outside of mechanical failures at Indianapolis and Texas, he’s been one of the most consistent drivers o nthe grid. Perhaps that’s why RHR now leads Will Power in IndyCar points. He’s just rattled off three wins in a row, and is prepping to make a serious charge at the championship over the final third of the season.

I had the chance to speak with Ryan today. We discussed the reasons for his consistency, how the DW12 suits his style, internal teamwork between the Andretti Autosport drivers, and several other topics. Here’s what was said.

OP: Taking Texas and Indy out of the equation, because they were mechanical failures, you’ve been highly consistent this season. Is there any circumstances that you believe has led to that? 

RHR: I don’t know that I could really point one thing out. It’s a number of factors that have brought us to where we are right now. We’re certainly enjoying ourselves. We have a long way to go. Five races in the championship feels like an eternity right now. 

We’re just focused on racing, and on being solid. Being solid week‑in, and week‑out, and putting ourselves in a position to win races.

OP: Do you think that the new car suits your personal style better?

RHR: Not necessarily. I thought I was getting along with the other car pretty well too. And the second half of the season that we had last year, if we had that again last year, we could win this championship, for sure. We need to put it together. We had a great second half of the season last year. 

So I don’t know. We were knocking on a few wins there at the end of the year last year, and same thing at the beginning of this year. So I certainly enjoyed the new car. I think the racing has been excellent with it. But I don’t think there is anything about it that really sticks out to my driving style.

OP: If there was anything about this season that you could change so far, what would you change?

RHR: We started on the front row at Indy. If we could have finished that race without a mechanical failure, that would be it. Indy’s the big one. It’s been fire and ice there for me. I would have liked to have gotten a good result. We could have been a Top 4 car or Top 3 car. I don’t think we could have beaten the Ganassis and the Hondas, but we certainly had a good race car. It would have been nice to see it out.

OP: We’re sitting here two‑thirds of the way through the season, one‑third left. As we said earlier, you’re in the points lead for the points championship. What is your key to the last part of the season? 

RHR: The singular focus is qualify and run in the top six, that’s it. If we do that, we’re most likely going to stay out of trouble and we’ll be contending for the win. That’s the big thing. 

We have to be solid. We have to be in the top six. We don’t need to light the world on fire. We need to go out and gun it, hoping for more wins. That’s what we want to do. We’re going to win races. 

If not, our bad days need to be fifth or sixth place, and our good days need to be wins. That’s where we’re at.

OP: I would like to hear you discuss how well you and Marco and James work together? Do you share a lot of information? Do you find that similar set‑ups work for each other, how does that work for all of you?

RHR: Yeah, I think it boils down to we’re all good friends. We don’t let egos stand in the way. There is nothing standing in the way communication‑wise. It’s all free flowing. When something benefits me or if we’re sharing it with them and vice versa, and that is the way a three‑car team is supposed to work. That’s why you have three cars. That’s why you have three‑times the amount of information going around as you would on a 1‑car team. So I think it’s working as it is supposed to. It’s working the plan. 

Certainly James has been a great addition to the team, but Marco and I have had a good relationship since I came to the team. Our communication is right there. We do share set‑ups. Each driver likes their own thing in the car. Especially at street circuits, each driver likes something different, a little bit different. James and I are a little closer set‑up on street circuits, but on the ovals, we all can intermatch, intertwine, set‑ups no problem. I can jump in Marco’s car, he could jump in mine, and we’ve got the same thing.

OP: I’d like to share a quick Ryan Hunter‑Reay story. It was the first year I did the open test at Barber, and I was walking down the paddock area and you were on your pit box. You passed me, and there was a man and a woman with a child in a stroller that an had Andretti hat on, and the kid tossed the hat off in front of you on the pit box. And I have a picture of you stopping, picking the hat up and giving it back to the kid. I saw you sign an autograph with it, and take some pictures and stuff. I just thought that was a really neat moment, and I wanted to share that with you.

RHR: I appreciate it. The fans are what it’s all about. That’s where I started. I was a fan of the series and still am. But I was that kid at one point, so that’s why I feel that way.

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