Hunter-Reay remaining “all smiles” before Andretti swansong

Ryan Hunter-Reay insists he’s remaining upbeat about his future, on the eve of his last race with Andretti Autosport, for whom he has raced 12 years.

Hunter-Reay remaining “all smiles” before Andretti swansong

“It's been coming for a while,” said the 2012 champion who scored 15 of his Indy car wins – including the 2014 Indy 500 – for Michael Andretti’s squad. “Michael and I agreed this is our last season together back in November of 2020. Going into this year we knew this was our last year together.

“I've been with this team for 12 years, have been with the same engineer [Ray Gosselin] longer than I've been married, and I've got three kids, so go figure that one out! Definitely been here a long time.

“In sports, in business, anything like that, everything evolves, it always does. Change is inevitable, and it's a good thing usually. I think it's definitely a good time to shake things up. I wish Andretti Autosport, Romain [Grosjean, his replacement in the #28 AA-Honda] and DHL the best. I think DHL is on the car for 11 races next year with six being with a different sponsor.

“I wish them all the best. I'm looking forward to that next chapter and the challenges that lie ahead.”

Asked if he was downbeat or upbeat for this Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, site of his first win for Andretti back in 2010, Hunter-Reay replied: “I'm all smiles absolutely. Racing at one of my favorite racetracks in an IndyCar. You can either go through it with a big smile on your face or you can just be mad and kick the can all the time. That's how I've always been – enjoy it, go forward with a positive attitude. That's what I'm doing for sure.

“I'll be 41 in December. I still feel like I've got race wins in me. Yeah, just the right opportunity and the right situation, and we'll see where that leads.

“Obviously we had a great run. We checked all the major boxes off. Like I've said, certainly some got away at times.”

Hunter-Reay at the post-practice press conference in Long Beach was joined by Alex Palou, Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden, and he referred to the young guns making a big impression in U.S. open-wheel racing.

“It's definitely great to see where IndyCar is headed with this group up onstage, what they have coming over the years to come, all the interest in IndyCar. I was coming up in karting right when I sat in my first car, and The Split happened [between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League]. Man, that was a long recovery back. I've been in the trenches the whole way.

“To see it where it is now is absolutely fantastic. To compete up at the front for a race win here this weekend is really what I'm here for. It's the only thing that matters.”

Hunter-Reay admitted that things might have changed between he and Andretti Autosport had there been success – particularly at the Indianapolis 500, where aside from his victory, Hunter-Reay has suffered appalling luck over the years.

“You never know,” he mused. “I mean, we were third in that last stop at Indy when Alex [Palou, runner-up] and Helio [Castroneves, winner] were running in front of us. Who knows? We have a shot at fighting that out, we end up winning the Indy 500 or something like that, and that tends to change your season. Look what happened to Helio, right? He goes out for a one-off, now going into a full program. If you hit a stride, never say never, things can be reworked and things like that.

“No, I think we've seen out our time there. I've just gone in every weekend kind of trying to have a straightforward weekend. Last weekend we had a fueling issue. It's one thing or another. We would have finished in the top four or five. There’s been a lot of those this year, so I'm definitely ready to move on.”

Hunter-Reay said that the he didn’t mull over the ‘if only’ situations in his career.

“I raced for like 12 different teams, something crazy. Driven for all of them – Andretti, Rahal, Foyt… you name it I've been there.

“It's been tough. That's what's really made me, is having to claw my way through. Hey, here is a two-race opportunity, go make do with it what you may. I had to be fast, keep care of the car, bring the results home. It made me the driver I was throughout the championship fights, throughout all those wins and stuff like that. Absolutely, I wouldn't want to do it another way.

Asked if he would be seen in IndyCar again, he smiled, “Yes, absolutely.”

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