By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Motorsports Tribune reviews the season of the top 10 drivers from the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Our list continues with the ninth-place championship finisher, Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2017: 9th in the championship
- Wins: 0, Top 5: 4, Top 10: 8, Poles: 0, Laps Led: 72
- Best Finish: 3rd – Three times (Indy GP, Iowa, Watkins Glen)
The very first thing Hunter-Reay mentioned at INDYCAR Media Day in January was that he felt that 2016 was a year of missed opportunities. The same could be said of this year with a lot of bad luck thrown in the mix.
The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion started the season off strongly with a fourth place finish on the streets of St. Petersburg. That would be followed by a mechanical failure at Long Beach (17th place), an 11th place finish at Barber after an extra pit stop for front wing damage and a 13th place finish after more mechanical difficulties at Phoenix.
The bright spots were few and far between for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. A third place finish at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course would provide a glimmer of hope but that was short-lived.
Hunter-Reay’s bad luck continued during the Indianapolis 500 as his engine failed, leading a string of Honda mechanical woes and leaving him 27th in the race’s results.
Detroit was a weekend to forget and despite a front row starting spot in the second of two races, a front wing change necessitated by contact dropped him down the order. Texas wasn’t much better as Hunter-Reay was involved in the big accident on Lap 151 and was credited with 19th, last of those involved in that pile up.
Road America was slated to be a good result for Hunter-Reay until contact with Charlie Kimball damaged the Andretti Autosport entry, this time with less than a handful of laps to go, dropping him from seventh to 14th.
Iowa gave Hunter-Reay another glimmer of hope. Despite starting 15th, he powered his way to a third place finish at a track where he’s won three times. That race in Newton, Iowa gave Hunter-Reay a jump start for the last part of the season as his luck began to turn around. Three top 10 finishes in a row after Iowa were followed by a retirement at Gateway.
Watkins Glen would reward Hunter-Reay with a podium on Labor Day weekend and another top 10 finish at Sonoma ended the season for the No. 28 DHL Honda driver.
After Road America, Hunter-Reay was 15th in the standings. After Watkins Glen, he was 10th, only two points behind Tony Kanaan in ninth. With Kanaan finishing 16th in the season finale, that’s all Hunter-Reay needed to jump to ninth in the standings.
With the shift to the universal aero kit in 2018, this will bring Hunter-Reay back to a time where he was most successful in IndyCar competition. From 2012 to 2014, victory lane was his home nine times but Hunter-Reay hasn’t been victorious since Pocono in 2015.
With two seconds, two thirds and a fourth at St. Petersburg, Hunter-Reay might be a dark horse to win the 2018 season opener.