By Josh Farmer, Contributing Journalist
Motorsports Tribune reviews the season of the top 12 drivers from the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Our list continues with the fourth-place finisher, Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2018: 4th in the championship
- Wins: 2, Top 5: 10, Top 10: 12, Poles: 1, Laps Led: 132
- Best Finish: 1st (Detroit Race 2, Sonoma)
Ryan Hunter-Reay entered 2018 in the midst of a win-less drought dating back to Pocono in 2015 and finishing no better than ninth in the championship the last two years.
Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport both struggled during the manufacturer aero kit era and saw an immediate turnaround this year as the series switched to the universal aero kit.
While it is practice for teams to make personnel changes after rough seasons, Andretti Autosport maintained their continuity which kept RHR with longtime engineer Ray Gosselin.
Regardless of the reason, the 15-year Indy car veteran returned to the winner’s circle and proved that he can still get the job done.
The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport started the season strong with a pair of fifth-place finishes at St. Petersburg and Phoenix and bettered that with a second place at Barber. On the flip side, bad luck hit him at Long Beach and the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis as he finished 20th and 18th which dropped him to ninth in the standings heading into the Indianapolis 500.
A fifth-place finish at the 500 and a second in Detroit Race 1 kick-started his summer and set the stage for a memorable come-from-behind performance in the second race.
Hunter-Reay blasted his way from his 10th starting position and found himself in second place behind Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi (who led 46 laps) after his final pitstop on Lap 52. He quickly closed the gap and forced Rossi into a mistake on lap 64 to take the lead. Rossi went off track and suffered a flat tire as Hunter-Reay cruised away uncontested to snap his 42-race losing streak.
His strong start to the summer continued with a fifth at Texas and a second at Road America which moved him to second in the standings heading into Iowa, a track where the 2014 winner of the Indianapolis 500 has won three times.
A mechanical problem relegated him to 19th at Iowa which started a downward slide for the Hunter-Reay. He finished no better than seventh (Mid-Ohio) over the next five races as mechanical failures and accidents, including a frightening crash at Pocono Raceway that injured Robert Wickens, dropped him from to fifth in the standings and out of the title hunt.
He rebounded from his late summer slump in the final two races by finishing second at Portland and dominating the season finale at Sonoma, taking a win from pole to cap off the season.
Hunter-Reay’s season could be seen as having the best of the best but also the worst of the worst. While four finishes of 16th or worse late in the season prevented him from challenging for a second Astor Cup, his overall performance this year was welcoming having two frustrating seasons.
The season can still be seen as a bright spot for Hunter-Reay after two seasons of poor luck and not having the speed. He proved that he can again run with the big dogs and was on pace with his Andretti Autosport teammates as the team adapted well to the universal aero kit.