By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Years in IndyCar: 13
Career Laps led: 987
2016-17 Team: Andretti Autosport
Bad luck defined Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
The 2012 series champion ended the 2016 season a frustrating 12th in the season standings, his worst since joining Andretti Autosport in 2010.
He only reached the podium three times this year – St. Petersburg, Detroit Race 1 and Pocono.
However, a lot of his poor finishes were not of his own doing. He dominated the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil until contact on pit road with teammate Townsend Bell took him out of contention.
He nearly won the other 500-miler on the schedule at the Pocono Raceway, but mechanical woes hampered his result. He entertained the crowd with two spirited drives to the front before finishing in third place. A sure top five at Mid-Ohio was hindered by having to save fuel, which relegated him to 18th.
The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda found his Achilles Heel on the street circuits, as a result of Andretti Autosport falling behind on their damper program. He only managed a 10th place average finish on the four street circuits of Long Beach, Detroit and Toronto – all tracks where he has performed well at in the past.
A fourth place finish at the season finale at Sonoma Raceway gave the 36-year-old a boost heading into the offseason.
Andretti Autosport as a whole is looking for a turnaround this year. The team has made several engineering changes in order to improve. Hunter-Reay will still have engineer Ray Gosselin on his pitbox, but he will be solely focused on the No. 28 car rather than the whole team.
The team’s new technical director Eric Bretzman gives the team a much-needed shot in the arm. He will also be key in helping the team develop a solid damper program, which was their weakness in 2016.
All the changes in place seem to be working as the Andretti Autosport contingent was quick at the open test at the Phoenix Raceway two weeks ago. Hunter-Reay led the Saturday evening session with teammate Marco Andretti just behind him in third place.