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When it comes to RHR, IndyCar missing the boat again

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Thursday, April 11, 2013


Ryan Hunter-Reay - IndyCar finally has an American champion so what do they do?  Largely ignore him.  And you wonder why TV ratings are 0.25?
Ryan Hunter-Reay (RHR) has won five of the last ten IndyCar races (50%) and Andretti Autosport has won six of the last ten IndyCar races (60%). The reversal of fortune for Andretti Autosport since Ryan joined the team has been nothing short of stunning as they had not won a race since June of 2008 (Tony Kanaan Richmond) before Michael signed Hunter-Reay. So far in 2013 'RHR' has competed in four races with three podiums and a mechanical DNF (12 Hours of Sebring 2nd, Daytona 24 Hours 2nd, St. Pete mechanical, Barber 1st.)

With the exception of mechanicals putting him out of races Ryan has posted the best result for the Andretti team since the beginning of the 2012 season (11 of the last 13 IndyCar races) or 85% of the time and other than getting hit from behind by Tagliani while running third with ten laps to go at Fontana last year it would be 12 of the last 13 IndyCar races for an incredible 93%.

Heading into the next two races (Long Beach and Sao Paulo) where RHR has been a consistent threat for the win the last few years, then Indy where he qualified on the front row and was running solidly in the top five before mechanical issues sidelined him last year, the following five races on the schedule (Detroit, Texas, Milwaukee, Iowa, and Toronto) look favorable to Ryan as he won 75% of those races last year even with a mechanical at Texas.

There have been various articles about how IndyCar totally failed in the off season to capitalize on having an American champion, something many believe is necessary to grow the series and bring back fans that were lost in the years of the split, yet here we are into the 2013 season and IndyCar continues to fail to use one of their biggest assets to publicize the series.

From the lead up for the Barber race not a single story line of an American champion fighting to retain his championship, or even an in car camera, was devoted to 'RHR' by the IndyCar series publicists or the broadcast commentators (who get their marching orders from the IndyCar front office) despite Hunter-Reay breaking Penske's dominance at Barber by qualifying on the pole. Even after Ryan drove off to a 12 second lead within the first 25 laps, barely a peep about the clinic RHR was putting on until he crossed the finish line to win the race. With ten laps to go one of the commentators, Townsend Bell, all but announced Dixon would win the race despite Hunter-Reay having lead the majority of laps, being a second up the road and with twice the push-to-passes remaining as Dixon.

Imagine that!  IndyCar finally has an American champion, but you would hardly know it.
I am beginning to understand why Ryan in his championship acceptance speech thanked those that have discounted and bet against him as it must be extremely satisfying, not to mention motivating, to quietly prove betting against him for the win at any race (IndyCar, ALMS, GrandAm, probably lawn mowers if he races them) is a low percentage bet.

How the IndyCar series is not promoting and heralding this American champion at the height of his career as he fights to retain his championship, the first time an American has won the championship in a unified series since Al Unser Jr. in 1994, is as bewildering as it is maddening to many supporters of IndyCar.

It is not just on track that RHR delivers, many people forget that it was Ryan with his IZOD personal sponsorship that got IZOD involved in the series where they eventually sponsored a full season car for him at Andretti's team and became the title sponsor of the series. DHL, Sun Drop and the host of sponsors on Michael Andretti's No.# 1 car must be extremely happy with the return they are getting on their investment. An American driver that can win races, attract sponsors, and is fan friendly. Hello, IndyCar!

Yes, some journalists have pointed out while he is good looking and charismatic he comes across as a polite, humble, quite, 'vanilla' person at the track (he says he is just focused on the job at hand) that does not make waves or draw attention to himself but that does not mean IndyCar and us journalists should be quite about this American champion that refused, and refuses, to quit for it is quite a human interest story that could help uplift the series. If, and that is a big if, IndyCar would only wake up and smell the coffee. As Ryan has helped his Andretti team back to prominence he could play, and has offered according to Mark Miles, a prominent role in helping IndyCar back to prominence.

For IndyCar you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink, however, with or without publicity, RHR looks to be determined to fight to deliver another team championship to Michael Andretti's team, retain his drivers' championship and the number '1' even if IndyCar refuses to capitalize on the opportunity to herald this deserving American champion.

Hunter-Reay's Results - Last 18 Races


St. Pete 3rd
02. Barber 12th
03. LBGP 6st
04. Brazil 2nd
05. Indy 27th
06. Detroit 7th
07. Texas 21st
08. Milwaukee 1st
09. Iowa 1st
10. Toronto 1st
11. Edmonton 7th
12. Mid-Ohio 24th
13. Sonoma 18th
14. Baltimore 1st
15. Fontana 4th
16. St. Pete 18th
17. Barber 1st
18. Long Beach ???

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