Jilted Hunter-Reay slams Champ Car UPDATE A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1.com, I am a long time subscriber to your site, I love the new format, and read the article you linked to about Ryan Hunter-Reay. I don’t see where he slams Champ Car at all in that article unless you think calling a spade a spade is a slam. In fact he specifically said he wasn’t bitter and that if Champ Car wanted to run a U.S. based series without any competitive Americans or race winners ‘more power to them’. It simply sounds like he has been forced to accept the reality of Champ Car as it is, not as he, and many of us, wishes it were.
Hunter-Reay exhibited every trait a series could hope to have in a driver to attract fans and sponsors. He came up through the official Champ Car ladder system all the way from karting, through 2 Liter, the Barber Dodge Pro Series, Formula Atlantic and to the top level of open wheel racing in this country and not only immediately won and set records at every level he had the looks, attitude and charisma to attract new fans and sponsors. What everyone in the racing world says they are looking for ‘The Total Package’. For a while Hunter-Reay was virtually ‘the face of Champ Car’ they sent him on so many public appearances to represent the series.
Here was a proven American race winner that showed his loyalty to Champ Car by turning down a top team in the IRL, not to mention undoubtedly a fat pay check, for very specific promises from Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe for a competitive seat with a top team in Champ Car. I read the press releases at the time and it was clear from his statements then ‘I don’t know which team I will be driving for but Mr. Kalkhoven and Mr. Forsythe have assured me it will be with a top team capable of racing for wins every weekend so I am really looking forward to challenging for the Championship’ that he believed they would live up to their promises to him. And what did they reward that talent, repay those years of work and steadfast loyalty with? A swift kick in the teeth in my opinion. By placing him in the second seat at financially struggling backmarker team that has never remotely been of ‘Championship’ caliber they severely tarnished a real Champ Car asset as failure there was inevitable.
This wasn’t a driver that took years to win in Champ Cars even though he drove for a start-up team with Reynards his first year and a mid-field team the next, unlike AJ Allmendinger who took three years to win his first race in Champ Cars driving only for top fully budgeted teams with the best equipment and engineers and took the first offer that came along to dump Champ Car. This was a driver that proved he had the character to turn down the money to leave Champ Car when it needed him, the talent to post front row starts, race fast times, podiums, and wins as a rookie and then again as a sophomore and was fully committed to being a part of building Champ Car into a successful series. And where is Champ Car today in the middle of January when most series and teams have long since announced their full driver lineup? A total of three returning drivers signed and only two proven race winners, none of which are Americans. Doesn’t sound like a formula to attract fans, TV viewers, or sponsors to me. The NFL would be out of business if their league and teams adopted similar practices.
But like Ryan we have no control over any of that either. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Champ Car losing Ryan is a travesty and someone over there should read Hunter-Reay’s quote ‘If it were an ultra-competitive situation of course I would consider going back to Champ Car” and call Kalkhoven and Forsythe and tell them to make good on their promises, that loyalty is a two way street, and put this proven Champ Car race winner in a top seat so we can have a great home grown driver, who happens to be American, that we can cheer for and help build our series. Scott McDonnell, Cleveland, Ohio
01/18/07 In this SPEEDTV.com article, American Ryan Hunter-Reay slams Champ Car for breaking what he calls promises that were made to him by the Champ Car owners. He is now pursuing a career in NASCAR.