No pressure, Ryan, but of the 21 drivers to win three races in a row prior to 2012, only Paul Tracy 1997, A.J. Allmendinger 2006 and Scott Dixon 2007 failed to win an Indy car title in the same year. Ryan Hunter-Reay enters the Edmonton Indy on July 22 with a three-race winning streak on a variety pack of racetracks (the flat Milwaukee Mile, the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway with compound banking and the 1.75-mile, 11-turn canyon of a Toronto street course). He's the 23rd to accomplish the feat since 1979.
The 154 points accumulated in the three events the past month has vaulted the 31-year-old Floridian into the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead. Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car who won three road/street course events early in the season, is 34 points back in second. Team Penske's Helio Castroneves is third (46 points behind).
"I don't know if I would say I expected to be the points leader," said Hunter-Reay, who drives the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car for Andretti Autosport. "I certainly expected to be contending for the championship. It's just nice to see that this team is reaching its potential because the potential has been there. It's a great group, and we have even better performances in us in the future.
"So it's been a lot of fun, but we're not getting ahead of ourselves. It's lap by lap, and just concentrate on being solid."
Hunter-Reay has been that over the course of the 10 races. Deduct mechanical issues at Indianapolis (27th place) and Texas (21st place) and he's finished in the top 10 in six of the other seven races (was 12th at Barber after starting 11th). Qualifying in the top five in five events has certainly contributed to the results, too.
Sebastien Bourdais was the last driver to win four in a row at the outset of the 2006 Champ Car season, and he'll join Hunter-Reay and 23 other competitors on the 2.224-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport course on July 20-22. Of Hunter-Reay's eight Indy car victories, four have been on ovals and the others on road/street courses.
"That's what IndyCar has always been for me even when I was a fan of the series before I even started racing go karts," said Hunter-Reay, who's finished seventh and fifth the past two years at Edmonton with Andretti Autosport. "I just loved the fact that every weekend you see the cars on a different type of track, and it's constantly changed up.
"To do well in the series and in this championship, you've got to kind of master it all. We have some great racetracks coming up with two road courses, two street circuits and an oval. I love them all. When you have a good car on an oval, that is some of the most fun you can have in a race car. I've found some success on road and street circuits as well. I don't know what my stronger suit is, really."
The last American to win four consecutive races was Al Unser Jr. in 1990, whose streak started at Toronto, and the last American IZOD IndyCar Series champion was Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.
"I'm definitely honored to be carrying the American flag at the front right now, and every time I get on the podium I raise it because I'm proud of it," Hunter-Reay said. "I think what hits home for me is when I was a kid, before I started racing go karts, my dad took me to a couple of Indy car races in Miami and I watched the series as a fan of the series. I was really focused on the American drivers.
"I liked to watch Michael (Andretti), Bobby Rahal, Rick Mears, Al Unser Jr., the big names. I feel like now that I'm in IndyCar and doing well, hopefully there is some kid sitting there doing the same thing, so that's kind of cool."
Of note: This is the third time since 1979 that two different drivers have won three consecutive races. The others were: 2006 Bourdais won first four races, Allmendinger won the next three. In 1997, Tracy and Alex Zanardi each won three races.
25 three-race streaks since 1979
1979 (USAC): A.J. Foyt (Milwaukee, Pocono, Texas World Speedway)
1981 (CART): Rick Mears (Michigan, Watkins Glen, Mexico City)
1986 (CART): Bobby Rahal (Mid-Ohio, Sanair, Michigan)
1989 (CART): Emerson Fittipaldi (Detroit, Portland, Cleveland)
1990 (CART): Al Unser Jr. (Toronto, Michigan, Denver, Vancouver)
1991 (CART): Michael Andretti (Vancouver, Mid-Ohio, Road America)
1994 (CART): Al Unser Jr. (Long Beach, Indianapolis, Milwaukee)
Al Unser Jr. (Mid-Ohio, New Hampshire, Vancouver)
1997 (CART): Paul Tracy (Nazareth, Rio, Gateway)
Alex Zanardi (Michigan, Mid-Ohio, Road America)
1998 (CART): Alex Zanardi (Detroit, Portland, Cleveland, Toronto)
1998 (IRL) Kenny Brack (Charlotte, Pikes Peak, Atlanta)
1999 (CART): Juan Pablo Montoya (Long Beach, Nazareth, Rio)
Juan Pablo Montoya (Mid-Ohio, Chicago, Vancouver)
2002 (CART): Cristiano da Matta (Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago, Toronto)
2003 (CART): Paul Tracy (St. Petersburg, Monterrey, Long Beach)
2004 (Champ Car): Sebastien Bourdais (Portland, Cleveland, Toronto)
2005 (IRL): Dan Wheldon (St. Petersburg, Motegi, Indianapolis)
2005 (Champ Car): Sebastien Bourdais (Edmonton, San Jose, Denver)
2006 (Champ Car): Sebastien Bourdais (Long Beach, Houston, Monterrey, Milwaukee)
A.J. Allmendinger (Portland, Cleveland, Toronto)
2007 (IRL) Scott Dixon (Watkins Glen, Nashville, Mid-Ohio)
2007 (Champ Car): Sebastien Bourdais (Long Beach, Houston, Portland)
2012 (INDYCAR): Will Power (Barber, Long Beach, Sao Paulo)
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Milwaukee, Iowa, Toronto)