Hunter-Reay in right place at right time

Hunter-Reay in firmly with the IRL while others are outside looking in

Ryan Hunter-Reay is going over some of the things his racing contract states he's not allowed to take part in, such as competitive go-kart racing.

"I can ride go-karts, but no passing, no competition," he said.

There's no snowboarding, so one of his favorite things to do when he's not racing will have to take a back seat to his ride in the Ethanol-sponsored Rahal-Letterman IndyCar for now.

Pickup basketball games are OK, but ballooning?

"Out," said the 27-year old, his hands going up in the air as he shrugs. "Go figure."

As if the Cardinal Gibbons graduate would be caught in something as mercurial as ballooning, because if you know Hunter-Reay, you know how direct he is.

The focus that he'll use Saturday night in the Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is evident in how he has progressed through his career.

Six national karting titles. A Skip Barber Karting Championship scholarship to race in Formula Dodge. The Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Championship. That put him on the fast track to the Formula Atlantic series, where he led the circuit in laps led, poles and fast times set in 2002 to earn the Worldcom Rising Star award.

He joined Champ Car the next year, where he finished third at Mid-Ohio and stole a win at Surfers Paradise, Australia. He bounced around Champ Car at that point and despite success with teams that sometimes had little business having success, Hunter-Reay found himself searching for a strong foundation, an established team.

That happened midway through 2007, when Rahal-Letterman decided to make a switch from Jeff Simmons to Hunter-Reay.

"I just jumped in the car right off. A 'get in it and go.' All considering, it was great," Hunter-Reay said. "Everything was aimed at making a decision for 2008. It was, 'OK, let's do 2007 and go from there.' I got in the car, raised the spirits on the team … and it was a no-brainer to come back in 2008."

Go ahead and pinch him and he'll still be living his dream.

"Being with a top IndyCar team, with a huge sponsor in Ethanol, being a part of that movement, and driving for Bobby Rahal and David Letterman, one unified season, opening in South Florida, my home, it's all pretty cool," said Hunter-Reay, who then smiles and corrects himself. "It's been awesome."

Goals for 2008 are modest. More at Sun-Sentinel

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