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Hunter-Reay Thinks More Teammates Create Better Chance for Indy Success

Note: This is the first of a series of feature stories focused on competitors in the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and GMR Grand Prix this May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stories will appear at IMS.com on Tuesdays and Thursdays through May.

It’s almost certain Andretti Autosport will have the fullest house this May during the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

The team will field cars for “500” winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, and for Marco Andretti, Zach Veach and 2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie sensation Colton Herta. The team also has a technical alliance with the Meyer Shank Racing car driven by Jack Harvey.

So, with five drivers under the Andretti Autosport roof this May at IMS in some shape or form, plus Harvey sharing data, is that a case of too many voices in the room? Too much clutter? Too much data?

“We’ve never run five cars since I’ve been on the team,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s uncharted territory, but this team does a great job with its preparation. We have five talented race drivers. We all get along, so that’s a good thing.”

Hunter-Reay admits he may need to spend more time at the track poring over data from six cars after each practice day, including his No. 28 DHL Honda. But he sees that as a benefit, not a hindrance, as he attempts to add a second Indianapolis 500 victory to his 2014 win.

“The debriefs are overwhelming because they take two hours -- there’s only so much time in the weekend to debrief over that many cars,” Hunter-Reay said with a laugh. “That’s the good thing: You have so many more channels of data to pull on and opinions to lean on. These are talented race car drivers and talented engineers involved, so it’s our disposal to use it correctly.”

Hunter-Reay, 39, enters his 17th season of major North American open-wheel competition knowing that he’s closer to the sunset of his outstanding career than the start. He ended up eighth in the standings with no victories, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 2019. That was a slight decline from a sterling 2018 season in which he finished third in the standings on the strength of two victories, 10 top-fives and 11 top-10s.

But Hunter-Reay also has no doubt in his mind that the skills that helped him drive to the 2012 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship for Andretti Autosport still remain, even if last year’s stats didn’t show that.

“In 2019, we never really got in our stride,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was always something. You have those years. For some reason for me it was always the odd-numbered years that never really clicked. Never really has in my career, for now. So hopefully 2020 is a continuation of that. I feel fresh as ever, ready to go.”

There is some truth behind Hunter-Reay’s superstition surrounding seasons ending in even numbers.

His best season in Champ Car came in 2004, when he won at Milwaukee and finished ninth in the standings. He returned to major-league open-wheel racing full time in the 2008 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season with Rahal Letterman Racing and finished eighth in the standings. His first season with Andretti Autosport came in 2010, when he won at Long Beach.

And the two greatest performances of RHR’s career came in – you guessed it – seasons in years ending with even numbers, his 2012 series championship and 2014 Indy 500 victory.

Still, Hunter-Reay doesn’t base his hopes for 2020 on superstition alone. He knows he still has raw speed, something he proved to himself while racing the Mazda prototype in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.

“I jumped into the Mazda and was as quick as any of the teammates within 10 minutes. Not an issue for me,” Hunter-Reay said.

“I know I have the pace. In 2018, I won two races and had the best season of my career. In ‘19, we had quite a few top-fives. Just couldn’t quite knock it through. That’s on the team side, as well, meaning all of us on the team just not firing on all cylinders whatever it may be. I’ve just got to show up and do what I’ve got to do.”

Visit IMS.com or the IMS Ticket Office for tickets to the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, GMR Grand Prix and all other Month of May activities at IMS.

 
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