Hunter-Reay Has Number of Things On His Mind

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 6 2012

Ryan Hunter-Reay will not dump to the No. 28 – for very personal reasons. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

Reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will sport a modified version of the No. 1 during the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season while continuing to acknowledge a very personal crusade against cancer.

The No. 1 on Hunter-Reay’s DHL Dallara/Chevrolet will be bisected by the No. 28 in recognition of the 28-million people living with cancer worldwide. Hunter-Reay’s mother, Lydia, died from colon cancer in November 2009. Hunter-Reay raced to the 2012 IndyCar title with the No. 28 on his Andretti Autosport entry while serving as a global envoy for LIVESTRONG and co-founder of Racing for Cancer.

“It’s a huge honor to have earned the right to run the No. 1,” Hunter-Reay said Wednesday in Indianapolis during the unveiling of the team’s three fulltime entries for 2013. “All of us at Andretti Autosport see this as a tremendous opportunity to leverage our sponsors, brands and message for 2013 and beyond. We certainly do not underestimate the task. I assure you we are already hard at work and will do everything possible to earn the right to carry the coveted No. 1 in future years as well.”

The INDYCAR Rulebook reserves Car No. 1 for the defending entrant – not driver – series champion. Fittingly, team-owner Michael Andretti was the last to use No. 1 in IndyCar during the 2006 Indianapolis 500 for defending race-entrant Andretti Green Racing, as 2005 champion Dan Wheldon had moved to Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will sport the No. 1 next season.

Scott Dixon, also of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, was the last IndyCar Series champion to run the No. 1 for a full season in 2004. Dixon finished 10th in the standings after a 16-race campaign. Additionally, Sebastien Bourdais competed with the No. 1 on his car from 2005 to 2007 as Champ Car World Series champion.

Hunter-Reay clinched the title by three points over Will Power of Team Penske via a fourth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Sept. 15.

“The decision to switch to the No. 1 for the 2013 season was very tough,” said Hunter-Reay, who will turn 32 on Dec. 17. “The No. 28 has so much meaning to so many. But we recognized that our team, partners and sponsors have all earned the right to carry the No. 1 – we worked hard together and it’s something they all deserve.

“Racing for Cancer’s No. 1 goal is to beat cancer and we realized that running the No. 1 with the No. 28 incorporated into the design, a very important detail to me personally, would provide us with an opportunity to strengthen the message and cause of beating cancer.”

Hunter-Reay, who will be starting his fourth season with Andretti Autosport, won a series-high four races in 2012 – including a summer stretch of three in a row at The Milwaukee Mile, Iowa Speedway and Streets of Toronto. He finished the 15-race season with 153 laps-led en route to an average result of 9.0.

Hunter-Reay has been the highest-ranked American driver in IndyCar since joining Andretti Autosport. A former IndyCar (2007) and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year (2008), Hunter-Reay is the only driver to have won races in IndyCar, the Champ Car World Series, Championship Auto Racing Teams, GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series.

John Lopes, chief marketing officer for Andretti Autosport, reiterated that DHL – global market leader in the logistics industry – would serve as Hunter-Reay’s fulltime primary sponsor for the third consecutive season.

In addition to Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe will return to fulltime IndyCar Series rides with the organization. With two Firestone Indy Lights Series entries, two Star Mazda entries and entries in USF2000, Andretti Autosport again will operate as the only team competing in every step of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

Like RHR, Andretti has opted to switch numbers – from No. 26 to 25 – on his RC Cola Dallara/Chevrolet in a bid to change his fortunes. “The No. 26 will always be a part of me and my history in racing,” said Andretti, who finished 16th in series points in 2012. “But I think it’s grown unlucky for me – I keep hearing that from people, too. To me, No. 26 is a character-builder through heartache and trials and looking ahead to the No. 25 means success and leadership. It’s like my chance to be reborn as a veteran driver.”

Andretti, Michael’s 25-year-old son, posted only one top-five and three top-10 results in 2012. He has two series wins during his seven-year IndyCar career, the most recent at Iowa Speedway in 2011.

Hinchcliffe, who will be starting his third IndyCar season, again will drive the No. 27 GoDaddy.com Dallara/Chevrolet.

“For me, personally, this is the first time in my career I’ll have the same team for two years in a row,” said Hinchcliffe, who turned 26 on Wednesday. “I’m excited to work with Go Daddy again, have the same crew and not have the learning curve at the beginning of next season. I won’t have a new situation and a new team to learn and settle into and I’ll have the same two teammates, which great; it’s just good to know that off the bat we’ll be able to move forward.”

A native of Toronto, Hinchcliffe finished eighth in the 2012 standings after five top-five and eight top-10 results, and 39-laps led. He posted career-best third-place finishes on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif., and The Milwaukee Mile last season.

Andretti Autosport’s Firestone Indy Lights effort will include race-winner Carlos Munoz and rookie Zach Veach. Munoz, driver of the No. 26 Dialy-Ser entry, will run a full season in Indy Lights and make his first Indianapolis 500 qualifying attempt in May.

Veach, who will drive the No. 12 K12 entry, successfully has completed three test sessions in the Firestone Indy Lights machine, most recently setting a track record on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course during the Mazda Road to Indy’s annual Open Test.

Shelby Blackstock will represent Andretti Autosport in the Star Mazda Championship. Blackstock, who will carry the No. 28, finished ninth in a USF2000 car for the team in 2012. Blackstock’s Star Mazda teammate in the No. 27 has yet to be announced. The team’s USF2000 drivers also will be announced at a later date.

The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., is scheduled for March 24.

Open-wheel champions who ran the No. 1 (with sanctioning body):

1982 _ Rick Mears (Championship Auto Racing Teams)

1983 _ Rick Mears (CART) except in the Indianapolis 500, where he used No. 2. George Snider ran the No. 1 at Indy as United States Auto Club champ

1984 _ Al Unser (CART) except at Indy, where Tom Sneva used No. 1 as defending 500 race-winner (USAC champ)

1985 _ Mario Andretti except at Indy, where Rick Mears (USAC champ) used it and Road America, where Alan Jones drove Andretti’s car

1986 _ Rick Mears (CART) except at Indy, where Danny Sullivan used it as defending race-winner

1987 _ Bobby Rahal (CART)

1988 _ Bobby Rahal (CART) except at Indy, where Al Unser used it as defending race-winner

1989 _ Danny Sullivan (CART)

1990 _ Emerson Fittipaldi (CART)

1991 _ Al Unser Jr. (CART) except at Indy, where Arie Luyendyk used it as defending race-winner

1992 _ Michael Andretti (CART)

1993 _ Bobby Rahal (CART)

1994 _ Nigel Mansell (CART)

1995 _ Al Unser Jr. (CART)

1996 _ Raul Boesel (CART) driving the car Jacques Villeneuve won the 1995 title in for Team Green

1996-1997 _ Scott Sharp (Indy Racing League) except at Indy, where Paul Durant drove his car and Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Billy Boat drove his car

1997 _ Jimmy Vasser (CART)

1998 _ Tony Stewart (IRL)

1998 _ Alex Zanardi (CART)

2000 _ Greg Ray (IRL)

2000 _ Juan Pablo Montoya (CART)

2001 _ Gil de Ferran (CART)

2002 _ Cristiano da Matta (CART) for three races after he clinched the 2002 title

2003 _Bruno Junqueira (CART) driving the car Cristiano da Matta won the 2002 title in for Newman/Haas Racing

2004 _ Scott Dixon (IRL)

2004 _ Paul Tracy (Champ Car World Series)

2005 _ Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)

2006 _ Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)

2006 _ Michael Andretti (IRL) driving an Indianapolis 500 entry for defending race-winner Andretti Green Racing

2007 _ Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS)

Chart source: INDYCAR media relations

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 6 2012
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