RYAN HUNTER-REAY AND RLR LOOK TO CAP 2008 INDYCAR REGULAR SEASON IN STYLE AT CHICAGO HILLIARD, Ohio - Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...
RYAN HUNTER-REAY AND RLR LOOK TO CAP 2008 INDYCAR REGULAR SEASON IN STYLE AT CHICAGO
HILLIARD, Ohio - Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) answered the bell last weekend at Belle Isle, scoring a sixth-place finish that put the team in position to finish the IndyCar Series season in the top 10 for the sixth consecutive year.
The team can seal the deal this weekend in the 2008 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, where a strong finish could boost the Ohio-based team as high as sixth in the standings - which would be its highest finish since 2004. But it isn't a layup however as Hunter-Reay's current ninth-place standing is threatened by Justin Wilson and Hideki Mutoh, the former of which moved to within 17 points of Hunter-Reay with his win last weekend.
Rahal Letterman Racing has good reason to be optimistic heading to this weekend's PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at the 1.5-mile oval. The team and Hunter-Reay have been strong on the superspeedways in 2008 and especially so at Chicagoland where both of the team's cars finished in the top seven in last year's race.
"The points race comes to a head at Chicago Sunday afternoon and we're looking for another solid mile-and-a-half super-speedway result," Hunter-Reay said. "We are in a heated battle for seventh in the championship and even an outside shot at sixth so we're going in at full tilt. There's no conservative approach about it, we're going for it just as we did at Texas. As a team we have had impressive pace on the super-speedways and we're looking to come home with our best oval result of the year to cap off the 2008 season. The hardest part will be waiting until Sunday!"
Hunter-Reay had one of his best results of the 2007 campaign last year at Chicago as he clinched his Rookie of the Year win with a seventh-place finish. This year he has been even better on the 1.5-mile ovals, although the results have not always been there to prove it. He was a strong seventh at Homestead and Motegi, had gearbox trouble at Kansas, was in contention for the win at Texas before being taken out by Marco Andretti with 10 laps to go and scored a top-10 finish at Kentucky.
Interestingly enough, if Hunter-Reay is to make up the 21 points needed to climb all the way to sixth, he will have to buck a RLR tradition of troubles in season-ending races. In the 16 seasons since the formation of the team, it has yet to win a race or a pole in a season finale and has just five podium placements in 33 starts. The team has qualified in the top five in 11 of those 33 starts and has 10 top-five finishes. The Chicago race will decide the championship and serve for all intents and purposes as the season finale despite the fact that the IndyCar Series will go to Surfers Paradise, Australia October 24-26 for a non-points race at the street circuit that was a staple of the Champ Car calendar since 1991.