An interview with Ryan Hunter-Reay Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript Wednesday, April 1, 2009 MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests...
An interview with Ryan Hunter-Reay
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us this afternoon as we prepare to open the 2009 season this weekend in St. Petersburg. Joining us in a few minutes will be Ryan Hunter-Reay, Eric Bachelart and Alex Tagliani and also Darren Manning. Ryan signed with Vision Racing to drive the No. 21 car this season while Alex was announced earlier today as the driver of the No. 34 Conquest Racing car for the event in St. Petersburg, and Darren will be driving the No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold car for the race at St. Petersburg.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Good afternoon, Ryan.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Good afternoon.
MODERATOR: Thank you for calling. As we mentioned a little earlier, Ryan signed with Vision Racing to drive the No. 21 car for the full season. He joins the team after a year and a half with Rahal-Letterman Racing. Ryan debuted midway through the 2007 season, recorded three top-10 finishes and won Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors. Last year he finished eighth in points with a victory at Watkins Glen and also Rookie of the Year honors at the Indianapolis 500.
Ryan, we've been kind of saying that this deal has come together late, but I know in reality you've been working hard all offseason to put something together. Tell us a little bit about that entire process of what you've gone through over the off-season and how that finally came together now with Vision Racing.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, it goes without saying, it was certainly a long offseason. But this thing came from so many angles, yeah, I had to work hard, but I couldn't have done it without the help of the IndyCar Series commercial marketing department under Terry Angstadt. Terry really pushed hard and opened up quite a few doors that would have otherwise not been opened.
And the cooperation from IZOD and the business-to-business deals and from WilliamRast. It's taken a long time to really get the ball rolling in the right direction, and then ultimately with Tony stepping up in the last week here and getting this deal done, I'm very grateful to him for doing that because I really do believe this thing is going to be well-funded and it's going to be a good program.
I'm just excited about what the future holds here with this partnership, and I'm definitely psyched to be a Vision Racing driver, that's for sure.
MODERATOR: Coming in late like this, you don't really have the benefit of any of the preseason testing. How quickly will you guys be able to get up to speed and get where you want to be?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, we have high expectations right off the bat. I haven't been in the car at all, so the first session in St. Pete, depends on how much we need to change around. The braking, the steering rack, all these things are fitted to the driver and the driver's preferences, so we might have to climb through some of that. But there's no reason why we can't be very competitive this weekend. I certainly expect us to be.
I worked with the team this past week on what we need to see out of the car. We have a game plan set, and I was lucky enough to get in the car there at Sebring with HVM, and that was a very productive test. At least I've got 50 laps under my belt here prior to jumping in at St. Pete.
But yeah, we're way behind the other teams and the testing they've done. But it's a street circuit, and this is probably the best venue I could ask for to start out because I feel at home there.
And also, I'm used to jumping in cars at the last minute, with the pressure on with no practice. That's what I did with Rahal in '07 and that worked out well.
MODERATOR: One of the things you mentioned to me the other day at the race shop is this will be the first time you really have a full-time teammate since 2004. Talk a little bit about working with Ed and what kind of advantages you expect to have with that relationship.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: There's more than a few reasons why teams run two cars. It's definitely very beneficial to the team for performance reasons to run two cars. You've got two drivers working for the same goal. Ed (Carpenter) and I have been friends in the past seasons, and now to work with one another, lines of communication are certainly going to be open. That team has knocked on the door for a win at quite a few tracks last season and had a very strong showing in the Indy 500.
We're going to complement each other very well. Obviously it's a new relationship in working together, but I'm looking forward to seeing some races and stuff to just compare when we get on some of these tracks. I haven't had really anything to compare against or to -- there hasn't been a sounding board for a teammate, like I said, in quite a few years. I'm really looking forward to that and it's going to help my game for sure.
Q: With the long offseason you mentioned, as far as cobwebs growing, do they grow thick because of that long off-season, and what's the effect of the cobwebs producing butterflies for that first race in St. Pete?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: With the long offseason, yeah, naturally you get a little bit of cobwebs and rust in there just because you haven't been in the car. But I take -- I've taken a lot of karting. I have a shifter kart, and man, those things will wear you out in four laps if you're not used to them, and I run tanks of fuel through them at a time and keep sharp on the reflex side of it that way.
But like I said, luckily I got in the HVM car here for 50 laps, so that was the cobweb shakeout at the same time, and that's definitely going to help me when I go to St. Pete. But we've got a lot to sort out in the first couple sessions, that's for sure.
Q: Do you think every driver still gets butterflies before every race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: For sure. Butterflies, you could put it towards an extreme amount of focus and not knowing what the first corner holds, especially at the first race of the season. Every driver wants to win the race in the first corner, I think, and it makes for -- yeah, definitely some butterflies, and you're real excited to get it going. But that excitement really builds, I think, before the first race of the season and before the Indy 500, those big races. Once we get into the stretch where we're like six weekends back-to-back, you kind of get used to, 'OK, let's get to the grid, get this thing going,' and I don't think the butterflies are as high.
Q: I guess the official word of this came last night, and the success you had with Rahal last year, now that you have something in place on paper, can you kind of help yourself to look back and say, man, I had something really good going on there with Rahal and now it's almost starting over again?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: There was certainly something good going there at Rahal. We had good chemistry, a one-car team, and we were definitely punching above our weight. We had some great performances last year; we got back into victory lane and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and capped the season off with a podium there at Australia. So we definitely had momentum there.
But times being what they are, the sponsor fell out from under us, and they couldn't really get anything going over the offseason, so it was tough for sure.
I have nothing but respect, appreciation and great memories of that team. At the time, it was kind of disappointing that here I am, I finally get somewhere in my career where results are building up and chemistry is building and things are all heading in the right direction, but such is life. Things like that happen.
I got over it pretty quick and onto the future and Vision Racing. I fought with those cars a lot last year, especially on the ovals. Very, very good oval package; very, very professional team. So hopefully this is just a quick step sideways and back on the path.
Q: Do you draw any parallels between the situation you're faced with now and back when you were kind of summoned to replace Jeff?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I think it's very similar, very similar. When I replaced Jeff (Simmons) there at Rahal, I was making a seat two and a half days before the first session on track, so that was actually a tighter time frame, and I hadn't driven an IndyCar/Champ Car in probably a year at that point, so that was a pretty tough situation just to jump into.
But the weekend came out great. We achieved the goals we wanted to. And we have goals set for this weekend, and I'm sure we can get those done. We have to get through these first couple sessions and get acclimated to the car.
Q: I just wanted to ask you, you mentioned how Vision had had some good runs over the past season, especially on the ovals. How close do you think Vision is to kind of breaking through to the next level and getting that first win? And also a second question, I don't know if this is the right question to ask you, but have final sponsorship details been decided yet? When will those come out, and are things still up in the air as far as that goes?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, to answer your first question, I think that, yes, this team has the capability of winning. Like last year at Texas, I was running second there on the last lap until I had my issue with Marco Andretti. But we were -- I think the Rahal oval cars that we had were every bit as good, if not the Vision cars are maybe even a little better than that. So there's no reason we can't compete for wins. I have every expectation to do so this year.
And on the road courses, I have every expectation there to do well, also, especially starting this weekend. So we'll see how that goes.
But as for the sponsorship situation, that will take a clearer picture after St. Pete. With the weekend off into Long Beach, we'll be announcing kind of how that car is going to look. That's kind of in Vision's corner at the moment, so I can't go into that too much right now.
Q: Are you going to be residing in Indy or where?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I'm residing out of my suitcase right now. I'm not really sure what's going on. I've lived in California for the past few years, and I've been down in Florida a bit with my mother being a little bit sick lately, and now the team is in Indy. My last team was in Columbus. So I'm bouncing around. I'm certainly going to spend a lot of time there. Whether I get an apartment, I'm not sure of. But I'll certainly be there a lot. Right now my suitcase is my residence.
Q: The ulterior motive for asking that question is Ed has come a long way in driving, particularly on the ovals, but he still needs to grow on the road courses, and I'm sure you can bring some help to him in that way. Have you got any plans at all to work with Ed as far as the road course work?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we're teammates. He's going to help me out a lot on the ovals, and I hope I can help him out as much on the road courses. It'll be a two-way -- I'm sure some corners Ed will be a little quicker than I am, and we'll feed off that. That's how it works.
He's definitely a talented driver. He grew up racing in the ovals, so he's got some stuff to make up on the road courses, but he's working hard at it and there's no reason why he can't be up there and competitive. He's shown great, great improvement over the last year. So yeah, I think on both ovals and road courses we'll bring a lot to the table for each other.
MODERATOR: Ryan, that's all the questions we've got for you today, so thank you again for taking the time to join us, and good luck getting things started this weekend.