Indy 500: RLR's Hunter-Reay Rookie of the Year

RYAN HUNTER-REAY EARNS INDIANAPOLIS 500 CHASE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD INDIANAPOLIS (May 27, 2008) -- The ceiling of the race shop at Rahal Letterman Racing's Hilliard, Ohio headquarters looks more like nearby St. John Arena than a workplace...

RYAN HUNTER-REAY EARNS INDIANAPOLIS 500 CHASE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD

INDIANAPOLIS (May 27, 2008) -- The ceiling of the race shop at Rahal Letterman Racing's Hilliard, Ohio headquarters looks more like nearby St. John Arena than a workplace as the team hangs banners that chronicle milestones achieved by its drivers over the years -- much like the championship banners that hang at the venerable Ohio State University arena.

The RLR banners celebrate wins, poles, championships and other accomplishments over the team's 16-year history and features names like Bobby Rahal, Buddy Rice, Kenny Brack, Graham Rahal and Jimmy Vasser.

But after last night Indianapolis 500 Awards Ceremony, another name and another banner will be added to that honored list as Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) was officially named as the Indianapolis 500 Chase Rookie of the Year after his sixth-place finish in Sunday's 500-mile race.

"This was a strong rookie field this season, perhaps one of the best in a long time, and it is very important to me to win this award," Hunter-Reay said. "This weekend was a big one for Rahal Letterman Racing and Team Ethanol and we put together a great race. The guys gave me great stops on Pit Lane every time I came in, and that gave me the confidence to go out and race hard on the track."

The Chase Rookie-of-the-Year honor puts Hunter-Reay in some Hall-of-Fame company as the 27-year-old Floridian joined such drivers as Jim Clark, Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue and Rick Mears on the list of honorees. He became the top-finishing rookie of the race with a daring pass of Hideki Mutoh with six laps to go, but was not assured of the Chase Rookie-of-the-Year Award until after the media voting that took place on Sunday.

Hunter-Reay came from 20th on the starting grid to finish sixth in his first Indy 500 start. Hunter-Reay is also the first driver in Indy Racing League history to win the series' Rookie-of-the-Year award in the year before winning the Indy 500 rookie honor. He earned last year's season honor after running just six races in 2007, but was eligible for the Indy ROY award due to the fact that he was competing in his first Memorial Day classic.

-credit: rlr

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Series INDYCAR