Sonoma test with Montoya, conversation with Hunter-Reay and new Indy Lights team
Catching up with...Ryan Hunter-Reay
With a child who's almost 1 year old in the house, it's sure to be a busy time for Ryan Hunter-Reay and his wife Beccy. It will get a little crazier next week with the holidays.
Today, Hunter-Reay marks his 33rd birthday and Dec. 18 he'll be in the Honda-powered Andretti Autosport car at Sebring International Raceway for an end-of-year test.
This past weekend, he was the co-grand marshal of the 42nd Winterfest boat parade in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He slowed down enough for the latest installment of "Catching up with..."
Q. A few weeks ago, you did the Dolphins Ride For Cancer event. How was that?
We started in Boca Raton and rode to the Dolphins Stadium in Miami, which is about 45 miles. It was a lot of fun. It's great to be out with everybody doing that. You really feel the energy behind it. Hopefully, that will be a regular on the offseason schedule.
Q. And it supports a great cause near and dear to your heart.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. Raising funds for the fight against cancer is a big deal. Any way we can do it. I was impressed with this cycling event. There are so many people behind it.
It covers all the way from Palm Beach to Miami. Roads are shut down and there is so much fundraising behind it. The Dolphins are the franchise heavily behind it and it has a lot of power. There's a lot of momentum and it's gaining traction every year.
Q. Your son Ryden is about to turn 1 soon (Dec. 28). With his birthday so close to Christmas, what are the holidays going to be like in the Hunter-Reay household?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's going to be a lot of fun. He's laughing a lot right now. The highlight of my day is waking up and seeing his face. It's a lot of fun.
For his first birthday, he loves Mickey Mouse. That's one thing that captures his attention. It's amazing how that works. An (85-year old) cartoon mouse, that's his hero. I think I come a close second when I'm in my race suit, but Mickey Mouse takes the cake. We'll probably have some sort of Mickey Mouse-themed party for him.
Q. Scott Dixon and Target Chip Ganassi Racing are considering using the No. 1 for this season. What advice would you give him?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The champion should use No. 1. It's something that's been part of Indy car for many, many years. It's a tradition that I think teams should respect. The team, the guys on the car and the driver earn that No. 1. They should run it.
I look forward to going back the (No.) 28, because that's my number. If bad luck or circumstances or lack of results come down to the number that you run on your car, then we all wouldn't be testing in the offseason.
Q. And finally, even though you didn't successfully defend your championship in 2013, you were in the hunt. What are your goals for the upcoming season?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's great to continue with the same group of guys and working again with my engineer Ray (Gosselin) and my teammates James (Hinchcliffe) and Marco (Andretti). We just need to keep pushing forward and keep evolving.
We barely let the Indy 500 get away from us and I think we had a pretty good season. We had three poles, two wins and we should have had another win or two in there. I think we can hopefully go out and do that again. We're starting anew with Honda and we've got a chance to really take our game to a new level.
Latest test for Montoya is Sonoma
The Formula One and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran will compete in the IndyCar Series full time next season in the No. 2 Team Penske car. And while M is familiar with Sonoma's 1.99-mile stock car configuration of the road course. He took his first laps on the 2.38-mile configuration used by the IndyCar Series.
"It's hard to go to the places where I've been in a stock car because my mind is not right," said Montoya. "My mind says one thing and my foot says another. They don't agree. You go wide open through the Esses and my mind is saying 'You can do it' and my foot is saying 'No, I'm coming out.' I just need a little more confidence in the car and seeing what the car can do. You really got to try to build it up."
Montoya completed about 50 laps, with an emphasis on hitting his marks on the track. The team went through three sets of tires and practiced pit stops. Montoya's next on-track action will be in mid-January at Sebring along with teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power.
"It's great to be back; great for the series," Montoya said. "It's great for everybody. The cars are so much fun to drive. I think the series does a great job of bringing the races to the people with the street courses; the cars are faster, it's fun. I've got a lot of success in open wheel, but I'm not trying to talk too much about it. Do I want to win every week? Yes, of course I do, but with Will and Helio, I have two really strong teammates, people I can learn from and with time, hopefully we can win.
"I want to win races. It's a shorter season, the cars are faster, we do street courses, road courses, small ovals, big ovals. It's going to be a lot fun. It's a big change. You come from something that you have to lift a lot and slide around a lot but with this you slide around a lot but you're sliding around about 50 miles per hour faster. There's not a lot of runoff here so it's easy to get it wrong. I'm trying to build to it. The transition is going to be tremendous."
Fan Force United to field Anderson in Indy Lights
Anderson, a 24-year-old from Fort Collins, Colo., began his journey as the 2011 BF Goodrich Skip Barber presented by Mazda National Champion, graduating to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Series in 2012 where he posted two wins, six podiums, and nine top-five finishes on his way to a third-place finish in the championship.
Anderson advanced to the 2013 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires where he scored a fifth-place championship finish.
"I'm very excited for the upcoming season with Fan Force United," he said. "It's a new series and car for me so the focus early on will definitely be to learn the car and adjust as quickly as I can. There's a lot of experience between everyone on the team and so I look forward to absorbing as much knowledge as possible and getting some good results."
Fan Force United ran the No. 24 car in eight races in 2012 with drivers Armaan Ebrahim, Emerson Newton-John, Stefan Wilson and Bryan Clauson. The team also fielded an entry in the Indianapolis 500 that year with Jean Alesi.
"It was really tough sitting out last year," said Fan Force United co-owner Tyce Carlson. "We've never stopped working on getting back on track, and we're excited to be getting out there with Scott. He has a solid record as he has progressed up the ladder and has proven himself at every level. With the team that we have assembled and will be putting around him, we're pretty confident that we'll be able to pick right up where we left off at the end of 2012 and be competitive very quickly."