RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING'S RYAN HUNTER-REAY SETS LEAGUE RECORD IN TAKING INDYCAR ROOKIE HONORS INDIANAPOLIS - Bucking the growing trend, Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING'S RYAN HUNTER-REAY SETS LEAGUE RECORD IN TAKING INDYCAR ROOKIE HONORS
INDIANAPOLIS - Bucking the growing trend, Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) put potential NASCAR options on hold to join Rahal Letterman Racing in the IndyCar Series in 2007, and immediately showed why he was one of the most-coveted free agents in open-wheel racing. The Floridian scored back-to-back top-seven finishes to start his career and ended the 2007 with another last weekend in Chicago to cement the Bombardier Learjet Rookie-of-the-Year award.
Hunter-Reay received the award and a check for $50,000 at Tuesday night's IndyCar Series Championship Celebration in Indianapolis. Hunter-Reay became the first IndyCar driver since 2001 to finish seventh or better in his first two series starts, beginning with a seventh-place run in his Mid-Ohio debut. He qualified in the top 10 in each of his three road-course starts and led series rookie in best qualifying result (fifth, Belle Isle) and finish (sixth, Michigan). He also set a series record by winning the honors in just six starts - the fewest ever by a series ROY.
"I am very proud to have won this award. A couple of months ago when we were putting this deal together, I never expected to be taking this honor," said Hunter-Reay in his speech to Tuesday's banquet crowd. "I think we showed what this team and I are capable of and I hope to continue moving to the front next year. This has been a total team effort in winning this award and I hope earning this trophy helps people recognize what a good team this is."
But swapping a planned stock-car trip to New York for an open-wheel ride in Central Ohio was only half the deal for Hunter-Reay. The driver of the #17 Team Ethanol machine carries the responsibility of promoting Ethanol renewable fuel, something the American-born driver took to eagerly.
"I am proud to be part of the Ethanol movement and I feel very strongly about being in a position to bring the Ethanol message to the public," Hunter-Reay said. "Getting the opportunity to meet many of the people involved with Ethanol this year has been a great experience for me and I have learned a lot about what each of us can do for our country through the Ethanol movement."
Hunter-Reay made a number of appearances on behalf of Ethanol after joining Rahal Letterman Racing, ranging from golf outings with vendors to meeting politicians at the opening of one of the largest Ethanol plants in the U.S. Ryan also demonstrated the benefits of Ethanol first-hand, participating in pump tours where he literally pumped Ethanol into cars for customers.
"Ryan stepped in admirably with less than half the season remaining and quickly made an impact both on and off the track," said Tom Slunecka, Executive Director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. "He is a compelling spokesperson for the industry, and we look forward to his continued success in the future. A driver for the Team Ethanol car carries significant responsibilities both on and off the track. Ryan Hunter-Reay has carried himself with skill, class and dignity throughout his short season. The Ethanol industry salutes him for capturing Rookie of the Year honors."