Ryan Hunter-Reay is still living the dream one day removed from his Indianapolis 500 triumph.
Indianapolis, Ind. – The day after racing to victory in the Indianapolis 500, Ryan Hunter-Reay continues to ride on his dream cloud. For years, he dreamed of winning the Indianapolis 500 and after a daring late-race dual with three-time winner Helio Castroneves, Hunter-Reay powered his way to the checkered flag, beating his foe by inches and fulfilling his dream.
For Hunter-Reay, he scored his first Indianapolis 500 win, becoming the first American driver to do so in eight years.
“The magnitude of the whole thing is starting to send in,” the 500 winner said.
Asked for the umpteenth time to address his winning pass, the 32-year old driver said, “What happened in turn 3 and going for the win was the same move I did at Long Beach (and wrecked), I went in there and surprised Helio, put it almost in the grass on the white line. He did a great job as we were racing hard and clean, and we made it through there. It was amazing how it worked out. I knew Helio had the fastest car out there, and it took a while to set him up. We were inches apart for laps on end with the biggest race in the world on the line. It was great going toe-to-toe with him.
On the cool-down lap and the subsequent winner’s convertible ride around the track, Hunter-Reay was thrilled with the outpouring attention from the large crowd. “I couldn’t believe how many fans were still here; they were true fans to stay-around to greet the winner,” he said. “It was fantastic and when they started chanting ‘USA! USA!,’ it sent chills down my back. It was so cool to be a part of. Hopefully, we have it all on video, as we will watch it plenty of times. It was surreal to be in that position. This place is so massive, and you don’t realize how big it is until you do that victory lap. I felt like we were running through 35 packed basketball stadiums.
While Hunter-Reay basked in the spotlight, he had to share the billing on Monday with his 16-month old son, Ryden, who wore a driver’s uniform similar to his dad’s. As the young boy raced around through the throng, he may well have been photographed more than his dad. Beccy Hunter-Reay also was riding on the victory cloud and she said her husband’s achievement is just starting to sink in. “When I woke up this morning, I said to Ryan, ‘I think it actually happened.’ It is amazing. He’s the Indianapolis 500 champion.
During the closing laps, Beccy’s nervous, nail-biting actions were being shown on TV. “It was so surreal; I have never felt my heart pound that much in my chest before. It was unbelievable,” she added.
Also sharing in the glory and appropriately so is Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti. “Yesterday was a dream day for us for not only winning the race but placing four of our cars in the top six,” he said after completing the photo shoot with his team and supporters. “You hope going into the race that you can win it, but you never know whether it can become a reality, and it is awesome when it happens.”
Andretti calls the shots for Hunter-Reay and during the red-flag period, the two talked about the final laps. “I was a little bit upset by the red-flag, being that it was the first time in 98 years that it happened and with us in the lead at that,” he commented. “In the end, I think it was the right call, and I did talk with Ryan about the last time it happened we won the championship.
“On the last lap, I felt we were in a good position. When I watched them going into turn 3, I didn’t think Helio (Castroneves) was close enough to get the job done, so I felt pretty confident at that point.”
Regarding an American winning the race, Michael stated, “I think what is great about it is that we have an international field here. If you can beat the best in the world, it feels so good. It is better than having all Americans out there, and it means something when an American does win, which is awesome.”
As far as ranking the three victories by his team. Andretti said they are all equally important with no one being better than the other. Even though Marco Andretti ended up third, he lost out on another chance for an Andretti family member to win the 500. Said his father, “I feel really bad for him. As a dad, my heart was there and he was so close again. He knows you only get so many chances at it, especially watching me and my dad, and so I felt bad for him.” The two haven’t talked since the end, but they will see each other at tonight’s victory banquet.