Hunter-Reay back in hunt

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:07 AM ET

Ryan Hunter-Reay is starting to get his groove back.

After an impressive opening to the IndyCar season, things went south in a hurry for the Boca Raton, Florida, native.

He was forced to switch to AJ Foyt's team early on in the year, and had been languishing near the bottom of the series standings since then.

But a seventh-place finish in Toronto on the weekend, has Hunter-Reay optimistic of his chances heading into the Rexall Edmonton Indy taking place July 24-26.

"I'm a big fan of airport races, I think they're great for racing and they're great for the fans," he said. "The fans have a great perspective and they can see so much, more than they could on any other road course. It definitely makes for a great event."

Being the only airport course on the circuit, the Edmonton event also presents unique challenges to the different teams.

Meeting those challenges is the key to a successful weekend.

"Edmonton is just a specific setup because of all the corners at the airport track, and you have a very small window in order to get that setup right," Hunter-Reay said.

"We're going there with what we think will work and we'll go from there. I have an open mind towards it for sure."

This past weekend, the 2007 rookie of the year qualified 14th for the Honda Indy Toronto. He was able to work himself up to seventh, collecting his highest placing since the season-opener in St. Petersburg.

"I was relieved to get a top-10, however, we were running very well and in hindsight we could have had a third or a fourth," Hunter-Reay said. "We didn't need to pit for that last splash of fuel. But I was pretty happy with the way things went. It was a good step forward. We've only been together for a few races and we were competitive all weekend."

It was the first time Hunter-Reay was able to crack the top-10 since the opening weekend of the season.

"What's nice about Toronto there is a big, long straight where there's at least a passing lane," Hunter-Reay said. "Some of the other circuits that we go to don't have that nice, open passing area. It makes for a better race that way."

At the City Centre airport track in Edmonton, there are also plenty of places to pass.

It's one of the appeals of the event for drivers and spectators alike.

"It's a track that has a lot of different corners," Hunter-Reay said. "It's a track that has fast road-course type corners in the first half. Then in the second half you have bumpy street-course like corners.

"It's got all the combinations that you want."

Having driven in Edmonton on the Champ Car circuit before coming with IndyCar last year, Hunter-Reay is very familiar with the airport course in Edmonton.

A year ago, driving for Rahal Letterman, he finished eighth after qualifying in the 14th position.

"It's very tough," Hunter-Reay said.

"It's just a physical track, it's so bumpy and fast, you definitely need a good night's sleep after Edmonton."

This year, Hunter-Reay will not be in town with Rahal Letterman. Due to a lack of sponsorship, the team decided not to run a full season.

However, he signed a last-minute contract with Vision Racing for the first event of the season in St. Petersburg.

Racing close to home, Hunter-Reay was able to work his way up from the 14th to a second-place finish. It was a race Hunter-Reay felt he could have won, but did not want to risk a tricky pass on Ryan Briscoe for the checkered flag.

"We ran well all weekend and in the end we put up a great fight," Hunter-Reay said.

"I believe I should have won that race. But it was a great start to the season."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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