Ryan Hunter-Reay looks to extend streak

Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of last weekend's Toronto Indy, says he has some unfinished business at...

Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of last weekend's Toronto Indy, says he has some unfinished business at the Edmonton Indy. (Jack Boland, QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

EDMONTON - Five times Ryan Hunter-Reay has come to Edmonton to race Indy cars. But never before like this.

Never as a headliner. Never as a star.

Seldom, actually, has anybody had interest in interviewing Hunter-Reay, much less trying to score an exclusive a week before he gets here.

Then again, RHR has never led the IZOD IndyCar Series standings before.

And he's never won three races in a row until now.

"It's my dream come true, driving in the series I love, leading the point standings and winning three races in a row," he said from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Wednesday.

"Since I was four years old and saw my first IndyCar race, being an IndyCar driver is all I ever wanted to be.

"To get three wins in one season would be a pretty good year, but to come to Edmonton with three wins in a row and taking over the lead in the series É it's all thrilling new territory for me."

RHR is the new hot shoe in the sport where the usual suspects Ñ Will Power, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti, and their Penske and Ganassi teams Ñ can't seem to find a checkered flag lately.

Not since Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 and Dixon won in Detroit on June 2, has one of the usually featured four found victory lane.

When Hunter-Reay won his first two races, he sliced Power's series lead from 70 to three. With a win in Toronto, he took a 38-point lead over Power, the defending Edmonton Indy champion who earlier this year also won three races in a row.

In a year transitioning to new cars with more than one engine supplier, where 15 different drivers have put themselves on the podium, the emergence of Hunter-Reay as a star and Andretti Autosport as a top team again now that Danica Patrick is gone, has become the story of the season.

It's not like he hasn't won before. It's just that in a single summer he could win as many races as he's won in his entire career before. The hot-foot hat-trick were his 6th, 7th and 8th career IndyCar wins.

And it's not like he hasn't been here before.

Hunter-Reay, driving for Rocketsports, was one of the original 18 drivers who drove in the first-ever ChampCar Series race here in 2005.

He finished 16th. Ran out of fuel.

"Yeah, I remember that," he said.

"It was miscalculation."

It wasn't until the second year after merger that he returned, driving for A.J. Foyt, and finished 17th in a 24-car field. He ended up eight laps down as he spent the day in and out of the pits.

"I remember that, too. We had problems all day."

Two years ago, however, driving for Andretti Autosport, he was all the way up to fifth.

Last year, with Andretti, he finished seventh.

He's still beating himself up for that last one.

"I really have unfinished business in Edmonton.

"Last year I had the car. I was coming through the field and trying to pass for second when I made an over-aggressive move. I was given a drive-though penalty. I don't dispute it at all."

RHR says he can't wait to get here in his new role as the series leader and experience the Edmonton Indy from the rare air up there for the first time in his life.

"Edmonton fans are so passionate. Most of the drivers love coming to the Canadian races. It's a great place to race and the show this year is going to be wild.

"These new cars this year put on a show. And the new cars have leveled out the playing field a little bit.

"Penske and Ganassi were head and shoulders above everybody else."

For his own part, RHR says being part of Michael Andretti's team for three years is also a big factor.

"They believe in me and I believe in them.

"This is just so much fun. It's awesome. This is just such a pleasure. I still can't believe, three races in a row. Now I'm thinking we have to do it again in Edmonton.

"One thing I can tell you, if I don't make a stupid mistake there like I did last year and if we finish the season like we did last year, we win the series."

This could be huge for IndyCar. The last time an America won an IndyCar series was Sam Hornish Jr. in the IRL in 2006 and Jimmy Vasser in ChampCar/CART back in 1996. Canada's Paul Tracy won in 2002.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos