Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can Hunter-Reay Turn It Around?

Take a look at the page currently detailing the overall points standings for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Scroll down, past rookie James Hinchcliffe in P16. Scroll down past Justin Wilson, sitting in P17, Simona hanging on to P18, and another rookie in Charlie Kimball at P19. And yes, scroll down past the crash-prone EJ Viso sitting in P20. That's where you'll find Ryan-Hunter Reay these days, squarely in P21, and only a few points ahead of rookies Sebastian Saavedra, Ana Beatriz, and James Jakes.

It's hard to imagine the first part of season going any poorer than it has for Hunter-Reay. After winning at Long Beach last year and securing a return to Andretti Autosport this year, things simply have not gone well. Consider the following:

-At St. Pete, after looking very fast in practice and qualifying, his chances were demolished when he was part of the infamous first-lap pileup. He would return to the race later in time enough to finish P21.

-Again looked fast at Barber, but was penalized for taking out Ryan Briscoe. He finished P14.

-Looking to repeat his victory at Long Beach, he was running up front with only a few laps to go when he suffered a serious mechanical failure, relegating him to P23.

-Started in the front row at Sao Paulo, only to finish 5 laps down in a messy, accident-filled race.

-At Indy, he was left out in the cold as he was bumped from the field with no time to re-qualify. Jumped into the #41 of Foyt Racing, he managed only a weak 23rd place, some three laps down.

And then, of course, this past week, there was first-lap crash at Milwaukee. Honestly, aside from managing a Top 10 in the Texas race, it's been a nightmare season for the American driver.

Is all hope lost for RHR? I don't think so. Consider this: he's coming into a stretch of races where he performed very well last year. 2010 Iowa was an Top 10. Toronto was a podium. Edmonton was P5, Mid-Ohio another Top 10. And though the breaks haven't gone his way, this is still one of the best road-course drivers in the field. You can't expect things to go that badly all season for RHR; sooner rather than later, he'll have his breakout. A win would do a lot to erase some of the bad memories (and don't think he can't pull it off at a place like Toronto or Edmonton). He's too good a driver for this to last. Let's just hope it's soon.

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