Hunter-Reay wasting no time finding his happy place with DRR

By: Marshall Pruett |

After spending a year away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ryan Hunter-Reay didn’t know what to expect from his new team.

The 2012 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner’s last experience at IMS was with the giant Andretti Autosport program that delivered his greatest achievements in the series, and in moving to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, the smallest operation in IndyCar, there were questions as to how the Indy-only crew would fare against the full-time squads.

The answers were all positive for Hunter-Reay, who ended the opening day of the Indy Open Test in 14th place with the No. 23 Chevy, and his teammate Stefan Wilson, also new to DRR with the co-entry forged with Cusick Motorsports, showed the team owned by Dennis Reinbold is one to watch after securing sixth on the speed chart in the No. 24 Chevy.

“So many unknowns,” Hunter-Reay told RACER. “I’d been with the same organization, same program for 12 years straight and it was my first day on the job with a new program. Teaming up with Stef [Wilson] again; we’ve been teammates in the past, it’s great. It’s great to get back on track. But it’s funny, my first time behind the wheel in a different car than I had been used to, and it’s all the little things – it’s the steering wheel; it’s everything in the cockpit, you’re one millimeter different and it feels like it’s several inches. So we did a lot of getting all those things sorted. I was really happy with that and feel the car was good. It was it was predictable. It was really fun.”

Wilson went through a similar process of hoping to find his new car was ready to go fast, and also enjoyed spending time with Hunter-Reay.

“There’s that anticipation, right?” Wilson said. “The cars ran really well last year, and the Dreyer & Reinbold team does such a good job on the cars and they felt like they made some gains over the winter. And you’re sort of waiting to see how does that compare, performance wise, to the cars I’ve driven in the past. How does it compare to the Andretti cars? But you never know until you get out there.

“Ryan’s someone I look up to and respect what he does and how he approaches things. So I’m looking to be a sponge and learn as much as possible from this guy.”

Like most drivers in the hot and windy afternoon session, Hunter-Reay sampled the higher downforce settings IndyCar has made available, and like the others, the heavy winds made it challenging to get a clear picture on if and how the downforce helped.

“I went up on downforce at the end to get into some messy traffic,” he said. “And I had more bottom-side downforce than topside to what we’ve had in the past. [Team Penske’s] Josef [Newgarden] and I were talking about it. It’s tough to really pass judgment on it right now, because of just how inconsistent those conditions were. And it was hot today, right? Hot when it comes to surface track surface. And you had the wind. So at times I was super-confident then, five minutes later, and then you wonder why you just had a big moment…”

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