NEWTON — With three of his 18 career IndyCar victories coming at Iowa Speedway, Ryan Hunter-Reay already knows the route to victory lane when the racing series returns for back-to-back night races on July 17 and 18 with an ARCA stock car feature wedged in between.
“I love short ovals,” Hunter-Reay said, trying to explain his success in Iowa. “Of my career victories, three are at Iowa, three are at Milwaukee and one was at New Hampshire and all of those are short ovals. I’ve always had a natural fit with them for some reason, although I’m not sure why. They are like a mix between a road course and an oval because of how you have to wheel the car. It’s very aggressive instead of a finesse game.”
Hunter-Reay started racing when he was 12, which he admits “is late now” with drivers getting into carting closer to 5 or 6 years of age.
“The earlier they start, the higher likelihood (drivers) can start to get overwhelmed and burned out of it over time,” Hunter-Reay said. “You just have to be careful how much you do it.”
That’s why he and his wife Beccy let their three boys, ages 7, 5 and 3, drive go-karts but not race them yet.
Hunter-Reay is also a little different from many drivers in that he is tall. Most drivers are 5-foot-10 or shorter while Hunter-Rey is 6-2.
“You’re obviously in a tighter space,” Hunter-Reay said, “but you learn how to work around that over the years. The one thing is your center of gravity is higher which can allow for more rolls.”
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To stay ready for the season, Hunter-Reay has been keeping up with cardio while doing some race simulations.
“I think for non-drivers, they don’t realize how physical it is,” Hunter-Reay said. “In the car our heartbeats get up to 180-190 beats per minute and the G-forces reach 5G with races lasting for a couple hours. It’s very strenuous in that way. You can pick up a football or golf club and understand how hard it is, but you can’t just jump in a racecar and go 230 mph and that’s why most people don’t understand the challenge of it.”
Luckily for fans, they can return to the track to watch the drivers they love with great site lines from the 7/8 oval.
“For fans to attend it’s easier because tracks have so much space for people to spread out,” Hunter-Reay said. “At Indianapolis Motor Speedway it’s a 2 1/2-mile track with golf inside and it’s just a massive facility which gives us the luxury of spreading people out.”
Hunter Reay appreciates their return.
“The fans make our sport, plain and simple,” he said. “We are all trying to navigate this together and we have a situation where we can televise our races in the meantime and get our sport in the fans viewing. At Iowa we will have fans and I trust that the organizers are going to be smart about it and the fans can have a good state of mind, if they do attend, that things are going to be done in the right way.”
The 2012 Indy 500 Champion is just doing what he can to get through this peculiar race season.
“We’re trying to make lemonade out of lemons,” Hunter-Reay said. “We are in a position to get our sport in front of some new eyes and it’s a great opportunity.”
One thing that remains the same?
“It’s always about winning and putting yourself in a position to win,” Hunter-Reay said. “That’s where it all starts with us and that’s what we focus on each week.”