Gotta Feel For Ryan

You know, Ryan Hunter-Reay probably thought he was set for this season once he landed that gig with IZOD over the fall and winter of 08/09. He must had figured he'd be in the Rahal Letterman Racing car, with Ethanol and IZOD sponsoring the car. He would contend for wins on most courses again, pushing the RLR car to the top of the grid.

He was happy at RLR, and RLR was happy with him. Then it all started to unravel.

All of a sudden with the worsening economic condition, RLR loses Ethanol sponsorship, and with the sudden loss, are without a major sponsor for 2009. After looking around, making efforts to sign a new primary sponsor for the car, they are unable to find the funds nessicary to run the full season. Instead of taking lesser funds to run around near the back of the pack, Rahal decides to pull his team for 2009 and tells Ryan to look for another ride.

Right about at this moment, I'm thinking something along the lines of "&$%#" went through RHR's head.

A race winner from 2008 at Watkins Glen, an American, an awesome driver, and the face of the biggest marketing promotion the IRL has ever seen, he was out of a ride for 2009. So, what now?

Tony George, realizing the need to have RHR in the series for 2009, if for only the IZOD campaign, began making some phone calls. All of a sudden, rumors of RHR to HVM Racing start up, and things get serious when HVM announces they are putting Ryan in a car at a Sebring test. Just as that happens, Dale Coyne also jumps into the mix and tries to land RHR for the '09 season. However, when the deadline comes to put a deal together, and either HVM or DCR were unable to do so, Tony George snapped him up and put him in the number 21 car at Vision Racing.

Well, this is a positive for Ryan, as Vision is probably ranked higher then HVM and DCR for most drivers. He is getting a ride in a decent squad with a teammate and some real money behind him. Not only is Ryan happy, but IRL fans are pleased with the inclusion of RHR in the 2009 ICS.

So a week before the season, Ryan is confirmed, and gets fitted for a seat at Vision. All of a sudden, St. Petersburg is upon us, and Mr. Hunter-Reay puts in a performance no one, including himself, expected. Ryan finishes runner up to Ryan Briscoe during his first week in the Vision car, and all of a sudden, expectations for 2009 sky rocket. Ryan Hunter-Reay, whether realistically or not, is not considered a major player for the 2009 championship, and fans of the Indycar Series are thrilled with his result.

But ever since, Ryan has been plagued by less then expected results. A string of races out of the top ten has put Ryan in tenth place, 59 points back of points leader Scott Dixon. A terrible month of May and a rough race at Kansas has put Ryan behind the 8-ball for the '09 season. A promising start has turned into a dissapointing streak of races, and it has continued with another difficult qualifying performance at Texas, where he struggled to out pace Jacques Lazier in the Team 3G machine.

Whether it is the car, the engineering team put around him, or perhaps difficult communication amongst the team, RHR is not where he should be right now. He has to be wondering how he got to this point, when over the winter, he and RLR were considered the next team to jump into the Big 3/4 status.

Unless things change for the better, RHR will be stuck in the mid-to-back of the pack for the rest of '09. And that isn't where this great, young American deserves to be right now.


Brian said...

Rahal and Letterman should've fielded Ryan with their own money and Izod's if the team had no savings. As you said, "He was happy at RLR, and RLR was happy with him." He was a recent winner, not a loser like Carpenter, Mutoh and Duno. RLR was typically very good at pitstops, and its driver would've been able to "contend for wins on most courses again, pushing the RLR car to the top of the grid."
I was puzzled by "Vision is probably ranked higher then HVM and DCR for most drivers." I would think that the teams are equally lame. But look at how DCR has been able to help the also-tall Justin Wilson.
"He is getting a ride in a decent squad with a teammate..." I think that the squad which Tony George strarted just to fill the field sucks wind, and the teammate is a slow-pedaling joke - a driver, not a racer, whose dad owns the team.
In short, Rahal and Letterman screwed-over Ryan rather than backing him and reaping some prize money this season. Pitiful...

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