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Introducing Ryan Hunter-Reay, IndyCar driver and our new blogger

Auto RacingOpen-Wheel RacingAndretti AutosportMichael AndrettiGrand Prix of BaltimoreIndyCar Series

Welcome to my first blog for The Baltimore Sun. I’ll be writing regularly leading up to the Grand Prix of Baltimore in September, and I’m excited to be able to share my IndyCar experiences with you.

First, a quick introduction. I’m Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Andretti Autosport Chevrolet/Dallara. I’m from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and I’m a down-to-earth guy who grew up dreaming about IndyCar racing.

I’ve idolized the American heroes of open-wheel racing since I was a kid. Guys like Michael Andretti, Rick Mears and Bobby Rahal were my heroes. Now Michael is my team owner, I drove for Bobby for two years, and I see Rick at every race. Racing is my passion in life, and I’m fortunate to be living the American dream.

We’ve had a great start to the season – the best of my career and one of the best for Andretti Autosport. I’m currently seventh in the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers’ standings heading into today’s Milwaukee IndyFest at The Milwaukee Mile. (Update: Hunter-Reay qualified third for today's race behind Dario Franchitti and Justin Wilson).

As a team, Andretti Autosport is back to its old ways, competing for race wins and challenging for the championship. As a team, we took three of the first four starting positions for the Indianapolis 500 last month, so we’re very happy with the competitive nature of our cars and drivers.

As you’ve probably noticed, IndyCar racing has new cars and engines this year, and the result has been pretty impressive. To start off the season, I was one of the drivers who had a chance to develop the Chevy twin turbo engine and the Dallara DW12 chassis. We went into the season strong right out of the gate.

At Indy we fought for the pole position until the final minutes of qualifying, but we missed the top spot by a mere 0.2 mph, putting us on the front row for the biggest race in the world. It was a memorable experience for me. The race itself was challenging, but we had some issues with turbocharger boost at the beginning of the race, making starts and restarts tricky. Still, we fought back into the top three but ultimately had a CV joint failure that took us out of the race.

These things happen when you’re pushing race cars to the absolute limit. Mechanical failures are part of the sport. You have to pick up and carry on.

We also had mechanical trouble in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and in last week’s Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway, but we’re confident we can turn it around in Milwaukee.

With the new aero package we used at Texas, I had a good time early in the race. In fact, I passed five cars on the first lap, so I was enjoying the changes. However, slowly but surely we were losing power. A fuel injector was failing, so eventually we lost a cylinder and had to pull out of the race.

I enjoyed the changes to the cars at Texas. The downforce was reduced, which made the cars more difficult to drive. Instead of just holding the throttle down all the way around the track, we had to lift in the corners. It prevented us from racing inches apart in huge packs of cars, and it put control back in the drivers’ hands.

Any time you can make a big oval like Texas more about driving and setup, it’s a positive development. It was cool. I’d like to have seen what kind of chance we would have had if we hadn’t had mechanical trouble, but it was definitely an improvement.

Now we’re preparing for Milwaukee, which is a special place for me. It’s the site of one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had. In 2004, we led every lap and set a record while driving to victory there. I’m very proud of that accomplishment, mostly because I know how difficult Milwaukee is to get just right. That’s why The Mile is so highly respected by drivers.

It’s also got a lot of history, and it’s a part of IndyCar lore. It’s older than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, even, and we recently celebrated a centennial there. You can feel the past at Milwaukee. It’s down-to-business, a gritty short oval that can make for the longest day in racing and complete chaos in the car or absolute bliss.

I’d love to get a win for Andretti Autosport. They’ve always had good cars at Milwaukee. They gave me a great car at Milwaukee last year and following our recent successful test at The Mile we should be right up at the front once again. We’re in need of a solid result this weekend and I’m confident we can get the job done.

On top of that, Andretti Sports Marketing is promoting the race this weekend, so we have added incentive to win. If we get a large turnout for this race, it could solidify the race for years to come. Live coverage begins Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on ABC, so I hope you have a chance to tune in.

We hope we’ll be able to pick up some momentum to carry us to the streets of Baltimore.

I’ll be back soon to tell you all about it. Thanks for joining me.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Auto RacingOpen-Wheel RacingAndretti AutosportMichael AndrettiGrand Prix of BaltimoreIndyCar Series
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