Winless Hunter-Reay has options outside Andretti for 2022

·3 min read

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ryan Hunter-Reay had to leave his favorite Miami Dolphins jersey behind and try on a new one from the Tennessee Titans once his buddy Ryan Tannehill was traded.

Maybe Hunter-Reay can ask the Titans quarterback about the benefits of switching teams when they catch up this weekend at the inaugural IndyCar Music City Grand Prix run over the bridge and through the streets of Nashville.

Tannehill was the 2019 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year in his first season with the Titans, and Hunter-Reay might have to stage a rebound of his own with a new team in 2022 if he can’t turn around a winless season in the final year of his deal with Andretti Autosport.

His contract is up.

But the 2012 IndyCar champ and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner insisted he’s not done racing and has options for his future that don’t necessarily include a 13th season driving for Michael Andretti.

“Sometimes you need to shake it up. Sometimes there needs to be change,” Hunter-Reay said Wednesday. “I agree with that. Michael said that, as well. The team has to find its stride. We’ll see what that entails. I’ve had a great time there with them and, we’ll see. Maybe it continues, maybe it doesn’t.”

Hunter-Reay is 40 and IndyCar has been ruled by a youth movement this season. Among his Andretti Autosport teammates, Colton Herta is 21 and Alex Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner, is still only 29. James Hinchcliffe is 34.

Hunter-Reay has struggled from the opening lap of the season, when he was collected in a first-lap crash and IndyCar’s cockpit-protecting aeroscreen likely saved his life when it deflected a tire away from his head. He has yet to score a podium finish and has one top 10 all season. He finished 24th in IndyCar’s last race at Mid-Ohio.

His struggles even bled into Indy where a traditionally strong finisher (the 2014 win and three straight top-10s from 2018-2020) was only 22nd.

Hunter-Reay, who only announced in January that he was back for a 12th season at Andretti with longtime sponsor DHL, knew the pressure was on to perform with just a one-year deal. He hasn’t won an IndyCar race since the 2018 season finale at Sonoma Raceway — 41 races and counting.

So where could he go?

If Andretti is out of the picture — former Formula One driver Romain Grosjean could nab a seat there — Hunter-Reay could find a home in the second car for Meyer Shank Racing. MSR will not have Jack Harvey back next season and has the reigning Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves onboard for a full-season ride. Another landing spot could be Arrow McLaren SP if it adds a third car.

“I think that I’ll be in an IndyCar for sure, at some point,” Hunter-Reay said. “Again, I don’t know to what extent that is or what options there are. We’re working on those right now. They’re in discussions. They’re constantly moving. Things are moving and shaking, and, yeah, we’ll see. It depends on how enticing and attractive one versus the other may be. I’ve got to make some decisions on that side and also have to continue the communication on all fronts.”

He’ll try for the first win in the No. 28 Honda on Sunday with Tannehill in the house.

“I’m doing everything I can to convert him over to a Titans fan,” Tannehill said after Titans practice.

Hunter-Reay, a Florida resident, has had to catch up on the Titans to keep track of Tannehill as he helped lead the team last season to the AFC South title.

“I thought they were really going to make a run for it,” Hunter-Reay said. “They got really close. Hopefully they can do it this year.”

He may as well be talking about his own 2021 season.

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