The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is the “Indy 500 of street circuits” for Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Many great things have happened there before for the 2010 Verizon IndyCar Series race winner and now he’s adding another achievement. Not only will Hunter-Reay be driving the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport in the April 17 Verizon IndyCar series main event, but he’ll be racing the day before in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Visit Florida Racing's Daytona Prototype Corvette.
“It’s a unique opportunity to drive for two great teams,” said the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. “I’ve done it before in the past with A.J. Foyt and Level 5 (in 2009 at Homestead-Miami Speedway). Certainly I have (Andretti Autosport owner) Michael Andretti to thank. He looked at it from a driver’s viewpoint first and team owner’s second.”
Twenty-one Indy cars are entered for the 80-lap Verizon IndyCar Series race. To view the entry list, click here.
Hunter-Reay has already driven in a pair of endurance races this season in the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette, finishing third at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and fifth at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. He’s optimistic about the upcoming weekend.
“We know what we need to do heading into Long Beach and hopefully that’ll be the race where we break through,” he said.
He explained that while “INDYCAR is my prime objective and main focus, I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it would detract from either.”
The 35-year-old added that jumping in and out of two very different cars is a test, not to mention the challenge of staying off the walls that could end the weekend for either car very quickly.
“The two driving styles are extremely different,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s a track I love. The hardest point, the prime objective, is to get that last half-second, two-tenths, out of the car; that’s what most difficult.”
Even though he hasn’t finished better than 13th in his last three Verizon IndyCar Series races at Long Beach, Hunter-Reay still holds the event dear for other reasons.
“Long Beach is very special to me,” he said. “I met my wife (Beccy) there, we got engaged there and won that race (in 2010). It really solidified and started my career at Andretti Autosport and now I’m in my seventh year with the team.
“The winner’s list is full of legends and I’m honored to be on there.”
In addition to his 2010 win, Hunter-Reay has three other top-10 finishes in 10 starts on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit. After two races this season, he sits fourth in the standings, 27 points in arrears of leader Simon Pagenaud.
While he finished third in the season opener on another street course for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he knows there’s still much work to do deciphering the intricacies of the 2016 Honda aerodynamic bodywork kit.
The biggest task will be “maximizing our potential on the Indy car side,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s a new package for us. Long Beach is different from St. Pete with different setups. We’re learning as we go.”
Practice for the 42nd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins April 15, with qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award on April 16. The race on April 17 airs on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 4 p.m. ET.