Hunter-Reay expects Daly to “be back soon in the INDYCAR Series where he belongs”

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The former Indycar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has returned to the grid following his one-off 500 run, signing for Ed Carpenter Racing until the end of the season.

Ahead of the Road America round, “Captain America” discussed with Pit Debrief and other selected media outlets the expectations and the difficulties he will have to tackle in order to help improve his new team’s performance:

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Obviously this is a tough situation. A lot has happened in a short amount of time. There’s just a whole lot to take in. It’s so multifaceted. There’s so many variables here at play.”

The news of Hunter-Reay’s signing broke off the day after Ed Carpenter had announced the “mutually agreed” separation with former driver of the car no. 20 Conor Daly, and the American driver wished all the best for his colleague:

“Bottom line is tough situation, especially mid-season. I feel for Conor. I’ve been on either end of that deal, and in some cases numerous times. Big fan of his, and hopefully he’ll be back in the INDYCAR Series soon where he belongs no doubt.”

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | James Black

Daly holds the best 2023 result for the team so far, a P8 in the 500, but in four out of the other six rounds his younger teammate Rinus Veekay finished ahead of him.

Hunter-Reay believes that he will definitely manage to return on the grid considering his talent, but that his signing might bring a fresh approach to racing which might aid in ECR’s quest for better results:

“I’m a big fan of Conor. I’ve been on either side of this with the Rocketsports situation, then with the Rahal situation in 2007 coming in, so I have an immense amount of respect for either side of it.

“This is a unique scenario where myself, coming in at this point, it gives potentially the team and myself an opportunity to come at it from a fresh perspective, looking at things a little bit differently than how they have been for the last two or three years straight. Rinus VeeKay and Conor are great drivers, but sometimes a team, especially in a series as competitive as INDYCAR, you just need to mix things up a little bit, look at things in new ways, and it’s just the way the business rolls.”

The former Andretti driver, who himself has struggled to secure a full time ride multiple times in his career, highlighted the importance of always believing in yourself and in your own talent as an advice he would give to the departing Daly:

“He’s a scrapper, as am I, and he certainly is a part of INDYCAR. So I certainly hope that he’s back at some point. Hopefully soon. It doesn’t make the situation any easier for him. I’ve been through all of it. I’ve been replaced at one point, and then I didn’t drive for almost a year and a half back in 2005.

“From the time I got back in at the end of 2005 to the middle of 2007 — actually it was longer than that when I jumped in at Rahal replacing Jeff Simmons.

Yeah, I think the big thing is you just have to keep after it. This is for every driver, even the young drivers out there.

“You’re one weekend away from the next opportunity, and just I think keeping the confidence in yourself and being just tenacious and persistent has been what I’ve always done, and I have no doubt he will, as well. We’re definitely going to miss him at the moment, but I hope he’s back, and I have every reason to believe he will be.”

Asked if he had reached out and how to handle such an intricate situation as replacing an underperforming driver who is also a friend, Hunter-Reay insisted on the importance of keeping some situations personal, recalling the way he had felt when a similar happening had seen him missing out on a seat:

“Well, that stuff is personal. I talked to one of our good friends about it, too. I wanted to call Conor about it. But there’s an area, too, where you just need to cool off. I remember right after my situation happened, it’s not necessarily the scenario I would have liked to happen right after.

“Yeah, I’ll approach that in the right way. Like I said earlier, Conor is a friend. Honestly, I think he’s a great driver and I honestly think he’ll be back at some point, and I just hope that that is soon. This sport is brutal.”