Andretti Autosport’s contract with both Hunter-Reay and DHL was up for renewal at season’s end, and with the 2020/21 ‘silly season’ proving to be one of considerable upheaval, inevitable speculation had circled around the future of one of IndyCar’s long-standing and most prominent driver/team/sponsor combinations.
It’s understood, for instance, that Ryan Hunter-Reay was high on the list of candidates at Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet to replace Oliver Askew – a seat now taken by Felix Rosenqvist. In addition, with Marco Andretti’s #98 entry failing to earn IndyCar’s Leader Circle support (the $1m granted by the series to each of the top 22 full-time entries in the championship) for 2021, there was speculation that Andretti Autosport might have to cut back to four cars next season.
While that speculation hasn’t completely disappeared, team owner and CEO Michael Andretti told Motorsport.com before St. Petersburg that he aimed to continue running five cars and now another senior source within the team has (without wishing to be named) told us that the announcement of a new deal with both Hunter-Reay and DHL is imminent.
There were rumors that it would be only a one-year extension, but our informant declined to confirm or deny that fact. What is understood is that Michael Andretti wishes Hunter-Reay to remain part of the team beyond 2021.
Hunter-Reay joined Andretti Autosport back in 2010 and won the Grand Prix of Long Beach just four races later. The following year, now with DHL on board, Hunter-Reay won the race at Loudon, and in 2012 he scored four wins on his way to the IndyCar Series championship.
Two more wins followed in 2013, while three victories in ’14 included a brilliant Indianapolis 500 triumph following a tense duel with Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Helio Castroneves.
Success since then has been more sporadic, fluctuating according to the overall competitiveness of the team – and the vagaries of luck – but Hunter-Reay remains Andretti Autosport’s most recent IndyCar champion, and 15 of his 18 Indy car victories have been earned with Michael Andretti’s squad.
Once Hunter-Reay is confirmed alongside Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta for 2021, that leaves two seats open at AA – although Marco Andretti is expected to return in 2021 driving the car in which he has an ownership stake.
Should James Hinchcliffe find the required funding for car #26 – which he took over from Zach Veach just before October’s Harvest Grand Prix – Michael Andretti has stated that he’s keen for the Canadian star to return.