Ryan Hunter-Reay will return to the IndyCar Series as Conor Daly's replacement at Ed Carpenter Racing, the team announced Thursday.
Daly was let go a day earlier in what team owner Carpenter called one of the most difficult decisions of his tenure running the organization. He cited performance issues for the split with Daly, who was ranked 20th in the standings with a season-best finish of eighth in the Indianapolis 500.
Hunter-Reay was out of IndyCar last season but returned this year for the Indy 500 and finished 11th. He will make his debut in the No. 20 Chevrolet next weekend at Road America.
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“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed. He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help,” Hunter-Reay said. “Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in (sponsor) Bitnile.com.”
Bitnile, by the way, was a sponsor that Daly brought to the team ahead of the 2022 season that funded his full-time ride.
Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, had tested for ECR at the end of 2021 when Carpenter was unsure if Daly would find the funding to continue with the team. Hunter-Reay had lost his longtime ride at Andretti Autosport and was seeking opportunities to stay in the series.
The former Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion is 42 years old, and will take over the car for the remainder of the season.
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“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world,” Hunter-Reay said. “Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber.
“However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy,” Hunter-Reay continued, “we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”
Hunter-Reay will be teamed with Rinus VeeKay, and Carpenter, who only runs on the ovals. He has 18 career IndyCar wins, including the 2014 Indy 500 with Andretti.
“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader,” Carpenter said. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test.
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“I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”
Todd Ault, executive chairman of BitNile.com, supported the driver change even though he had struck his sponsorship deal with Daly and not ECR directly.
“It is great for Bitnile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an IndyCar Series champion,” Ault said. “I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”