By JENNA FRYER, Associated Press
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — IndyCar championship contender Ryan Hunter-Reay said he expected to speak to team owner Michael Andretti on Thursday about his contract amid reports that he is being courted by Penske Racing.
Hunter-Reay is in the final year of his contract with Andretti Autosport, where he's driven the last three seasons. It is his longest tenure with one team, and he has cited that continuity as a contributor to the career season he's had.
He's chosen to focus only on the championship race with Will Power — he goes into Saturday night's finale trailing him by 17 points — and not his contract situation or the speculation that Penske wants him.
"For sure it's there and it's part of planning anyone's future," he said. "But the championship is what I'm focused on and I think we'll have an opportunity to really go over everything soon. I'm talking to Michael about it, and I really don't have a timeline for when something could be done."
Hunter-Reay is having the best season of his six years in IndyCar. It's the first time the 31-year-old American has been in the championship hunt, and his four victories are an IndyCar best this year.
He had never before won multiple races in a season, which includes three years in CART. He spent 2006 out of racing, unable to land a ride, and was picked up by Bobby Rahal for the final six races of the 2007 season.
Hunter-Reay has said that before Rahal called, he was at the point of his career where he had to decide if he should give up on his racing career. He ran the 2008 season for Rahal, but a sponsor loss forced him to open the next year driving for Tony George before moving to A.J. Foyt for the final 11 races of the year.
He was signed by Andretti the next season, and credits the team owner for taking a chance on him and giving him the stability he had never had.
"This is where I've always wanted to be, to have an opportunity to race for a championship with a capable team, that's what I am doing right now," he said. "I know that at Andretti I have a great team, and there's such support there, it really is a great group of people. They believed in me from day one."
So is he staying with Andretti?
"We have to sort it all out, and we will, for sure," he smiled. "To tell you the honest truth, I haven't had time to sort this all out."
Chances to drive for Roger Penske, who is considered to be the gold standard in open-wheel racing, are rare and Hunter-Reay knows there are people out there who believe a chance to join that organization is an opportunity no driver can turn down.
But he believes in loyalty, and things are far more complex than anyone understands.
"There is always more to the situation than is what's on the surface," he said. "People don't understand the inner workings of these deals and how many different legs there are to them. They are very complex deals and there's a lot in the picture and a lot that goes into it, so that's all I can say to those folks.
"But I know it's a great problem to have. I am flattered by the fact that interest is there from numerous teams and that I've got options and opportunities."
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