Ryan Hunter-Reay is one of the most decorated American racers, with Indy car wins under INDYCAR, CART and Champ Car sanction and sports car wins in both Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series.
He’ll try to add another couple victories this weekend in Saudi Arabia.
Hunter-Reay is one four drivers with Verizon IndyCar Series ties participating in the annual Race of Champions. This year’s event will be held on a temporary circuit constructed at Riyadh’s King Fahad International Stadium.
Race of Champions has become an annual appearance for Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, who has raced in the last four ROC events drawing international drivers from multiple racing disciplines.
The Andretti Autosport star will be paired with reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and ROC newcomer Josef Newgarden in tonight’s ROC Nations Cup, which pits the field of drivers into 11 teams battling for national pride.
“This will be my fifth year participating in Race of Champions, and I’m looking forward to representing INDYCAR in Riyadh this weekend, racing with Josef as my teammate on the U.S. team,” Hunter-Reay said. “Every year, the event just gets better and better. We have a blast trying out the different cars, but regardless of how much fun we are having, the competition is pretty serious.”
For Newgarden, competing in the Race of Champions’ variety of vehicles on an unknown parallel track will be a new experience, but one he jumped at the chance to do. He’ll also be racing alongside Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, the latter claiming the Race of Champions individual title at Miami’s Marlins Park in 2017.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the Race of Champions,” said Newgarden, who will also participate in a Rallycross on Ice event in Norway later this month. “This isn’t as pressured as an Indy car race but we’re all racing drivers, so we get very competitive and all these champions want to beat each other.
“Experience counts here, knowing what to expect from these cars. But rookies end up doing well here, too, because they don’t come in with high expectations. The key is to be able to react quickly to all the different cars and to go backwards and forwards between different driving styles. Whoever’s best at that will win.”
Both Team USA (Newgarden and Hunter-Reay) and Team Latin America (Castroneves and Montoya) were drawn into Pool A for the ROC Nations Cup, which means Hunter-Reay will face familiar foes throughout the two-day all-star racing event.
For Saturday’s Race of Champions individual competition, the three Indianapolis 500 winners have been drawn together in the same group along with the winner of a race between Team Mexico drivers Memo Rojas and Abraham Calderon.
Newgarden was drawn into Group D with double FIA World Rallycross champion Petter Solberg (Norway), WRC2 rally winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi and the winner of ROC Factor Middle East and ROC Factor Saudi Arabia.
“I’m so excited to return to the Race of Champions,” said Castroneves, who competed as part of Team Brazil last year in his hometown of Miami. “It’s a really unique event and it’s with a great group of other talented racers. It’s exciting to compete against some of my Team Penske teammates including Josef Newgarden and Juan Pablo Montoya.”