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Hunter-Reay: Daly exit shows “brutal” side of IndyCar

Ryan Hunter-Reay says replacing Conor Daly mid-season at Ed Carpenter’s IndyCar team shows that “this sport is brutal” but hopes the ousted fan favourite can find another ride soon.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, pit stop competition

Photo by: Chris duMond / Motorsport Images

Hunter-Reay, 42, will drive the #20 ECR-Chevrolet entry in place of Daly, who lost his ride after the first seven races of 2023 as the team sought a change of direction and improved results.

Hunter-Reay’s only IndyCar start in the past two seasons was at May’s Indianapolis 500, where he finished 11th in a one-off for Dreyer and Reinbold.

But he has remained in the paddock as an advisor to the Juncos Hollinger Racing squad and was on-call to replace Alex Palou at Chip Ganassi Racing if the legal battle over his services with McLaren had escalated last year.

The 2012 series champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner will make his full-time return with ECR from Road America this weekend.

“Bottom line is [it’s a] tough situation, especially mid-season, and I feel for Conor,” said Hunter-Reay. “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.

“This sport is brutal. My career has been a journey. I have been on every different end of it, whether it's at Indy being bumped in, bumped out, on the front row [or] winning the race.

“The whole thing has just been a journey from team to team to team, like I said, having been on either side of it.”

Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet qualification photo

Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet qualification photo

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Hunter-Reay confirmed that he’s yet to speak to Daly, who had driven for Carpenter’s team for the past four years, and says his own experience of being dropped has taught him to allow for some healing time.

“That stuff is personal,” he said when asked about the awkwardness of the scenario where he replaces a friend. “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. Conor is a friend. 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.”

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Speaking from his own experience, like losing his Andretti Autosport drive to Romain Grosjean for 2022 and being cut from the Rocketsports Champ Car squad towards the end of the 2005 season, Hunter-Reay said Daly needs to keep believing in his driving ability and potential.

“I think the big thing is you just have to keep after it,” he added. “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.

“He's a scrapper, as am I, and he certainly is a part of IndyCar.”

Daly will instead race in the Nitrocross opener in Oklahoma this weekend, in a Dreyer and Reinbold-run car.

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