Hunter-Reay joins the team in place of Conor Daly at ECR, after Daly and team split after the Detroit Grand Prix.
The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner was in the Florida Keys with his family when the team's eponymous team owner called. Hunter-Reay took some time with his wife to discuss the situation before making the decision to race the car for Carpenter at Road America.
It wasn't an easy spot for Hunter-Reay. His 2007 debut in the IndyCar Series was as a replacement for Jeff Simmons at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and replacing a driver that is a friend isn't something that weighs easily on the mind.
“It's a tough situation on all involved,” Hunter-Reay said. “It's always tough making big changes mid-season sometimes and Ed [Carpenter] was in the tough spot and wanted to get a direction for the team for next year. I understand that, got a lot of respect for Conor [Daly], I'm definitely a fan of his and hope he's back here. But yeah, it's a brutal sport.”
The last time the 2012 IndyCar champion drove an Indy car on a road course was in October, 2021 at Barber Motorsports Park in a test with ECR, and many of the teams' personnel are familiar to Hunter-Reay. That made the decision a little bit easier.
Hunter-Reay has a long standing with Matt Barnes, chief engineer on Rinus VeeKay's #21 Chevrolet. Hunter-Reay was with Barnes at Rocketsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and at Andretti Autosport, which played into the decision-making process.
“My crew chief here is my crew chief from Andretti as well, so it's about people,” Hunter-Reay said. “And when you put those pieces together, that made the decision quite a bit easier. And really it just came down to Ed [Carpenter] and our relationship.”
Carpenter and Hunter-Reay were teammates at Vision Racing in the first half of 2009 before leaving after Texas to go to A.J. Foyt Racing to fill in for an injured Vitor Meira.
Road America was an ideal place for Hunter-Reay to fill in for the team as well, given his three fourth-place finishes and a runner up to Josef Newgarden in 2018, but it's not just about Road America.
Hunter-Reay plans on doing the following IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in early July.
“I have to look at [the situation] from the races following, too, and I want to do what's right for the team,” Hunter-Reay said.
“That's the thing, right? It's a matter of doing what's right for the group. It doesn't matter what I think about where I want to go have fun behind the wheel, it's a matter of, can we take this on? Can I have an impact? And I'm putting my best foot forward on that.”