Life In The Fast Lane
Ryan Hunter Reay may be the reigning Indy 500 Champion, but Ryan Hunter-Reay has only one thing on his mind at the moment – not waking toddler son ryden from the ever-important afternoon nap.
"Sorry i'm whispering," he says, "the baby is sleeping." This level of normalcy from the Fort Lauderdale native is exactly what makes him so endearing to his legions of fans. But life for Hunter-Reay will soon be anything but normal.
"It's amazing how much one race can change your life," says Hunter-Reay.
His new schedule involves daily sponsor appearances, team commitments, and media obligations. Last month, his wife Beccy and he attended the ESPY awards (where Hunter-Reay won Best Driver) and hobnobbed with the top athletes in the world. "All those guys have one thing in common – they all really like fast cars. When they get to talking to me it's a pretty interesting conversation," he says.
Hunter-Reay even landed a spot on "The David Letterman Show," which was a reunion of sorts as Letterman was part owner of Hunter-Reay's first team. "It was really cool," he says of the Letterman experience, "I know how much he loved that race, you could see it in his eyes."
PRESSURE AT THE TOP
But parties and fame are certainly not what dominate Hunter-Reay's life, rather, his focus is on hard work and responsibility.
"It's a pretty intense and pressure- packed career," he says. He feels the demands of carrying a whole team on his back saying, "There is a lot of corporate money involved. Just like business, people want results and they deserve them. When the results do come, it's an amazing feeling of relief – even sometimes more so than the celebration."
Not that he's complaining. "I wouldn't want it any other way," he says. Hunter-Reay feels he was born to race and jokes that, "It doesn't even feel right that I should get paid to race cars as fast as I possibly can, but that's the reality of it and I'm certainly enjoying it."
Luckily, he has Beccy by his side on this wild journey, and she is as immersed in racing as one can be. An off-road racer herself, Beccy's great- grandfather, father, mother, sister, and brother are all drivers.
"She gets how the sport works and she gets the fact that it's a year-round job. We don't come back from a race and go on a long vacation," Hunter-Reay says of his wife. "She understands the toll it takes on me."
As for Beccy, she's probably Hunter- Reay's biggest fan.
"Finally, Ryan is getting the recognition that he deserves, that he's been fighting so hard for four years," she says. Nevertheless, she sometimes wishes her familiarity with the sport were a bit less intimate since other wives might not worry so much.
"I get it all the way down to the things that most people don't understand. Sometimes I feel like I know too much," she says.
The racing couple live in Fort Lauderdale, where Ryan was raised, and he says the encouragement from this community means more to him than all the awards in the world.
"I am and have been so proud of growing up here and still being a resident here. It's great to see the recognition this area has given me, the local support, it almost means more than anything," he says.
When Hunter-Reay returned from the Indy 500, he was given a key to the city, was at the center of a “huge” victory party thrown by Global Wealth Management, and even had a day named after him. Global Wealth Management's co-owners Andrew Costa and Grant Conness are close friends of Hunter-Reay, having attended Cardinal Gibbons High School together. Costa and Hunter-Reay go as far back as Pre-K and he was even Hunter-Reay's best man at his wedding. The GWM duo have been managing Hunter-Reay's finances for years – "and doing an exceptional job," says Hunter-Reay. "I’m very appreciative of the Indy 500 victory celebration they put together at Vibe."
AutoNation and DHL - two of Hunter-Reay's big supporters, threw a large celebration as well. Hunter-Reay thoroughly enjoyed the festivities and the support, saying, “The IndyCar season is literally non-stop, so we never actually had the opportunity to celebrate this massive achievement until these events months after the big win.” He even feels South Florida traffic prepared him for the racetrack, saying, "I-95 rush hour is harder than any Indy 500!"
Growing up in Broward, Hunter-Reay attended Pinecrest Elementary and Middle School, then graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School. He explains that the school's support of his
By: Becky Randel
Photos By: Downtown Photo