Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Ryan Hunter-Reay has indeed been the hottest driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series lately.
Hunter-Reay has won the last three races in the series -- Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto. The Andretti Autosport driver has also accumulated 154 points in those three events to put him atop the championship point standings. Five races remain this season, with Edmonton scheduled for this weekend.
Before the June 16 race at Milwaukee, it looked as though Hunter-Reay would be a long shot for this year's IndyCar championship, as he sat seventh in the rankings and trailed then-leader Will Power by 75 points. Hunter-Reay experienced a suspension problem and wound up finishing 27th in the Indianapolis 500 the last weekend in May. Two weeks later, he had another mechanical issue that led to a 21st-place finish at Texas.
Right now, Hunter-Reay, a 31-year-old Floridian, holds a 34-point lead.
"It's been the best run of my career, but it's not something that's happened by accident," Hunter-Reay said. "I'm just like a lot of people who reach their own American dream through hard work. It took a lot of persistence and perseverance to get to this point. Credit has to go to (team owner) Michael Andretti, who hired me three years ago and told me he was going to bring this team back to its championship form."
No driver has ever won four consecutive races in the 17-year history of the IndyCar Series. However, several drivers in the now-defunct CART/Champ Car Series won four events in a row. Sebastien Bourdais last did it in 2006, posting victories at Long Beach, Houston, Monterrey and Milwaukee.
Alex Zanardi won four straight CART races in 1998, and Cristiano de Matta accomplished the feat in that series in 2002. Al Unser Jr. is the last American driver with four consecutive victories, do so during the 1990 CART season.
"I'm definitely honored to be carrying the American flag at the front right now, and every time I get on the podium, I raise it because I'm proud of it," Hunter-Reay said. "I think what hits home for me is when I was a kid, before I started racing go karts, my dad took me to a couple of IndyCar races in Miami, and I watched the series as a fan of the series. I was really focused on the American drivers.
"I liked to watch Michael (Andretti), Bobby Rahal, Rick Mears, Al Unser Jr., the big names. I feel like now that I'm in IndyCar and doing well, hopefully, there is some kid sitting there doing the same thing, so that's kind of cool."
Hunter-Reay's victories have been on a mixture of racetracks. Milwaukee and Iowa are ovals, and Toronto is a road/street course.
This Sunday's race will be contested on the 2.224-mile, 13-turn course at Edmonton City Centre Airport. Power won last year's race on the newly- reconfigured Edmonton circuit. The track had been a 1.96-mile, 14-turn course when IndyCar competed there from 2008-10.
"The old track was like the toughest driving track, just corner after corner, high speeds and bumpy and as tough as you get as a driver," Power said. "The new circuit, I think it creates good racing. It's like Toronto, and we all love Toronto. But if you would just drive around that track just by yourself, you probably couldn't think much of it. But as an actual racetrack, to race on it, it's one of the best for the single fact that it's great racing, and that's what the new Edmonton track has got."
Power also scored three straight victories earlier this season, winning at Birmingham, Long Beach and Sao Paulo, but the Australian finished 28th in the Indy 500 after wrecking early in the event. He has yet to win a race since then. In fact, Power has placed 12th, 15th and 23rd in the last three events.
Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the Edmonton Indy.
Series: IZOD IndyCar. Date: Sunday, July 22. Race: Edmonton Indy. Site: Edmonton City Centre Airport. Track: 2.224-mile, 13-turn temporary street circuit. Start Time: 2 p.m. (ET). Laps: 75. Miles: 166.8. 2011 Winner: Will Power. Television: NBC Sports Network. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.
07/18 23:30:17 ET