Hunter-Reay drove the Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet to second fastest in the five-car test but he’s still competing with incumbent Conor Daly and 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew for the ride in the U.S. Air Force-backed car.
The 18-time race-winner departed Andretti Autosport last month after a 12-year stretch, and has long been a candidate for the #20 ECR car, which would entail him sharing the car with ovals-only team owner Carpenter, and racing ECR’s traditional extra entry for the Indianapolis 500.
But Carpenter said the 2014 Indy winner was picked for this test because ECR had two seasons-worth of data from Daly, and also already had a read on Askew, because the latter had subbed for the injured Rinus VeeKay at Road America in June.
“I don’t have enough information on the business end of it to say if Ryan is favorite for the drive,” Carpenter explained to Motorsport.com. “Conor is still an option, Oliver is still an option, and so is Ryan.
“For us, this test was important because it gave us a chance to work with Ryan, when we’d already had a chance to work with the other two. And I think it was important for Ryan as well to get a chance to work with us.
“This test means we now have more hard data to work from when we have discussions internally and with the Air Force, as they’re making their decision as well. I’m just happy that we have quality options across the board. I’d be nervous if we only had one good option.
“And I thought it was a pretty good day. We got through a decent list of test items that we wanted to try, or things that we wanted answers to after our last race there in April.
“Ryan’s got a ton of experience, so he knows what he’s feeling, knows what he wants. I think for sure he found there were some key differences between what he was used to in the Andretti car and what he found with our car, some positive, some negative. But it was a decent day.
“It’s obviously difficult to judge how competitive you were or weren’t because there weren’t many cars out there, and there were a lot of new combinations of driver and teams. But I felt it was a productive and beneficial day from what we learned.”
Asked whether he felt Hunter-Reay was content with the option of running only 13 of the 17 races in 2022, Carpenter replied, “Yeah, I think he’s fine with that, especially as it has Indy as part of the program. Like anyone, I’m sure he’d like to do the whole season, but our consistency at the Speedway is appealing to him.
“He understands that right now, we don’t have all the pieces in place to run a third car for me for all the ovals, which is what we’d all like, so for now whoever gets the ride will be sharing the #20. He’s OK with that.”