Ryan Hunter-Reay — The Need For Speed

By Ann Dermody

When not vying for pole position, this speed king is just as likely to be spearing fish.

Photo of Ryan Hunter-Reay in his auto racing gearFrom the pits to the blue yonder is all in a day's work for Hunter-Reay.

Frankly, you'd think he'd be too busy. Between being 2012 IndyCar champion (he finished the 2013 season in the number seven position), becoming a new dad, and being a global envoy for the LIVESTRONG foundation, it's amazing Hunter-Reay has any time to get out on the water.

"Boating has been my life outside of racing," he says. "I started racing at 12 years old, but I've been on boats with my dad and my family since I was 5. I feel very fortunate to have been raised that way. It's what makes me really happy outside the race car." And he's been pretty happy in the race car in recent years. In 2007, Hunter-Reay accelerated onto the racing scene when he became the IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, despite only competing in six of 17 events. The following year it was Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors, and in 2010 he signed to drive for Andretti Autosport, where he won the prestigious Long Beach Grand Prix.

But 2012 is his biggest year to date, professionally and personally. Not only did he win the IndyCar championship to become the most successful American driver currently competing in the IZOD IndyCar series (he has more than three times as many wins as all the other current American drivers combined), he and his wife Beccy Gordon Hunter-Reay, herself from car racing royalty, welcomed their first child, son Ryden, last December. Now almost a year old, Ryden's an old pro on the boat, too. "By the time he was 6 weeks old, he'd already been in the boat five times. I guess that tells you something."

You won't see Hunter-Reay taming the waves near his South Florida home on a lazy Sunday afternoon. "We race on weekends, so I try and get out on the water during the week," he says, despite a packed work schedule that involves intense gym time, sponsorship meetings, and race practices. "A lot of my friends are pro fishermen, or work on boats, so it's natural for us to go out and fish, or scuba dive, or free dive, or spearfish. We'll run over to Bimini or the Keys, and my boat makes that possible."

His boat is a tricked-out Yellowfin 36, aptly named Inside Line for the racing connotations, and powered by three sizable Honda 250s. "Reliability is a big thing for me. I really don't want to be looking for solutions to problems when we go out. I want to be able to start it up and do 60 mph. I guess as a race-car driver I need the speed!" With fast cars and shiny boats at his disposal, it would be easy to think Hunter-Reay is cruising through a pretty perfect life, but there's more depth to him than that. He lost his mother to colon cancer in 2009. That inspired him to co-found Racing For Cancer, a foundation to unite motorsports fans globally in the fight against the disease. He was also named global envoy for the LIVESTRONG Foundation in 2011. 

— Published: December 2013

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