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Ryan Hunter-Reay Heir Apparent To Fourth Andretti Car

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2009

HOMESTEAD, FL - OCTOBER 09:  Ryan Hunter-Reay drives the #14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara Honda during practice for the IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 9, 2009 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Over the past few years, apparel company Izod has taken a strong interest in the IndyCar Series, elevating itself from a partnership with driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, to official apparel partner of the Indy Racing League, to the IndyCar Series' title sponsor, beginning next year.

For the second year in a row, it looks like this strong interest will keep Hunter-Reay on the circuit.

The focus of Izod's advertising campaigns for the past two years, Hunter-Reay looks to join the soon-to-be-rechristened Andretti Green Racing next season in their No. 27 Dallara-Honda, replacing Hideki Mutoh, who is rumored to join the new De Ferran Motorsports team.

For years, owner Michael Andretti, one of the best American-born drivers in open wheel history, has coveted Hunter-Reay, a Dallas native with three wins in Champ Car and the IRL. The addition of Hunter-Reay gives his team three American drivers, with Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti being the others. Andretti's four-car squad is the largest in the IndyCar Series, with no other team fielding more than two cars for the full season in 2009.

Hunter-Reay's best open-wheel season came in 2008, where he won one race for Rahal Letterman Racing and finished eighth in points. This performance landed him a personal services contract with Izod, and gave the IRL an American talent to go alongside Patrick.

But when RLR couldn't find sponsorship to compete in the 2009 season, Hunter-Reay was without a ride until days before the season opener; series founder Tony George rescued him by putting him in a second car at Vision Racing, the team he operates.

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That partnership lasted six races, until Hunter-Reay left to fill in for an injured Vitor Meira at A.J. Foyt Enterprises. Hunter-Reay's second place at the season opener in St. Petersburg was his best result of the season, as he fell to 15th in points.

But thanks to the Izod deal, Hunter-Reay looks like he will again be bailed out.

This time, however, instead of going to a team with little firepower, he joins the 2004,'05, and '07 series champions. After a dismal 2009 season in which AGR failed to reach victory lane for the first time in six years, Hunter-Reay will be looked upon to bring the No. 27 team to the next level in 2010.

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