Hunter-Reay began his career by winning six national karting championships before moving onto the Skip Barber program, where he was Rookie of the Year in the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 2000. He moved to Toyota Atlantic competition in 2002, and led the series with three race wins and three poles. The performance caught the attention of Stefan Johansson, who hired Ryan to drive for his first-year CART team in 2003.
He became the first American rookie in 20 years to win a CART race with a victory in Australia in 2003, then set a series record by leading all 250 laps in a 2004 victory at The Milwaukee Mile. Hunter-Reay made 43 starts over three seasons with two wins, one pole and 18 top 10s. He has spent the past two seasons running part-time in the Rolex Grand American Series, where he co-drove with NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona, as well as in A1GP competition.
From USA Today:
"I've missed open-wheel," said Hunter-Reay, a promising Champ Car driver who lost his ride after the 2005 season due to lack of sponsorship. "Ever since I turned 16, this is what I've wanted to do. These are my roots and I'm going to be with a great team."
Hunter-Reay, 26, won two Champ Car races, but spent most of the last year and half running stock and sports cars. He was slated to make his first NASCAR start with Robby Gordon Motorsports at Watkins Glen, N.Y., next month before talks with team owner Bobby Rahal heated up in the recent days.
From the Columbus Dispatch:
"It just wasn't working with Jeff, and rather than wait till the end of the year, I certainly hope that Ryan will do what we think he can do," Rahal said. "We've got six races left and I think Ryan can push the envelope for us, and I think raise the game for the whole team."
The status of the other driver at Rahal Letterman Racing, Scott Sharp, was not affected.
An finally, a YouTube segment from 2003: