As I noted a few days ago at Silent Pagoda, every year there is a driver who lays claim to the Throne of Injustice, being the obvious recipient of innumerable exclamations of "Why doesn't HE (or SHE) have a ride?" This year that person is Ryan Hunter-Reay, who in addition to his obvious skills has the distinction of being (1) American, (2) personable, and (3) the only driver to have won a race in CART, Champ Car and the IndyCar series. And if Justin Wilson is all set in stone with Dale Coyne, Ryan is also is the only race winner from last year to remain unemployed.
So there is no shortage of reasons to lament his omission from scheduled list of drivers, but none of which really requires that someone *cough*TonyGeorge*cough* step up and open the pocket book to buy the man a ride. Logic dictates if a driver is worth the six meeeeeeellion dollars (or whatever it takes to fund a full season ride) then certainly someone somewhere would see that value any pony up the cash. Consequently, if no one is stepping up then the value for Ryan - or any other unemployed hotshoe - just ain't there.
But perhaps Ryan is a different story. Let's let Robin, no stranger to pounding the podium with his shoe in shock and outrage, make the case for why Ryan may in fact be worth six million.
IZOD is poised to launch one of the largest advertising and promotional campaigns in the Indy Racing League's 14-year history.That guy, as you may have guessed, is Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Beginning in a few weeks there will be a national television spot, promo trailers in movie theaters, ads in major magazines and newspapers and in-store promotions at Macy's stores across the country that will also include a special Indy 500 clothing line.
It's estimated several million dollars in media value has been budgeted for this project. But there is a little snag in clothing line's plan to take Indy-car racing to the mainstream. No, make that a big snag. The guy they put all the promotion behind, the guy in the TV commercial, the guy in the print ads and the guy on the 90-foot billboard in Times Square doesn't have a ride for the 2009 season.
Now personally, I haven't bought any IZOD products since they closed the Miller's Outpost at the mall back around '89, so my first impression is that this company signed on with Ryan without understanding that his Ethanol-related contract was not renewed for 2009. I believe political wonks call that a failure in vetting.
But, of course, there's still more. A recent interview with Ryan at Desoto Champ Cart Series revealed that this IZOD deal is actually for three years which means someone is seriously committed to putting an IndyCar driver out front and center to the world to see. In trying to recall the last time a driver not named "Danica" was featured in a National ad campaign of any kind I remembered Sarah Fisher in a AAMCO commercial for a year, and before that Tony Kanaan in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup ad for less than that, and...well, suffice it to say three year-campaigns with IndyCar drivers just don't grow on trees.
And that may prove to be the difference here in whether or not Ryan gets a seat. I don't know where a second car magically appears - the usual suspects are HVM, KV, and of course, Vision Racing - but given all this it certainly appears Hunter-Reay stands an above average chance of racing at St Pete in a few weeks. Then again, if he doesn't make the field, those IZOD people are going to feel more than a little ill.
Photo courtesy of RyanRacing.com