The IndyCar Series is back at Watkins Glen in early September. After a five year hiatus, it returned to the track in 2016. 

And it’s made Ryan Hunter-Reay a very happy man.  

“It’s such an important racetrack in my career, personally, professionally,” says Hunter-Reay. “I had my first really big win in the IndyCar Series here at Watkins Glen. That really catapulted my career.” 

That victory was in 2008. Possibly even more important to Hunter-Reay was 2010, when his team announced the start of Racing for Cancer at Watkins Glen. It’s a charity in honor of his mother who passed away from colon cancer. 

The charity has been very successful, raising over five million dollars. 

Personal reasons aside, Hunter-Reay is glad that the IndyCar series is back at Watkins Glen because of the history the track has with open wheel racing.

“The two are made for each other,” says Hunter-Reay. “It just fits in every way. Getting behind the wheel of a Indy car at Watkins Glen, it doesn’t get a whole lot better.”

One thing that has changed since Hunter-Reay won in 2008 is the speed of the Indy cars at Watkins Glen. Drivers now reach almost 200 miles per hour and experience 3.5 G’s on the turns. 

“You can’t really relate what that feels like, but it’s to the point where you can’t breathe,” says Hunter-Reay. “You have to get your breaths up before you get into the corner. We have no power steering so it’s a very physical racetrack. We’re at 180 beats per minute around a lap around that place. It’s definitely demanding in every way.”

Hunter-Reay is still chasing his first win in 2017. However, with three top 5’s and five top 10’s, it certainly hasn’t been a lost year. 

“We’ve had a lot of unfortunate circumstances this year,” says Hunter-Reay. “Had a chance to win the Indy 500 and the car expired. Same thing at Long Beach, St. Pete. It’s just been one of those years.”

If there’s any track to turn around “one of those years” for Hunter-Reay, it’s probably the one in Watkins Glen.