As the defending series champion things are a bit different for Hunter-Reay. He has a new car number, No. 1, signifying him as the reigning series champion. He also knows that now he has a target on his back and that everyone, including his title rival from last year Will Power, will be looking to end his championship reign at one season.
“I learned a lot about dealing with the pressure of championship fights and kind of channeling that into positive energy to make it really benefit you when you need it,” Hunter-Reay said, referencing his late-season battle with Power last year for the series title. “It’s something that I’ll use in the future for sure going forward.”
Heading into St. Petersburg this weekend, Hunter-Reay’s goal is simply to get off to a good start. His finishes have been hit or miss at the historic venue over the last few years, so a top-five finish would be an excellent way to start the year.
However, that doesn’t mean that if the opportunity presents itself, Hunter-Reay won’t go for the win.
“It’s been hit or miss. In ’08, we had an electrical issue with the shifting mechanism and ’09 we were on the podium. And ’10 we just went down the wrong strategy, kind of like Will did last year; got caught out like Will did last year. And then ’12 I think was a pretty good year for us,” Hunter-Reay said. “So we are looking to cover that last step and get to the top one. We have been second, third, but really we are just concentrating on qualifying well, being at the front when we need to be challenging at the end and hopefully we can make it happen.
“But one foot in front the other, one step at a time, and I think we’ll be challenging on Sunday,” Hunter-Reay concluded.