DETROIT (AP) — Ryan Hunter-Reay recalls rooting for the Andrettis and Unsers when he was growing up in South Florida, hoping an American would win the races he watched on TV.
"I've always been patriotic," he said Thursday along the banks of the Detroit River.
Now, Hunter-Reay hopes he can give kids in the United States someone to cheer for in open-wheel auto racing. He is the first American since 2006 to win the Indianapolis 500 and the sixth in two decades.
Soon, he will get two chances to sustain success because the Detroit Grand Prix will feature full-length IndyCar races Saturday and Sunday.
"It won't be easy because the Penske and Ganassi teams are great, and they don't have one American driver," Hunter-Reay said. "And on any given week, there are 15 cars that can win."
Belle Isle's 2.36 mile, 13-turn street circuit will be put to a test by a lot of racing and some patching that was needed at Turns 12 and 13 because a water main broke this week.
Detroit Grand Prix Chairman Bud Denker said $4 million will be invested in the track after this year's races.
Simon Pagenaud and Mike Conway won the 2013 Detroit Grand Prix races on an improved surface that held up much better than it did in two years ago when pot holes and grooves spoiled the show.
Conway hopes to repeat, but if he does not, the Brit would be happy for the desperately seeking attention sport if Hunter-Reay finishes first again.
Will Power would, too.
"It is good for the sport if we can have an American regularly contending, winning sometimes at least and challenging to win the series championship," Power said. "I hope Ryan has success that boosts interest in our sport."