Ryan Hunter-Reay was thrilled when he learned the Verizon IndyCar Series would expand its schedule in 2016 to include the Grand Prix of Boston.
While it will mark the first time an open-wheel race is held on the streets of Boston, it won’t be the first time the IndyCar Series has been to New England.
The last time Indy cars competed in the region was in 2011 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Hunter-Reay was declared the winner over an incensed Oriol Servia following a crash-marred, caution-filled ending of the race.
“It’s pretty funny, the last time we raced in New England we won,” Hunter-Reay said last week by phone. “When we raced in New Hampshire, my wife and I spent a couple of vacation days there in Boston and did the whole tourist thing, the Freedom Trail, and I loved the city.
“So it’s great to have Indy cars racing through one of the oldest cities in America.”
Although Boston may have a bit of a reputation for having some of the nation’s worst potholes, Hunter-Reay, winner of the 2014 Indianapolis 500, said he did not encounter any last week when he took a tour of the proposed 12-turn, 2.25-mile layout, circumnavigating the Massachusetts Convention Center in a Honda Accord.
Boston will join street-course races in St. Petersburg, Fla., Toronto, Detroit, and Long Beach, Calif. — one of the longest-running street-course events on the circuit — on the 2016 IndyCar Series schedule.
“Some street circuits are maybe not right downtown, but this one was right in the heart of everything,” Hunter-Reay said. “It felt like it was really through the heart of it all, that’s how it felt.
“Yeah, the location is what got me. Second to that, the layout, the actual circuit shape and how long the straights are. Sometimes with a street circuit, you’re forced into doing a shorter track. But this one seems like it’s the proper length. You can tell the time and effort went into picking the right route, and it seems like a great one.”
While his Honda Accord did not come close to breaking the speed limit on his initial tour, Hunter-Reay fully expects race speeds to reach upward of 200 miles per hour, especially on the long straightaways on D Street.
“I think it’s going to be great for the city, it’s going to be great for IndyCar,” Hunter-Reay said. “Hopefully, this will be a big part of IndyCar’s future moving forward.”
Given the aesthetics of Boston’s track layout, with the skyline and Boston Harbor serving as a spectacular backdrop, Hunter-Reay believes the Grand Prix of Boston has the potential to be as popular as Long Beach’s street course race.
“I think it can have a future as a fixture on the IndyCar schedule, like Long Beach.” Hunter-Reay said. “I think Long Beach is a great example of how to do a street course race. That is an example of a great setting, right next to the beach and right in the heart of it all in Long Beach. That’s what you’re going to get in Boston.
“We have our key West Coast street race and now we’re going to have our key East Coast street race.”
Follow Michael Vega on Twitter at @MBVega