Prior to joining Andretti Autosport two seasons ago, Ryan Hunter-Reay had driven for six different squads since joining the Indy-car ranks in 2003.
The American pilot's issues weren't about natural talent, but about attaining that all-important continuity with a team. Hunter-Reay believes he has that now and it's hard to argue otherwise -- especially as his current run of three straight wins (Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto) has propelled him into the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead.
To him, finding a home has made an important difference.
"Now that I've been with the team for three years, we're like one big family," said Hunter-Reay, who holds a 34-point lead over Will Power going into the next race on July 22 in Edmonton, Alberta (2:45 pm ET, NBC Sports Network). "We know what one another wants. We support each other. [His engineer] Ray Gosselin and I -- the communication is easy. It happens. He knows what I want. I know what he wants.
"With [team owner] Michael [Andretti] in the stands, you've got a legend there that is calling the race and talking in my ear. It couldn't get much better for me."
In addition, Hunter-Reay also credited the new Dallara DW12 for leveling the playing field this season, as well as what he called a "free flowing" partnership between himself and teammates James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti for elevating the team as a whole in 2012.
"It's a number of factors that have brought us to where we are right now," he said.
But, of course, anything can happen between now and the 500-mile season finale on Sept. 15 at Auto Club Speedway in Calfornia. Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport are focused on qualifying and staying up front in order to make sure they're battling for wins in the final laps.
The five-race stretch that determines this year's championship may be the most important of Hunter-Reay's career. Perhaps that is why his current hot streak has failed to change his mentality, much to his surprise.
"What's really shocked me is after the wins, I haven't felt different about anything," he said. "I haven't felt a big sense of relief or I don't know. I feel hungrier now than I ever have. I've been in a position where I didn't have a ride for a full year in 2006, so I've certainly felt the lows.
"Now that we're on this high, it makes me really want to take advantage of this situation and make the most of it. There is no sense of complacency, nothing like that: 'Oh, okay, we did it.' I felt like we're not there yet."
Other cool stuff
The Honda Indy Toronto raised almost $500,000 for local charities. Main beneficiaries included Sunnybrook Women and Babies Program ($400,000+), YMCA Strong Kids Campaign ($50,000), and Make-A-Wish Canada ($35,000+)...
Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi is ready to go for the gold in this summer's Paralympic Games. Zanardi, who lost his legs in a 2001 crash in Germany, has become an accomplished handbike racer and will look to follow up his 2011 New York City Marathon class victory with a gold medal for Italy this September in London, England. Fittingly for Zanardi, the Paralympics' road cycling event will take place on an auto racing track -- Brands Hatch...
Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel has been named grand marshal for the Edmonton Indy...