12/23 2015

IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay to lead 2016 Rose Parade By Bruce Martin

Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Indianapolis 500 in 2014.

IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will lead the 2016 Rose
Parade at a speed much slower than he’s used to:

Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Indianapolis 500 in 2014.

Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Dec 22, 2015 at 12:11p ET

As the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner and the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport makes his living by driving fast. On New Years Day 2016, Hunter-Reay will be the leader of a parade at just 2.5 miles per hour.

Hunter-Reay will lead the 127th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California behind the wheel of a new Acura NSX – an iconic honor that is the latest perk for the winner of the world’s most iconic race in 2014. The parade is sponsored by Honda and will take place on the same year as the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

“It’s a huge honor,” Hunter-Reay told “It’s the Rose Parade – a tradition just like the Indianapolis 500. You watch it on New Year’s Day and to be the lead car in the whole parade is a huge honor. Thanks to Honda for putting that together and I’m looking forward to the Tournament of Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl game.”

The last time an Indianapolis 500 winner was part of the Tournament of Roses Parade was New Year’s Day 1963, when 1959 and 1962 Indy winner Rodger Ward was on the State of Indiana float along with his winning Roadster from the 1962 500-Mile Race.

The Florida native lived in nearby Dana Point, California for six years and first met his wife, Beccy, at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“A lot of our family is still out there and it’s going to be a great parade,” Hunter-Reay said. “I’m looking forward to bringing our kids out there and being a part of it.”

When Hunter-Reay won the 2014 Indianapolis 500 in a thrilling duel with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, he completed the 500-mile distance in 2 hours, 40 minutes for an average speed of 186.563 miles per hour in a Honda. In the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade he will drive a 2016 Acura NSX at 2.5 mph. It will take him 2 hours, 12 minutes to complete the 5.5-mile parade route.

At that speed it would take him one hour to complete one lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 8 days, 8 hours to complete the Indianapolis 500. But at 186.563 mph he would finish the 5.5-mile Tournament of Roses Parade Route in 1 minute, 47 seconds.

Hunter-Reay nearly had this opportunity for 2015 but the upcoming parade made more sense because the Acura NSX will be in dealerships soon and 2016 will be the 100th Indianapolis 500.

“It’s the first really big push for the 2016 100th running and I’m happy to be a part of it,” Hunter-Reay said. “Everyday I think about that race and how big of an event it will be this year and how spectacular it is going to be. IndyCar racing is some of the best racing in the world but to combine that with the 100th running of the World’s Most Famous Race as the Indianapolis 500 is going to be a big deal.”

After the parade is completed, Hunter-Reay will be attending the Rose Bowl game between Iowa of the Big Ten and Stanford of the Pac-12 Conference.

“I don’t have skin in the game but I have to go with Iowa,” Hunter-Reay said. “I’ve had a lot of success in that state at Iowa Speedway. I’ve won three times there finished second once so that’s a pretty good record there with great fans so I’m sticking with Iowa.”

The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season started off poorly as Andretti Autosport struggled to figure out the Honda Aero Kit but by the midway point of the season Hunter-Reay hit his marks, winning at Iowa Speedway and Pocono Raceway in the second half of the season.

“It was a struggle to begin with; we were always two sessions behind and couldn’t hit the sweet spot with the new package,” Hunter-Reay said. “Unfortunate as it was we kept our heads down and kept after it and ended up with a really strong finish to the season winning at Iowa and Pocono and finishing second at Iowa in a double-points race. I was really proud how we fought back. It would have been very easy to get down and surrender to a bad season but we were relentless in getting back to where we believed we belonged and showed we belonged. It was good to have a positive note to what we believed was a struggle of a season.”

Honda is expected to officially announce its return to INDYCAR the first week of January and with an updated Aero Kit. Hunter-Reay is hopeful the Honda teams can come out fast this season.

“I’m very encouraged,” he said. “Things are moving in the right direction and I think we will be much more competitive right out of the gate in 2016. I think the superspeedway package at Indy will be the similar package to what we had in 2015 but we made massive steps forward in the road, street and short oval package. I know Honda is working relentlessly in the superspeedway package as well.”

The Indianapolis 500 is the world’s most iconic race and Hunter-Reay is going to be part of the iconic Tournament of Roses Parade as the driver of the car that will pace the parade.

“It’s massive,” Hunter-Reay said. “Just like the Indianapolis 500, the parade is an American Tradition. I love it. I’m going to take it all in and enjoy it. It’s great to be selected for that. I’m lucky to be able to do what I love and get paid to do it. Every day I see my name on an IndyCar it never gets old.”