DETROIT – The Indianapolis 500 can turn into almost a year-round event for the winner, thanks to the added media attention and the drawn-out process of honoring the victorious driver.
Ryan Hunter-Reay is the one going through all that now — and it's a busy schedule he'd love to have every year.
"It's been a wild ride, it's been fun," he said. "Ready to get back to work to try and make another one a reality."
Hunter-Reay was in Detroit to receive his "Baby Borg" replica trophy for winning last year's Indy 500. Hunter-Reay became the first American to take the Indy 500 in eight years. He was honored Wednesday night at the Automotive News World Congress.
The Baby Borgs are smaller replicas of the Indy 500's Borg-Warner Trophy, and this presentation was one of many post-victory highlights for Hunter-Reay.
"It just keeps coming," he said. "You win the race, you go on that media tour, then the next thing you know, the pace car is being delivered, and then the face on the trophy, and now this, and the winner's ring. It just kind of keeps rolling in."
Hunter-Reay won the IndyCar title in 2012 and finished sixth in the standings last year.
The IndyCar series has a lengthy offseason. Last season ended in late August, and the first race of 2015 isn't until March. That means the series is off the radar for a while, but Hunter-Reay says there are pros and cons to the long break.
"It's kind of a complex question, because on one side I would like to do as many races as possible. I'd like to be adding events to the calendar," Hunter-Reay said. "On the other side of it, we needed some time to develop the new aero kits that are coming in too."
Hunter-Reay's wife is expecting their second child at the beginning of March. They have a 2-year-old son named Ryden.
"Not very good timing," team owner Michael Andretti joked.
The opening race of this year's IndyCar schedule is in Brazil on March 8. That will be more than six months since last season ended, but Hunter-Reay says the layoff isn't a huge deal.
"With the testing we've been doing, you stay sharp, for sure," he said. "I'm doing the Daytona 24 and stuff like that. That keeps you in it, so just constantly being behind the wheel is what's important. That's really what does it."
The 18-inch silver Baby Borg has a sculpted image of Hunter-Reay on its base. The full-size trophy is over 5 feet tall, weighs 110 pounds and is valued at $3.5 million. It has three-dimensional sculpted likenesses of all of the Indy 500 race winners from 1911 to 2014 on its façade.
Hunter-Reay won the Indy 500 for the first time — in his seventh attempt.
"It's taken everything to another level," he said. "Just recognition — this Indy 500 kind of transcends motorsports a bit and breaks into the mainstream."