It's been more than six months since Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American driver in six years to win the IndyCar championship. Finally, with a new...

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s been more than six months since Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first American driver in six years to win the IndyCar championship.

Finally, with a new season set to begin, he may finally get some attention for his achievement.

As IndyCar heads back to the racetrack with Sunday’s season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the focus can finally return to the racing. The drivers and their on-track product have been largely overshadowed by the off-track issues that typically plague open-wheel racing, and there’s been no bigger casualty than Hunter-Reay.

Not even mentioned among the preseason favorites a year ago, he put together a career season to climb into the title race. He used a late win at Baltimore to prevent Will Power from clinching, and snagged his first championship in the season finale at Fontana.

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It was a defining moment for a driver who had clawed his way through the ranks and worked hard to stay in racing when funding dried up.

“The best thing about winning a championship, this is what I’ve been working for my entire life. It’s a dream come true,” Hunter-Reay said. “Nobody can ever take that away from me.”