September 18, 2016

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) Andretti Autosport locked in driver Ryan Hunter-Reay and sponsor DHL Express through the 2020 IndyCar season.

The contract extensions were signed Sunday before the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. Hunter-Reay had not been stressed about his future - his existing deal ran through 2017 - and he never considered testing the free-agent market.

Still, it was a welcome development on this hectic week for Hunter-Reay. He welcomed the birth of his third son with wife, Beccy, just hours before his father-in-law was discovered dead in an apparent murder suicide. Beccy's father, ''Baja'' Bob Gordon was discovered dead from a gunshot wound Wednesday evening alongside his wife Sharon, who had been strangled.

Hunter-Reay had to travel to California for the season finale a day later, and he's used his time at the track as an escape to focus on only on his race car. He knew an extension was in the works, but wasn't sure it would be completed before the end of the season until he actually signed on Sunday morning.

''I'm very happy about this, and obviously it's been a lot of highs and a lot of lows,'' Hunter-Reay said. ''Just been a wild ride the last week.''

He praised the strength of his wife, who celebrated her birthday Friday, as well as her three siblings, which include racing star Robby Gordon.

''Beccy is doing an amazing. She's strong,'' Hunter-Reay said. ''Focusing on a new baby has been a blessing at this time. It's amazing she is, how strong Robby has been, her sisters Robyn and Haylee. It's blown me away because this is nothing you can compare to, this isn't as simple as a life passing.''

He's had the Andretti organization, his teammates, and a supportive team from DHL to keep him focused this weekend.

DHL has been with Andretti since 2011, and its renewal was revealed on the same day longtime IndyCar sponsor Target marked its final race after 27 years. Target has been the primary sponsor for Chip Ganassi and was considered one of the longest partnerships in sports.

Now DHL will move into that role as this deal progresses. DHL first began working with Andretti in 2005 and expanded into a full-time sponsor of the No. 28 six years later.

Hunter-Reay, who began with Andretti on a three-race deal, has grown into the most successful active American driver in the IndyCar Series with 16 victories, 36 podiums, a win in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 and a championship in 2012.

Not too shabby for a driver who bounced around in the early part of his career, trying to make something stick.

''When it comes to getting in the car and opportunities, I'm a fighter,'' he said. ''I was on the brink in 2006, 2007, it was maybe a month away from going and doing something else with my life. Every time I got in the car, I knew I had to prove myself immediately. It was never a two-year deal where I could take my time developing.''

So to have DHL and Andretti behind him through 2020 is a luxury IndyCar drivers spend an entire career chasing.

''You don't have to think about the pressure involved. You can just go out there and put everything on the line,'' he said. ''You can overstep the edge, or if you try to make that pass and it doesn't work out, it's not going to be blowback on you.''

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