Monday, April 26, 2004
Updated: April 27, 6:53 PM ET
Junqueira was on Indy pole in '02
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bruno Junqueira will return to the
Indianapolis 500 with Newman/Haas Racing to try and give that storied team its first ever win at the May classic.
Junqueira, a former pole winner, will be coming back to the
Speedway after a year's absence.
The May 30 race will be the only IRL effort this season for
Newman/Haas, which will continue to race full time in Champ Car
with Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais.
"In 2002, I had a really good car and a big chance to win,"
Junqueira said Monday. "Unfortunately the engine blew."
"But I think this year, the Honda engine is going to be really
reliable and powerful," he added. "And I think I'm going to have
a good shot to win the race this year."
The Brazilian was Indy 500 rookie of the year with a fifth-place
finish in 2001. The next year, driving for Ganassi Racing, he won
the pole and led the first 32 laps before the blown engine dropped
him to 31st.
He was runner-up in the former CART series with Ganassi in 2002
and with Newman/Haas last year and was second to Paul Tracy in the
Champ Car season opener last week at Long Beach, Calif.
Newman/Haas bought an IRL chassis last fall in anticipation of a
possible entry at Indianapolis, its first since Speedway president
Tony George launched the IRL in 1996. The best finish for
Newman/Haas in 13 previous tries at Indianapolis was second place
by Mario Andretti in 1985.
Junqueira said he did not care about the split in American
open-wheel racing and the migration in recent years of many top
teams and drivers from CART to IRL.
"I just care about driving fast and driving the big races, and
I think Indianapolis is one of the biggest races, if not the
biggest race, in the world," he said.
Junqueira will drive a G Force-Honda. The Indy program will be
managed by Jim McGee, the Newman/Haas director of special projects.
Junqueira is expected to drive the car for the first time at
Indianapolis on Wednesday and Thursday, the final open testing days
before the start of practice May 9.