An 'opportunity of a lifetime' for Hunter-Reay

January, 8, 2010
01/08/10
10:48
AM ET

With the calendar now showing 2010 and the thermometer near zero, the Izod IndyCar Series is beginning to emerge from its offseason hibernation. Preseason media and test days at Barber Motorsports Park are less than seven weeks away, and information about new team/driver combinations is starting to trickle out.

Here's a recap of recent IndyCar Series news and developments:

Hunter-Reay confirmed at Andretti Autosport: The team formerly known as Andretti Green Racing confirmed that it will continue to field a series-high four cars in 2010, with the returning Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick set to be joined by former IRL Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay for at least a partial schedule.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay
AP Photo/Tom StrattmanRyan Hunter-Reay will drive the No. 37 car for Andretti Autosport at the 2010 Indianapolis 500, among other races.

Hunter-Reay, who was instrumental in bringing the Izod brand into Indy car racing, will drive the No. 37 car with sponsorship from Izod at the Indianapolis 500 and a to-be-determined selection of other races. AA owner Michael Andretti is optimistic that funding can be sourced to run Hunter-Reay for the full season.

"We are excited about what we've put together with PVH [Phillips-Van Heusen] and Ryan, and believe we can grow this program substantially over the next several months," Andretti said. "How far we take him into 2010 is still in the works, but we feel good about the potential that we will add Ryan to our driver lineup for the full season."

Hunter-Reay is the only driver to have won races in CART, Champ Car and IndyCar Series competition. He drove for Rahal Letterman Racing in 2008 and split time between Vision Racing and AJ Foyt Racing in 2009.

"Michael Andretti is as hungry to win races today as he has ever been, and it is an honor and a privilege to drive for the same person I looked up to as a young karter," said Hunter-Reay. "Joining a team of Andretti Autosport's caliber has been my goal for the entire 16 years of my racing career, and being able to strengthen my ties to everyone at Izod through this effort is tremendous. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am ready to give 120 percent to the program."

Japanese connection: There are likely to be two Japanese drivers on the IndyCar Series grid in 2010 as former Formula 1 racer Takuma Sato looks set to move to the American open-wheel scene with de Ferran Motorsports. Sato has an existing relationship with team boss Gil de Ferran, who served as the Honda F1 team's sporting director several years ago.

De Ferran has ceased its Honda-funded, Acura-branded American Le Mans Series program to eliminate conflicts of interest and allow its transition into the IndyCar Series, where all competitors are powered by spec Honda engines.

Hideki Mutoh, a veteran of two years in the IndyCar Series, is looking to move to Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, which is likely to field three cars in 2010. Emerging star Graham Rahal returns for his fourth season with the team, while Alex Lloyd hopes to complete his first full IndyCar campaign.

On a FAZZT track: The FAZZT Racing team made its on-track debut recently for testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Alex Tagliani drove the No. 77 car, which will unveil its livery Jan. 14 at the Montreal International Auto Show.

"These two days have been unbelievable," remarked Tagliani. "It has been the best days at the track for me in a long, long time. The team showed up, and by all appearances you would think we had been working together for 10 years."

Tagliani is a principal in the new team, along with Jim Freudenberg and Andre Azzi. Veteran Rob Edwards is team manager.

"This is a new team, but it is a group of individuals with many years of experience, and that was evident in the smoothness of the operation over the course of the test," Edwards said. "It was as much a test of the equipment as it was a test of our crew and how they would work together as a team, and I must say I believe we met our goals this week."

One-liners: The IndyCar Series' annual winter meetings take place in Indianapolis on Monday and Tuesday. Drivers will take their annual physicals, and details will be revealed to the teams about the March 14 opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil. ... The Dallara-Honda package will feature a reverse gear in its spec six-speed gearbox for road course events in 2010. ... Honda Performance Development and the IRL are discussing modifying or eliminating the driver's ability to control the fuel mixture during races. HPD's Roger Griffiths also indicated that the future IndyCar engine formula will be a turbocharged V-6. ... IndyCar owner/driver Sarah Fisher is writing a motivational book for women to be published in May and has started a campaign to lure talk show host Ellen DeGeneres to the 2010 Indy 500. Interested fans can encourage Ellen via a Twitter account created for the project: @ellen2indy500. The Indianapolis Conrad Hotel has already pledged accommodations for Ellen should she accept the invitation.

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