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Racin’ News: Kanaan Has Ride

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 21 2011

Tony Kanaan has found a ride for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

RacinToday.com

In racin’ news today, Monday, March 21:

(This package contains items on Tony Kanaan signing with KV; Jennifer Jo Cobb signing with new team; Paul Tracy getting ride for 500; Townsend Bell getting ride at Sam Schmidt; Bryan Herta adding new driver.)

Tony Kanaan’s offseason of discontent is over.

Kanaan, the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, will run the 2011 season in the No. 82 GEICO KV Racing Technology -Lotus entry. The No. 82 will honor the 1965 Indianapolis 500-winning Lotus/Ford driven by Jim Clark. Kanaan will get in some hot laps on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course Tuesday in advance of the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend. Michael Cannon will be his race engineer.

“(Team co-owner) Jimmy (Vasser) and I started talking about joining forces at the end of last season, but the timing was not ideal and I ended up signing with Gil (de Ferran),” Kanaan said. “When I became a free-agent in mid-February, calling Vasser seemed like a natural thing to do since KVRT was one of the top teams still looking for a driver. Jimmy and I go back a long way, we were rivals during the CART days, but more than that we have always been good friends, which helped a lot with our negotiations.

“I’m thrilled that we reached an agreement and from the bottom of my heart I’d like to thank KV Racing Technology – Lotus for the opportunity they have given me and especially for taking me under the circumstances I found myself in.”

After eight seasons with Andretti Autosport, Kanaan left the organization last fall when primary funding from Dallas-based 7-Eleven for the No. 11 Dallara/Honda entry ended. Kanaan signed with de Ferran Dragon Racing, but that team ceased operations when proper funding didn’t materialize by an internal deadline. Kanaan has been attempting to uncover sponsorship since late last year.

“KVRT – Lotus is one of the most successful teams that joined IndyCar from Champ Car, and I can’t wait to sit in the legendary Lotus No. 82 car and start working with the crew,” Kanaan said. “I’ve spent the last six months looking for sponsorship and not thinking about racing, so I missed all the preseason testing. But I really can’t complain. With a group of guys like Vasser and his team backing me, plus the help of my new teammates, Takuma Sato and E. J. Viso, the only thing I can say is that I’m ready to do what I do best, drive a race car and push hard to give KVRT – Lotus their first IndyCar win.

“I want to thank GEICO for their help in making it possible for me to join KVRT – Lotus. I would also like to thank all of my fans and supporters that stuck with me during this extra long offseason and invite them to stay tuned on the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series. I can assure you it will be a very exciting one. I can’t forget to mention that my son, Leo, is very thankful that I kept my car green _ he was having a hard time accepting any other color.”

A native of Brazil, Kanaan, 36, enters his 14th season of major U.S. open-wheel competition and ninth full season in the IndyCar Series. In 132 starts, he has earned 102 top-10 finishes (including 14 victories) and 10 poles.

“I think Tony is a great addition to our team,” Vasser said. “Tony’s knowledge and experience will be extremely valuable to our team. I would also like to thank GEICO for their support and KVRT – Lotus general manager Mark Johnson for his tireless work getting all the parties together.”

NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb announced that she will drive the No. 41 Rick Ware Racing entry in Saturday’s Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

The agreement is a one-race deal at this point.

Cobb is the driver who refused to race in Saturday’s event at Bristol because, she contends, she was not told she would be in start and park situation by her team owner, Rick Russell, until just minutes before the start.

Russell, owner of 2nd Chance Motorsports, disputes Cobb’s version of the story and says she breached measures of their contract.

The event will mark Cobb’s first time competing at Auto Club Speedway, as well as her first time driving for RWR.

“I’m so excited to go racing this weekend,” Cobb said. “I can’t thank Rick Ware Racing enough for giving me this opportunity.  Mr. Ware was the first team owner that told me he had my back and that was before I had even done my first TV interview.  He is a hero in this situation.  Since, several other team owners have made offers and I am exploring each of those situations in the coming weeks.

“I’ve never raced at California, but Rick Ware Racing has experience at the track and that should give me a head start on things I’ll also have a few teammates to consult with, which should help speed up my learning curve. It’s just great the way things worked out for this weekend.

“I just want to race and I want to clarify my views on start and park situations. I understand that some teams need to start and park cars to keep their primary team financially afloat. As I grow my career, I made it a personal policy that starting and parking is not something that I am willing to do.  I have enough hurdles to overcome and I want to do everything that I can to earn the respect of race fans and NASCAR.

“I’ve received an outpouring of support since the Bristol race.  My fans have given me so much encouragement and reassurance. It means so much to me to see how they’ve stood by me. The best way for me to move on and put the past behind me is to go to California and have a good race. That is my sole agenda this weekend.”

Veteran driver Paul Tracy will pilot the No. 23 car for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 this year.

This will be the fourth time Tracy will team up with Dreyer & Reinbold. The 42-year-old Canadian has been one of the most successful open-wheel drivers during his 21-year career, including winning the ChampCar Series championship in 2003.

Tracy has two career starts in the Indy 500, finishing second in 2002 and ninth in 2009.

Over the last 20 years, Tracy has earned 75 career podium performances, 102 top-five finishes and 144 top-10 showings in 273 starts (262 in Champ Car and 11 in IZOD IndyCar, tied for seventh all-time). In the 15 seasons in which Tracy has competed in over 80 percent of the races, he has finished in the top-10 in the championship standings 10 times including eight times in the top-five, four in the top-three and captured the championship in 2003.

“Obviously it feels great to be back with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing,” Tracy said. “It’s been a chaotic winter, but it’s good to have the deal stowed away with a competitive program lined up with WIX Filters and DRR for the Indianapolis 500.  I’m really happy to have signed a deal with Dennis (Reinbold) and Robbie (Buhl).  It’s great to be with a team like DRR, they have quality equipment and a solid engineering group with Larry Curry.  It’s a relief to have this deal done from that standpoint. I’m super excited, and want to thank WIX Filters for placing confidence in me as their brand ambassador at the Indy 500.”

Also announced Monday, veteran driver Townsend Bell will be back for the Indy 500 driving the No. 99 car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

This race will mark Bell’s fifth attempt at winning the 500. He finished 16th last year while driving the No. 99. His career-best mark is fourth while driving for KV Racing Technology in 2009.

Bell won the 2001 Firestone Indy Lights championship, the premier feeder series for IndyCar, but has struggled to find a full-time ride. He’s competed in just 21 of a possible 99 IndyCar races since 2004.

Bryan Herta Autosport owners Bryan Herta and Steve Newey today announced they have signed Duarte Ferreira for the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights Championship. Ferreira, 18, of Luanda, Angola, will make his American racing debut this weekend piloting the #28 LS Sports/Sonangol/BHA entry in support of the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Ferreira most recently competed in the South American F3 Light Championship, finishing third in the series last year with five wins and eight additional podium finishes. Graduates of the South American F3 Championship include three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Champ Car champion and former Formula One driver Cristiano da Matta.

(This story will be updated as news breaks today)

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, March 21 2011
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