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Racin’ News: Newman/Haas Lands Hinchcliffe

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 5 2011

James Hinchcliffe had been given an IndyCar ride with Newman/Haas Racing. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

RacinToday.com

In racin’ news today, April 5:

(In this package: Canadian Hinchcliffe to driver for Newman/Haas; Townsend Bell and Jay Howard get Indy rides; Bruno Junqueira throws in with Foyt.)

Newman/Haas Racing announced that Canadian James Hinchcliffe will drive for the team in the North American events of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season including his debut in the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe will also drive at events in his hometown of Toronto as well as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Eric Sprott and Sprott Inc., a leading independent asset manager based in Toronto, will be the primary sponsor of Hinchcliffe’s entry.

“Finally making my IndyCar debut really is a dream come true and the end of a 15-year journey getting me to this point,” said James Hinchcliffe, 24, who will make his series debut at this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala. “Having the support from a prominent Canadian company as I start this next step in my career is extra special. ”

“As a Canadian-based company it’s naturally exciting to support one of Canada’s next generation motorsport talents,” said Eric Sprott.  “James (Hinchcliffe) has an excellent pedigree and we’re confident that his record of success will continue in the IndyCar Series.  Everyone at Sprott Inc. shares the competitive spirit and drive of both Newman/Haas Racing and James.”

Hinchcliffe finished second in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season standings after wins in Long Beach, Edmonton and Chicagoland and poles in St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Watkins Glen and Edmonton.

He earned eight podium finishes in 13 races.  Hinchcliffe progressed through the ranks of the Rotax (2002), F2000 (2003), Formula BMW (2004), Star Mazda (2005), and Atlantic series (2006-2008) before joining the Firestone Indy Lights series in 2009.  He also competed in a season of A1GP competition (2007).

Hinchcliffe completed four successful days of testing in Sebring, Fla. in December 2010 and January 2011 and two days at Barber Motorsports Park in March where he set the seventh fastest time overall.

“We are pleased to add James to our team,” said Carl Haas, founder of Newman/Haas Racing.  “He impressed us with how quickly he acclimated himself to the demands of driving an Indy car last December and showed he is more than talented enough to compete at this level since then.  In our previous 28 seasons, only three rookies have driven for the team and those were Nigel (Mansell; reigning Formula One champion), Sebastien (Bourdais; reigning F3000 champion) and Graham (Rahal), and all made their mark.  Canada has produced many great drivers and we are looking forward to partnering with Sprott Inc., to help James make his own mark.”

“I used to think that driving for Newman/Haas Racing at some point in my career would be amazing, but to get to do it in my rookie season is beyond words,” added Hinchcliffe.  “I am only the third true rookie to drive for the team and I think that says a lot about the relationship we have forged over the last few months.  It was tough to miss Round 1, but getting to debut in Barber makes me feel really comfortable since we have already tested there. As anxious as I am to get that first race under my belt, I am already looking forward to my first month of May and, of course, the races in Canada.  I hope this is the first of many years for me at this level and I’m going to give everything I’ve got to make the Canadian fans proud!”

Veteran Townsend Bell and rookie Jay Howard have been named to drive cars entered by Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) in the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. The official entry forms were mailed to the INDYCAR office on April 1, 2011.

Bell, from San Luis Obispo, Calif., will drive the No. 99 Herbalife Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Driver Townsend Bell will drive in the Indy 500 for Sam Schmidt and Robby Rahal. .

Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. Howard, from Basildon, England, will drive the No. 88 Service Central Schmidt/RLL Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.

Bell, who will attempt to qualify for his fifth Indianapolis 500, will return to the Speedway with the same team for the first time in his career. Driving for SSM in 2010, Bell finished 16th after qualifying 10th. His best finish at Indy came in 2009 when he finished fourth driving for KV Racing.

Chris Griffis will be the team manager on the No. 99 Herbalife car, while veteran Dave Higuera will be the crew chief.

Though entered by SSM, the No. 88 Service Central Schmidt/RLL Racing car for Howard is a partnership with Rahal-Letterman Lanigan.

RLL Team Manager Scott Roembke will lead the No. 88 Service Central team while Ricardo Nault will be the team’s crew chief.

Despite being one of the fastest cars in practice on the final day (Bump Day) of qualifying for the 2010 Indianapolis 500, Howard’s bid to make his first ‘500’ fell short. Driving a car owned by fellow driver Sarah Fisher, Howard experienced the gut-wrenching highs and lows of an Indianapolis 500 Bump Day and found himself outside the 33-car field when qualifying ended.

In 2006, Howard won the Firestone Indy Lights championship by winning two races and notching five top-five finishes while driving for SSM.

Bell and Howard will join Alex Tagliani as part of a three-car SSM effort for the month of May. Tagliani is automatically entered in the ‘500’ as he and the No. 99 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry are part of the INDYCAR TEAM program and compete in all races on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.

This year is SSM’s 10th anniversary of fielding a car in the Indianapolis 500. SSM was formed in 2001 after Schmidt’s own driving career ended in 2000 after a crash during testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. Driver Davey Hamilton started 26th in the 2001 Indy 500 in an SSM Dallara and finished 23rd.

In addition to entering cars in the Indianapolis 500, SSM is the most successful team in Firestone Indy Lights, which is the leading support division to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Driver J.K. Vernay’s championship in 2010 was the team’s fourth Firestone Indy Lights championship. Schmidt has visited victory lane 38 times as a car owner in the series.

RLL is led by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, along with television icon David Letterman and Mike Lanigan. The team won the 2004 Indy 500 with Buddy Rice and has earned 11 top-10 finishes at Indy since its inception in 1992. RLL has also won the Indy Rookie-of-the-Year award with Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Bruno Junqueira, the 2002 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, will join fellow Brazilian Vitor Meira in competing for A.J. Foyt Racing in the 100th anniversary Indy 500 on May 29.

Junqueira, seeking to make his seventh start, will drive the No. 84 ABC Supply car.

“I am very happy,” said Junqueira, who has a best finish of fifth in the ‘500′ with two different teams.

Vitor Meira, left, and Bruno Junqueira will be teammates for A.J. Foyt Racing this year at Indy.

“First, because I love the race; second, because the biggest champion in that race is A.J. Foyt – he won as a driver, he won as a team owner, and third, I’m going to have Vitor as my teammate who is a good friend and a good driver so I think it’s a perfect combination.”

Meira is excited about the addition to the team.

“Aside from our friendship, which we’ve had for a long time, Bruno is an awesome addition to the team because of the amount of experience he brings with him,” said Meira, who has been the runner-up twice in the race in eight starts. “This year’s race will be the toughest in a long time and we need to have every tool available to get 100 percent out of the car.”

Junqueira, 34, finished fifth as a rookie driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2001 and again in 2004 driving for Newman/Haas Racing. Last year, driving a second car for FAZZT Racing, he started 25th and finished 32nd.

“Indy was actually my second oval race; my first race was in Nazareth (Pa.),” he said. “So I went from a one-mile track, very tough to a very fast ‘500.’ It was one of the biggest experiences of my life. I had a very fast car that year and I qualified as the fastest rookie. I did not practice and qualify on Pole Day, just the second day of qualifying, and I was the fastest second-day qualifier. I had a really fast car but I started 20th so I was in the middle of the field.

“I had Al Unser Jr. on the inside and Michael Andretti on the outside of me and I said to myself, ‘Man, two great drivers, two winners next to me here.’ It was a big experience and I had a great time.”

Junqueira is paired with Cristiano Da Matta in competing for Paul Gentilozzi’s Jaguar team in the American Le Mans Series this year.

Four-time Indy 500 champion A.J. Foyt is enthusiastic about the addition.

“Bruno certainly knows his way around Indy,” he said. “Every time he’s run there, he’s been fast. Plus he and Vitor get along well. I may have to start learning Portuguese. Not really, but I think it’ll be great and it will make us a stronger team for Indy.”

(Racin’ News will be updated as news breaks today)

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 5 2011
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