Robert Doornbos will in fact join the IndyCar ranks in 2009, signing to Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's second seat. He will make his oval debut in next week's tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway, driving the No. 06 Dallara- Honda with sponsorship to be announced at a later date.
One of open-wheel racing's most successful and historic franchises adds a driver who spent most of 2008 on the sidelines. Doornbos had long been rumored to partner Graham Rahal or drive a potential second car at HVM Racing.
"I'm very happy and proud to get this chance to race with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing," Doornbos said. "Racing in the IndyCar Series has been my biggest dream and especially to do it with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. The history of the team and the big success they have had in the past really attracted me and it makes me proud to become part of this winning team."
"Racing on the ovals should be very exciting. It will be tough, but I'm training as much as possible and am in good condition and ready to achieve results. I'm also excited to race in the legendary Indy 500. I really want to thank Mr. Haas and Mr. Lanigan for giving me this chance. I'm looking forward to the first race," he added.
Team co-owner Carl Haas confirmed the addition of "Bobby D", as he has come to be known from his Champ Car days, will further the team's ascension up the grid this season.
"Mike and I are excited to add Robert to our lineup," Haas said. "He was a fierce competitor in Champ Car and we are hoping for the same in the IndyCar Series. He was able to quickly adapt to the new challenges in Champ Car which should bode well for the learning curve we will face in getting him acclimated to oval racing."
In 2007, the Dutchman stormed into Champ Car with authority, and proved a thorn in Sebastien Bourdais' side working with engineer Michael Cannon and the former Minardi Team USA effort (now HVM). He won two races and secured Rookie-of-the-Year honors, finishing third overall in the series standings.
A lack of a full-time ride in 2008 saw Doornbos scrounging around for any opportunity, and all that he participated in was the new Superleague Formula for AC Milan, finishing runner-up in the inaugural season to Beijing Guoan. He has also driven in the current season of A1GP for his native Team Netherlands.
Despite its success on-track, with Rahal and Justin Wilson scoring the team's 106th and 107th victories in open-wheel racing last year, sponsorship has never been harder for Newman/Haas/Lanigan to acquire in the face of the economic climate.
The team has long relied on Ralph Hansen to scout the market and find suitable partners. However, only once in the last three years has the team had both cars in full liveries (2007, with McDonald's and MediZone sponsoring Bourdais and Rahal).
Going back as far as 2006, only one of the team's two entrants has been fully sponsored; last season Rahal ran a predominately white car while Wilson, whom Doornbos replaces, drove the McDonald's entry.
Doornbos had been rumored to bringing ING backing, but the Dutch bank is in financial straits at the moment and has adjusted the dollars it spends on motorsport. A majority of the company's backing is invested in Formula One with the Renault team and four race title sponsorships.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan also has entered a third car for the upcoming Homestead test per an IndyCar Series release, without a driver or car number named. Milka Duno has been rumored to that seat but there has been no official confirmation from the team.