IRL: AGR - And Herta makes four

One of the United States' best open wheel drivers now has gainful employment for the coming 2004 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season.

Andretti Green Racing confirmed today it will field four Indy cars next year: for returning drivers Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Daniel Wheldon and, now, the team has added Bryan Herta to its potent stable.

Bryan Herta.
Photo by McQueeney.
The Valencia, California resident substituted for the injured Franchitti during the 2003 campaign, notching a victory in the Kansas Indy 300 and a total of six top-five finishes in 11 races. The tally included three consecutive top-three finishes at Kentucky, Nazareth and Chicagoland for the Warren, MI native.

The addition of Herta in a #7 Dallara/Honda to AGR's Super Team gives Honda, runner-up to Toyota in the 2003 competition for manufacturers' honors a stronger thrust in the coming year. "I couldn't be happier to be back with Andretti Green and Honda," Herta stated. "Last year was a great opportunity and it is awesome to be able to continue with the team and expand on what we achieved in 2003."

Backers of the #7 Dallara/Honda AGR car fielded by Herta are nearly finalized, but team co-owner Michael Andretti has already declared: "It's very exciting for Andretti Green Racing to be able to add a fourth car. Bryan did such a great job for us last year and we really didn't want to lose him. The IndyCar Series is so competitive that you need every resource and advantage you can get."

Andretti Green Racing is owned and managed by newly retired driver Andretti, long-time team manager/engineer/chief mechanic Kim Green and businessman Kevin Savoree. "We know it won't be an easy thing to do," Andretti admitted. "But being able to run four cars and keep Bryan Herta in our lineup should give us a great shot to contend for the 2004 championship. We would like nothing better than to be able to deliver that to Honda and all of our partners in 2004."

Honda made its first foray in IndyCar Series competition this past year and earned two victories - both secured by Andretti Green Racing drivers: Kanaan won at Phoenix in March and Herta at Kansas in July. Honda took part in the CART Champ Car series from 1994-2002, collecting four manufacturers' titles (1996, 1998, 1999, 2001) and garnering six consecutive drivers' titles from 1996-2001.

Herta, who competed in the CART Champ Car series for eight years, owns a pair of series titles: the 1991 Barber Saab Pro Series and the 1993 Indy Lights Championship. He entered his first CART event in 1994, earned his first pole position - and the sobriquet "High Speed Herta" in 1995 and scored back-to-back victories on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course in 1998 and 1999, prompting the 2.238-mile scenic circuit's nickname "Herta Seca".

Prior to accepting the ride in relief of Scotsman Franchitti with Andretti Green Racing last summer, Bryan Herta diversified his portfolio in early 2003, competing in the seminal 12 Hours of Sebring in an ALMS sports car, driving a NASCAR stock car at California Speedway in May and returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in a one-off Champ Car drive last June.

Herta's teammates have exemplary resumes of their own: Franchitti, runner- up to Juan Pablo Montoya in the 1999 CART championship, competed in three 2003 races in AGR's #27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda; Brazilian Tony Kanaan held the IndyCar Series point lead much of last summer in his quest for a second championship (he was Indy Lights champ in 1997), driving the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda; Briton Dan Wheldon earned the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year driving the #26 Jim Beam/Klein Tools Dallara/Honda.