IRL: Jeff Simmons to race Indy 500

SIMMONS TO CONTINUE DANA'S LEGACY, DRIVE IN 90th INDY 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 4, 2006 -- Jeff Simmons said the best way to honor the life of Paul Dana is to drive hard and promote renewable energy. On April 5, he'll begin working to...

SIMMONS TO CONTINUE DANA'S LEGACY, DRIVE IN 90th INDY 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 4, 2006 -- Jeff Simmons said the best way to honor the life of Paul Dana is to drive hard and promote renewable energy. On April 5, he'll begin working to that end.

Rahal Letterman Racing announced April 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the selection of Simmons as driver of the No. 17 Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda/Firestone in the IndyCar® Series, beginning with the Indy Japan 300 on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi and including the 90th Indianapolis 500 on May 28 at IMS. Simmons will succeed Dana, who lost his life in a practice accident March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Simmons, 29, a native of East Granby, Conn., is one of the winningest drivers in Indy Pro Series history with seven wins, including a victory in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This past weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., he finished second and fourth in two races in the Kenn Hardley Racing car.

In four Indy Pro Series seasons, Simmons twice finished as the championship runner-up, in 2003 and 2005. He also has made two IndyCar Series starts, including as a late entry with Mo Nunn Racing in the Indianapolis 500 in 2004. He finished 16th at Indy after starting 29th.

"These are not the circumstances that I would like this opportunity to come about, but Paul had the same dreams as me," Simmons said. "Like him, this is what I've worked so long for. I just want to do my very best to promote the cause that Paul worked so hard for and do the best job I can in the car for Team Ethanol."

Team co-owner Bobby Rahal said when principals were forced to look for a driver to continue the program, Simmons was at the top of the list.

"Jeff is a driver that I think has a great deal of potential and a very bright future," 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Rahal said. "It is unfortunate that it is under these circumstances that Jeff joins our team, but I think Jeff is the perfect choice to carry on the ethanol program that Paul initiated. Jeff has paid his dues and worked his way up through the ladder system. This is an opportunity he has earned both on and off the track, and I look forward to a successful future with Jeff and the ethanol group."

Simmons will participate in an Open Test on April 5 at IMS to prepare for the 500-Mile Race and get acquainted with his crew.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to promote the message and need for the clean, renewable fuel ethanol and to become a member of Rahal Letterman Racing," Simmons said.

"The last two times (with Mo Nunn and Patrick) I was just right into the car and right onto the racetrack. It's going to be nice to have some time to prepare, and I'm looking forward to getting in the car and getting started. It is one of the most professional teams I could ever hope to be associated with, and I truly appreciate the faith that Bobby and the Team Ethanol sponsors have placed in me."

"Through Paul Dana's determination, ethanol became the performance fuel of choice for the Indy Racing League," said David Vander Griend, president and CEO of ICM. "The best tribute to his legacy is to continue promoting ethanol through racing. We are excited about the future of our new partnership with Jeff Simmons and Rahal Letterman Racing."

-ims

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Jeff Simmons , Paul Dana , Mo Nunn