2002 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race polesitter Bruno Junqueira will get another stab at winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing this May 30th, driving the #36 PacifiCare Panoz G Force/Honda entered by longtime Champ Car stalwarts Newman/Haas Racing.
The Lincolnshire, IL-based team formally announced its deal today at the Yard of Bricks on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Junqueira, who has finished second in each of the past two Champ Car World Series campaigns is "really happy to return to the Indy 500 with Newman/Haas Racing and I'm really happy with PacifiCare will be with us."
The team's Illinois-based employees will also add support, primarily on practice, qualifying and race weekends, intending to come in on Wednesday for Carburetion Day and remaining until the close of the 200-lap contest.
McGee hired Tim Wardrop, who holds the current record for fastest practice lap, qualifying and fastest four-lap average at IMS to serve as race engineer. The Briton worked with Arie Luyendyk and Alex Barron at Mo Nunn Racing last year and assisted Ed Carpenter's entry in IndyCar Series racing last fall. "The technical resources at Newman/Haas are simply amazing," Wardrop said. "I have basic setups for the car and a few shortcuts to add."
Wardrop's primary crew of about a dozen includes several mechanics and crewmembers who worked with McGee at Patrick Racing. Mark Shamberger serves as chief mechanic after serving in that same capacity with Patrick and, in 2003 with Kelley Racing for Scott Sharp.
Crew chief John Cummiskey, who has spent the last few years with Andretti Green Racing joined the group earlier in the year. Mike Hamblin, who calls himself the "engine guy," came onboard two weeks ago after working with Patrick Racing, as did mechanic Pete Bloathner, who worked on Kyle Krisiloff's Formula Ford and Toyota Atlantic teams.
"We feel we have assembled a competitive program for our return to the Indianapolis 500," said Carl Haas. "Through Honda's past history in racing, they have shown their willingness to commit to excellence, and that concept, in conjunction with Newman/Haas Racing's track record makes this Indy 500 joint venture very exciting."
The team has been in its Gasoline Alley shops for about four weeks, McGee explained. "Carl called me about this program earlier in the year. Pete Gibbons (now with Andretti Green) was going to head it up but when he left, I decided to come in."
"We've got a competitive package with Honda and Panoz G Force," McGee stated. "When I came onboard, we had some of the pieces together and there were good people available," he said. "We were going to do this out of their shops, but we realized early on that it would interfere with the Champ Car program."
McGee cited the vehicle dynamics program at the team's Illinois headquarters, together with the shock program, the 7-post shaker and the fact that Dr. Mark Handford is available on the aerodynamics side. The team has one updated and one new Panoz G Force chassis at their disposal.
"I want to win this thing again," he stated. "I wouldn't come back with just anyone and, since I've worked with Newman/Haas before, this was like coming home. The one-race deal suits my plans well," said McGee, who winters in the Palm Springs area.
As he does in the Champ Car World Series, Junqueira has unfinished business at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "In 2001 I finished fifth even though it was only the second oval race I ever ran," Junqueira recalled today. "In 2002 I was able to practice more and I put the car on pole," he recalled. "The Honda engine has shown it has a lot of power and reliability and Newman/Has Racing has a good package with the Panoz G Force chassis."
Newman/Haas Racing intends to practice in the open test here at IMS tomorrow and Wednesday and hopes to get practice and qualifying out of the way prior to leaving for the second race in the Champ Car World Series May 21-23 at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico.
"We believe that with the Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone combination, Bruno is capable of putting PacifiCare and Newman/Haas Racing in the winner's circle," declared Haas. "We have led many laps in the Indianapolis 500 and, hopefully this year will be no different. Except we hope to lead the final lap."