Rahal Letterman Racing Expands Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Electronics Program
HILLIARD, OH . . . Rahal Letterman Racing announced today the expansion of its Indy Racing League IndyCar Series program with two of its leading partners, Argent Mortgage Company and Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. After completing a successful 2004 season in the IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman's Buddy Rice, co-primary sponsors Argent Mortgage and Pioneer have added a second Honda powered entry for 2005, which will be driven by rising open-wheel star Danica Patrick.
In announcing its driver line-up for 2005, the team formally announced the signing of Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner, to a multi-year contract extension. Rice started the 2004 season as a substitute driver for Kenny Brack who had been injured in the 2003 IndyCar season finale. Rice made the most of his opportunity winning three-races, including Indianapolis, five pole positions and finishing third in the championship. The last 12 months have capped a meteoric rise for the 28-year-old native of Phoenix, Arizona.
The highly touted Patrick, a 22--year-old native of Roscoe, Illinois, has driven the last two seasons for Rahal Letterman Racing in the ultra competitive Toyota Atlantic Championship. She will become the second female driver to run the entire IRL IndyCar Series schedule and attempt to become the fourth woman to run the Indianapolis 500.
A three-time national karting champion, Patrick raced in the highly competitive Formula Ford Championship in Europe. She posted the highest finish ever for an American driver at the prestigious Formula Ford Festival in 2000. She joined Rahal Letterman Racing in mid-2002 and ran a partial schedule in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. She moved to Atlantics in 2003 with backing from Argent Mortgage Company and finished on the podium in her first Atlantic race. In 24 Atlantic starts she collected five podium results and 15 top-five results. In 2004 she posted ten top-five results in 12 races and collected three podium results including a second place finish at Portland. She finished third in the championship.
The Argent/Pioneer cars of Rice and Patrick will combine with the car of Vitor Meira to give Rahal Letterman Racing its first full-season three-car program. All three cars will be Honda powered G-Force chassis utilizing Firestone Firehawk tires. Sponsorship details for Meira's car, while already finalized, will be announced at a later date.
"A three-car full-season IndyCar Series program is the most ambitious undertaking we have had at Rahal Letterman Racing in quite some time," said Bobby Rahal team co-owner and 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion. "I have always been a proponent of a multi-car team, but we didn't always have the resources or the driver talent to expand to this level. Certainly the success we enjoyed at Indianapolis last year with three cars showed us the benefits of a multi-car program. There are challenges with adding a third car and we had to carefully evaluate where we allocated our personnel. Two elements were vital to our ability to elevate the IndyCar program to this level. First was the incredible support we received from our partners at Argent, Pioneer and Honda and secondly the unique trio of talented drivers that we will campaign this season. Last year was a phenomenal season for our team, but with Buddy Rice, Vitor Meira and Danica Patrick I see greater accomplishments ahead."
"We had a great year working with Rahal Letterman Racing, and are very pleased to expand our 2005 partnership with the addition of Danica Patrick to the IRL program," said Wayne Lee, president of Argent Mortgage Company. "Argent has been a huge supporter of Danica's career sponsoring her in the Toyota Atlantic Championship and we cannot be more excited to help her advance to the IRL and join Indy 500 champ, Buddy Rice. These talented drivers share the same characteristics that have made Argent Mortgage a leading national mortgage lender -- teamwork, determination and innovation -- and we look forward to another stellar racing season in 2005."
"Following the tremendous success of Buddy Rice and the entire Rahal Letterman Team this year, Pioneer is geared up for a repeat in the 2005 season," said Michael Townsen, vice president of marketing for mobile entertainment at Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. "We're thrilled to have Buddy Rice, winner of the 2004 Indianapolis 500, back in the drivers seat again this year. And we're doubling the excitement with the addition of a second car driven by Danica Patrick, a young driver with great potential."
"I had the opportunity to see Danica's test in Phoenix last month, and I was very impressed with her focus, her discipline and her methodical approach in the race car," said Robert Clarke, Vice President and General Manager of Honda Performance Development, Inc. "She showed an ability to get up to speed very quickly, and her times were extremely competitive. We're looking forward to seeing many successes from Danica during her rookie IndyCar season."
"2004 was an incredible year for Rahal Letterman Racing with Buddy Rice winning the Indianapolis 500 and fighting for the championship and Vitor Meira emerging as one of the bright young stars of the sport," said team co-owner David Letterman. "With the addition of Danica Patrick to our IndyCar Series program, the 2005 season holds the promise of more great memories."
"This is a very exciting occasion for me," said Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion. "Last year I came to Rahal Letterman as a substitute driver and I had to work on a race-to-race basis. Now I'm fired up for the future with Rahal Letterman Racing. We enjoyed a tremendous 2004 season. The team has a solid partnership with Argent, Pioneer and Honda, and that gives us a foundation to contend for the IRL IndyCar Series championship for years to come. Needless to say, I'm very thankful to Bobby, Dave, the team and the sponsors and I can't wait to get started on the 2005 season."
"Since I first started racing when I was just 12 years old, my dream has always been to run the Indianapolis 500," said Patrick. "When I signed with Bobby in 2002 he told me to be patient, because this was a lengthy process designed to advance me to the highest levels of racing. Back then it was easy to say I could be patient, but as a driver you never want to settle to be happy with the status quo. Today all those years of hard work, moving to England at 16, all the sacrifices have paid off, because I am ready to race in the IRL IndyCar Series."
Argent Mortgage entered the motorsports arena in 2003 with a successful campaign that included sponsorship of Rahal Letterman Racing's Toyota Atlantic car driven by Patrick as well as various race event sponsorships. Argent also served as the primary sponsor on the second Rahal Letterman Indy 500 entry in 2003 driven by past open-wheel champion Jimmy Vasser. In 2004 Argent expanded its program to include a full-season co-primary sponsorship with Pioneer on the Buddy Rice entry, as well as maintaining its program with Patrick in the Atlantic series. The success of the 2004 programs have led to the expansion for 2005 to co-primary sponsorship of two cars in the IndyCar Series.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif. , Argent Mortgage Company is a leading national mortgage lender. The company works exclusively with independent mortgage brokers and bankers across the country through loan processing centers in California, Illinois and New York. For more information about Argent Mortgage or to locate an independent mortgage broker near you, visit the company's Web site at www.argentloans.com.
For more than 25 years, Pioneer has supported various motor sports events, including: IMSA, NHRA, Formula One, Rallies, CART, and now the Indy Racing League. Racing sponsorships are an effective marketing tool to reach consumers with messages about the company's home and mobile entertainment products. In addition, each race provides the potential to serve as an entertainment experience for local dealers and distributors of Pioneer products.
Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. is headquartered in Long Beach, Calif., and its U.S. Web address is www.pioneerelectronics.com. Its parent company, Pioneer Corporation, is a leader in optical disc technology and a preeminent manufacturer of high-performance audio, video, computer and cable equipment for the home, car and business markets. The company focuses on four core business domains including DVD, display technologies, Digital Network Entertainment and components. Founded in 1938 in Tokyo, Pioneer Corporation (NYSE:PIO) employs more than 36,000 people worldwide. Its shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Rahal Letterman Racing, based in Hilliard, Ohio and co-owned by three-time IndyCar Champion Bobby Rahal and CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman, has been a leading open-wheel racing operation for more than a decade compiling 19 victories, 26 poles and one series championship (Bobby Rahal in 1992 in CART) and an Indianapolis 500 championship (Rice in 2004). In 2005 Rahal Letterman Racing will enter three cars in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series. Buddy Rice and rookie Danica Patrick will drive Honda powered G-Force cars sponsored by Argent Mortgage Company and Pioneer Electronics. Vitor Meira of Brazil will pilot a Honda/G-Force sponsored by a yet to be announced partner.