Jourdain signs with ppc Racing for Busch Series; Ford driver to be first full-time Hispanic entrant in series
DEARBORN, Mich., Jan. 6, 2005 - In a move that Ford Racing's Dan Davis called "another important step in promoting diversity in NASCAR," ppc Racing and Ford Racing announced today that Mexico's Michel Jourdain Jr. has been signed to a multi-year contract to run Ford Tauruses in the NASCAR Busch Series starting in 2005.
Jourdain, a nine-year veteran of the Champ Car World Series, will become the first Hispanic driver to run full-time in the Busch Series, which includes a historic Mexico City date on the 2005 schedule.
"We're thrilled to help partner Michel with ppc Racing," said Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology. "This is something that has been in the works for a couple years, and we've been looking for an opportunity like this to give a deserving driver like Michel the chance to succeed in NASCAR."
"The fact that we've been able to get this program together this year when the series is going to have its first race in Mexico just adds to the excitement."
"This is just another step forward for us in our on-going driver development program," Davis added. "Our philosophy has always been that we want our Ford Racing drivers to better reflect the Ford customer, and working with talented drivers like Michel helps accomplish our goal."
ppc Racing currently fields Ford race vehicles in all three of NASCAR's premier divisions: the VB/APlus at Sunoco Taurus driven by John Andretti in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series; the Stacker 2 Taurus driven by Kenny Wallace in the NASCAR Busch Series; and the Powerstroke Diesel F-150 driven by Terry Cook in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Jourdain, 28, will join Wallace in the Busch Series as the new teammates try to move ppc Racing to the top of the championship standings and add to the team's 21 victories in the past five seasons.
"This is going to be a great sponsorship opportunity for companies in both the U.S. and Mexico," said ppc Racing team owner Greg Pollex. "We've already started talking with potential sponsors, and are making progress now that the contract with Michel is in place. We're committed to running the full schedule of Busch races this year, depending on what NASCAR will allow in terms of the superspeedways.
"Michel's been great," Pollex added. "Our crew guys have already adopted him; he has a good sense of humor and gets along great with his new teammates. We know there's going to be a learning curve for him coming over from open-wheel, but he's got the talent and the right attitude to compete at this level."
Jourdain tested with ppc Racing for the first time last October, and will get his first superspeedway test with the team later this month during Busch Series testing at Daytona International Speedway.
"I'm very excited about this chance," said Jourdain. "I've been wanting to come to NASCAR for a couple years now, and Dan Davis worked very hard with me to find the right opportunity where I could have a chance to work and learn with a top team like ppc.
"Testing the Ford Taurus in October confirmed that this is completely different from what I've been doing the last 10 years, but I've got a championship crew, three great teammates, and the people at ppc have been wonderful to work with.
"We know this is going to be a learning year," Jourdain added. "I've raced on some of the tracks - places like Fontana and Milwaukee - but a lot of them will be new for me. By the end of the year, I hope we'll be in position to compete for top 10s and top fives, but the key for me this year will be to finish races and get as much seat time as I can.
"Getting to race at Mexico City ...to be a Mexican driver racing at my home track ... that will be fantastic. But the long-term goal is to learn this year, not make big mistakes, and continue to develop a strong relationship with ppc Racing and Ford. I'd like this to be the first step to getting to Nextel Cup."
Jourdain comes to ppc Racing after spending the 2004 season with RuSPORT in the Champ Car series. The son of well-known Mexican race driver Michel Jourdain Sr., Jourdain became the youngest Champ Car driver at age 19 in 1996 and was the series' "Most Improved Driver" in 1997.
In 152 career Champ Car starts, Jourdain scored two wins, 25 top-10s, and 20 top-five finishes, including nine podiums. His best career championship finish was third in 2003 when he raced for Team Rahal.
"I wanted to thank everyone who helped me in Champ Car the last nine seasons," Jourdain said. "There were so many great crew guys, owners and drivers there. It's hard to leave the series, and I wish them the best, but this was an opportunity that I could not turn down. It's time for another chapter in my career."