Honda to field nine cars at Indianapolis 500 Honda returns to the Brickyard after seven-year absence Torrance, CA (May 8, 2003) - The winningest active American open-wheel racer, a former IRL champion and Indy 500 race winner, four more ...
Honda to field nine cars at Indianapolis 500
Honda returns to the Brickyard after seven-year absence
Torrance, CA (May 8, 2003) - The winningest active American open-wheel racer, a former IRL champion and Indy 500 race winner, four more proven open-wheel race winners and a trio of promising rookies make up the Honda-powered lineup for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500-mile race. This is the first time Honda has raced in the Indy 500 since the IRL and CART Champ Car series split in 1996.
Four of the nine Honda-powered entries at Indy will be fielded by the Andretti Green Racing organization, headed by former CART champion Michael Andretti. With 42 open-wheel race victories and the 1991 series championship highlighting a career dating to 1983, Andretti comes to the Speedway for his final race as a driver before shifting to a full-time team ownership role.
Andretti's teammates include veteran all-round racer Robby Gordon, substituting for an injured Dario Franchitti. A race winner in NASCAR Winston Cup, CART Champ Cars, IMSA sports cars and SCORE off-road racing, Gordon is a true "throwback" to the multi-disciplined racers of the 1950s, '60s and 70s. This year, he will be attempting "The Double" for the fourth time, planning to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Coca Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on the same day. In addition, veteran driver Bryan Herta has been tabbed by the Andretti Green team as a reserve driver in the event that weather or other conditions interfere with Gordon's plans to race both events.
Meanwhile, returning from injury is early-season IRL points leader Tony Kanaan, who won from the pole earlier this year at Phoenix International Raceway. The Brazilian suffered a broken wrist last month after contact with Scott Dixon and then the Turn Three wall as the pair battled for the lead at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan. Still only four points out of the championship lead, Kanaan will be seeking his first Indianapolis 500 victory.
Rookie Dan Wheldon completes the Andretti Green lineup at Indy, after finishing seventh in his debut for the team last month at Motegi, also in place of the injured Franchitti. The Briton also will race the remainder of the IRL IndyCar season for the team.
Team Rahal, which fielded Honda's first Indy 500 effort in 1994, rejoins the Honda-powered fold in 2003 with a two-car effort for former IRL champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack, and a second car for 1996 CART Champion and multiple oval-race winner Jimmy Vasser.
Brack won the IRL series title in 1998 and Indy in 1999 driving for racing legend A.J. Foyt. Vasser has a multitude of oval track victories to his credit, including the 1996 U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway and last year's California 500, the fastest open-wheel race in history.
In addition to Andretti, IRL race winner Greg Ray is now an owner/driver, with his Access Motorsports entry utilizing Honda power and a Panoz G-Force chassis, the only such combination in the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series. Texan Ray has five IRL race wins and 13 pole positions to his credit, with his most recent victory coming at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2001.
Fernandez Racing, now teamed with former Formula One racer Aguri Suzuki, will field current IRL rookie points leader Roger Yasukawa's Panasonic/ARTA Dallara with Honda power under the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing banner. Last year, Yasukawa won in just his second Atlantic start at the historic Milwaukee Mile oval and finished second at the only other Atlantic oval race, at Chicago Motor Speedway.
Greg Beck Racing and driver Shinji Nakano complete the 2003 Honda Indy 500 lineup. Shinji and the Beck team paired for the first time last month at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, with CART veteran Nakano headed for a possible top-10 finish until a late-race crash with Jaques Lazier ended his day.
Honda's racing subsidiary, Honda Performance Development, Inc. (HPD) of Santa Clarita, California, will lead the company's effort at the Indianapolis 500, in partnership with Ilmor Engineering Inc., of Plymouth, Michigan. HPD and Ilmor will work together as technical partners to design, develop and produce engines for the 2003 IRL IndyCar season. HPD and Ilmor also provide trackside support and engine rebuilding services to teams using the newly developed Honda HI3R Indy V-8 engine.
The 2003 Honda Indianapolis 500 Lineup:
Andretti Green Racing
* # 7 Michael Andretti
* #11 Tony Kanaan
* #26 Dan Wheldon
* #27 Robby Gordon
* #15 Kenny Brack
* #19 Jimmy Vasser
* #13 Greg Ray
Super Aguri Fernandez Racing
* #55 Roger Yasukawa
Greg Beck Racing
* #54 Shinji Nakano