IRL: Kanaan, Wheldon return to Andretti Green

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Oct. 31, 2003 -- Andretti Green Racing has announced the extension of its agreements with IRL IndyCara Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon for the 2004 season. Kanaan receives a four-year extension to his current ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Oct. 31, 2003 -- Andretti Green Racing has announced the extension of its agreements with IRL IndyCara Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon for the 2004 season.

Kanaan receives a four-year extension to his current contract to continue driving the No.11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/ Firestone entry. He initially signed a two-year contract with the team in September 2002. The extension secures Kanaan's services through the 2008 IndyCar Series season.

"In 2002, Michael (Andretti) showed a lot of faith in my potential when he asked me to driver for his team, even though I hadn't had as good a year as I would have liked," said Kanaan. "I hope I gave him everything he expected. I feel very, very good about what we accomplished together in just one year."

Kanaan gave Andretti Green Racing its first victory in the IndyCar Series at the Purex Dial 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. He also earned nine top-five finishes in 2003 to place fourth in the IndyCar Series driver point standings. Kanaan stood atop the point standings for six consecutive weeks following his third-place finish in the 87th Indianapolis 500 and was in position to win the IndyCar Series championship until suffering a cut tire with 21 laps remaining in the series finale at Texas Motor Speedway.

"I'm very happy to announce that we've extended Tony Kanaan's contract through the 2008 season," said Michael Andretti, owner and CEO of Andretti Green Racing. "Tony Kanaan is the kind of guy that a lot of people would want driving for them. Every time he is in the car he stands on the gas and gives it 100 percent. That is the type of guy we want helping to lead Andretti Green Racing. Tony loves being on this team and we're really happy to extend his contract. He's going to be a big part of the future of this team."

Wheldon will continue driving the No.26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/ Firestone entry. He scored five top-five finishes in 2003 en route to winning the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year award.

"We laid a lot of expectations on Dan when he came to Andretti Green Racing," Andretti said. "It was gratifying to see him excel and achieve so much in 2003. Winning another Rookie of the Year title was important to him and now he's focused on contending for the series championship."

Wheldon has captured four consecutive Rookie of the Year titles, including this year's IndyCar Series honor. He earned both the U.S. F2000 Series Championship and Rookie of the Year in 1999, the CART Toyota Atlantic Rookie of the Year in 2000 and the Dayton Indy Lights Rookie of the Year in 2001.

"I'm very excited to continue with Andretti Green Racing," said Wheldon. "This season was a great opportunity for me and I'm very proud of what the entire Klein Tools/Jim Beam team has accomplished. My rookie year was very challenging, but we made the most of our opportunities."

Wheldon, a 25-year old native of Emberton, England, is also a nominee for two additional honors, the autosport.com 'Rookie of the Year' award and the Autosport magazine 'British Competition Driver of the Year' award.

In addition to renewing the contracts of Kanaan and Wheldon, AGR officials have previously announced that 7-Eleven Inc. was returning as the sponsor of the team's No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone and that Klein Tools and Jim Beam was returning as co-sponsors of the team's No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/ Firestone.

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29, 2004 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series season begins Feb. 29, 2004 with the Homestead-Miami 100 at HMS.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam