Davey Hamilton is far from ready to give up on his own on-track career, but has taken the first step towards keeping himself involved in racing once the day finally comes to hang up his helmet.
Hot on the heels of former IndyCar rival Bryan Herta, the veteran has announced plans to run a team in this year's Firestone Indy Lights championship, with the long-term aim of stepping up to the senior series and chasing the Indianapolis 500 honours that have so far eluded him as a driver.
While currently working on securing a ride in this year's 93rd running of the blue riband race, Hamilton has confirmed that he will run former USAC driver Brandon Wagner in the Lights series.
"I know I can't race forever, even though I wish I could because I love it so much, but it's important for me to stay involved with the sport I love and this will give me an opportunity to do that." the 46-year old told the official IndyCar Series website, "I made sure all the people involved with the [Indy Lights] programme knew that I still have the passion and desire to be a race car driver - and the Indy 500 is the pinnacle for me to compete in - but I want to be a team owner for a long time. That's my future. I want to learn how to be a car owner and try to progress into the IndyCar Series."
The team, which has yet to be officially christened, hired IndyCar Series veteran Darrell Soppe to lead its engineering strength and Sean Birmingham as team manager, and is currently chasing sponsorship for a second entry.
"There are a lot of people involved, and that's why there's not even a formal team name because there are some opportunities to get more people involved with our programme that could dictate the name of the team," Hamilton explained, "With the economy being down, it doesn't seem like a great time but, with the partners and people that are involved, it just happened to be the right time for us to put this team together."
Hamilton has 50 IndyCar Series starts to his name, dating back to the first ever IRL race at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1996, but lost his place among the regular runners after suffering severe leg injuries in a 2001 crash at Texas Motor Speedway. He currently acts as driver analyst for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
's broadcasts of IndyCar races, but wants to be as involved in his new venture as possible.
"I want to be there every second the car is on the track to try to help the performance side of the team, and the biggest thing for me is to continue to find funding to make sure the team excels and succeeds - that's where I'm going to put all my focus at this point," he admitted, "We have been in multiple meetings to finalise details within the team and the most important priority is to get the cars ready for the first test [on 23-24 February at Homestead]. Once we have operations running as smoothly as possible, we can work on making this team competitive."
Wagner, who debuted with 15th place in last season's Lights finale at Chicagoland, will drive the #32 car as he graduates from USAC National and Regional Midget series.
"It's a true privilege to work with somebody like Davey and having him in my headset while I'm on the track," the 21-year old noted, "His knowledge and experience is priceless, and it will be the key factor for us to be competitive in our first season together."