Far from becoming a third member of the crack Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing line-up, Milka Duno's return to the IndyCar Series will come with 2008 team Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which unveiled a limited programme for the Venezuelan overnight.
Having tested with NHLR during pre-season, much was made of the rumour that Duno could take her valuable backing from CITGO to help support the efforts of Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos. However, with NHLR insisting that the relationship was merely to give the model/honours student track time with a bigger operation, Duno has returned to DRR in order to race, and will be back on track almost immediately, replacing Darren Manning in the #23 car at Kansas Speedway this weekend.
"We are very excited to have Milka back with our team," co-owner Dennis Reinbold commented, "We had significant momentum last year and we want to pick up where we left off and continue to get results. Also, we are very proud that CITGO is returning as a primary sponsor on the #23 car."
According to the team, Duno will not only partner rookie Mike Conway - who will continue to pilot the #24 Dad's Root Beer-backed machine - but will also 'bring her oval experience to the table' in an effort to aid the Briton's near-vertical learning curve. Manning, meanwhile, is forced to watch from the sidelines after two respectable showings in St Petersburg and Long Beach, following a late call-up to the second DRR entry.
"I'm really happy to be racing and to be back at Kansas," Duno remarked, "This track is a very special place for me, because I made my debut in the IndyCar Series here. The fans are very supportive.
"I'm also very happy to be coming back to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as they did a great job last year, and I must thank CITGO for their fantastic support. I really appreciate the opportunity to be back and will work hard to get some great results."
After racing in sportscars, Duno made the jump to the IndyCar Series with SAMAX Motorsports in 2007, finishing second in the Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year standings and taking a career-best eleventh place in Texas. She moved to DRR for 2008, leading five laps at Chicagoland during the pit-stop windows, before being offered the opportunity to test with NHLR over the winter.
She - and her relative lack of pace - has attracted criticism from her rivals, however, not least during a very public pit-lane spat with Danica Patrick at Mid-Ohio, where the AGR pilot accused her not moving over for faster cars during a practice session.