Tony Kanaan is leaving Andretti Autosports after the team officially declared him a free agent, and formally released him to chase other opportunities.
But the team is re-signing Ryan Hunter-Reay, in a deal that will see him drive with the team through to the end of 2012.
Hunter-Reay, 29, joined the team this season, winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and finishing 7th overall, after dividing time between Vision Racing and AJ Foyt Racing in 2009. Initially the deal for this year was for only part of the season but Michael Andretti was able to find enough funding to extend it and now to ink a two year deal, despite the news that primary sponsor IZOD was reducing its backing.
"I couldn't be happier knowing my future is with Andretti Autosport," said Hunter-Reay. "Starting the job in October, rather than in March, will be a luxury I've never had before. I look to become a title contender throughout the season."
"We're thrilled to be able to sign Ryan to a multi-year contract,” said team boss Michael Andretti. "We recognized early on that Ryan is that 'total package' both on and off the track and that is why we all worked so hard to keep Ryan for the full season this year." Andretti added that he is close to announcing a sponsor to replace IZOD on Hunter-Reay's car
The deal means Hunter-Reay lines up alongside Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick, leaving insufficient sponsorship to allow the team to continue running Tony Kanaan as well. "It is difficult to believe that Andretti Autosport and Tony Kanaan will no longer be competing together, but that is now a reality with the signing of this agreement," said Andretti.
"Given the timing of that notification, we felt it was important to give Tony the freedom to review his options outside of Andretti Autosport," Andretti continued in a statement released by the team. "We did not want to prevent him from furthering his career in the event we could not arrive at a reasonable solution for him for 2011."
Although Kanaan echoed the thanks and praise back to the team, he was clearly less than entirely happy with the situation:"I don't agree with some things and it's very disappointing but I have no hard feelings," he told speedtv.com. "It's sad because I wanted to be there. It's been my home for nine years and I have a lot of great memories but it's life, it's reality, and now I've got to find a new home."