Former Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon may be without a ride in 2011 after splitting with Panther at the end of last season, but at least the Briton will be competing at the hundredth anniversary running of the Indy 500.
“I'm really excited to be joining Bryan Herta Autosport for the centennial running of the Indianapolis 500 and I'm excited to announce this news in my hometown of St. Pete,” said Wheldon. “Bryan has been a friend – and a teammate – for a long time now and because of that I have the utmost confidence in him and his team to provide me with the tools to win my second Indy 500."
Wheldon, 32, celebrated the birth of his second son, Oliver, last week. He was the first Englishman since Graham Hill (in 1966) to win the Indy 500 when he won the race - and the series title - in 2005 with Andretti Green Racing, when Herta was one of his teammates along with Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan. But despite a career spanning 131 IndyCar starts - including 15 wins, 42 podiums and 61 top five finishes - Wheldon still finds himself without a full time seat in the series this year.
"At this point, I won't be a full-time IndyCar participant this season, but I don't think we will be at a disadvantage having not raced in the first four races of the season because they are not on ovals; they are running on road and street courses," he said. "We will have plenty of preparation time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," adding: "I think we'll be able to hit the ground running. I'm really excited about this opportunity and can't wait to get to Indy."
"It goes without saying that Dan knows his way around the Speedway,” said team co-owner Herta. "He has achieved a tremendous amount of success there and all of us have high expectations going into the month of May. No only is he a great driver, but he's a great friend. As a former teammate of Dan's, I appreciate what he brings to the table with his professionalism, determination and attitude, and it will be a big plus to us."
Bryan Herta Autosport was set up in 2009 as a Firestone Indy Lights outfit but last year fielded their driver Sebastian Saavedra (who this year will drive for Conquest) in the Indianpolis 500 and confirm that they have ambitions to compete properly in IndyCar in the future.
"We're committed to grow our team," said Herta. "We started organically with a one-car Firestone Indy Lights team and competed at Indy last year. Our goal is to be a strong team in the IZOD IndyCar Series."
Herta said that sponsorship for Wheldon's car will be announced in due course, "in addition to some other exciting things."