Wade Cunningham is setting his sights on the starting grid for the 96th Indianapolis 500 race next month, after securing a deal with AJ Foyt Racing to drive a second car for the team.
The 27-year-old New Zealander is a three-time winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Firestone Indy Lights series Freedom 100 support race, and is hoping that he can finally achieve success with a shot in the greatest spectacle in motor sport in 2012.
"Indy means more to me than anything else," confessed Cunningham. "Winning at Indy in the Firestone Indy Lights Series is the only thing that kept my career on track so it's important to me to go there and do well in IndyCar and prove that the results can translate."
"I knew Wade was good in the little cars," teased car owner AJ Foyt of Cunningham's Indy Lights success. "But what opened my eyes was his race at Kentucky in the IndyCars."
Cunningham's outing in last year's Kentucky IndyCar race - ultimately won by Ed Carpenter - saw him start in 15th place and rise as high as challenging Scott Dixon for third, before getting caught out for track position in the closing laps and ending up in seventh place.
Cunningham is certainly thrilled to be joining up with the inimitable four-time Indy 500 champion AJ Foyt for his own maiden attempt at the race next month.
"Driving for AJ? He's a legend," said Cunningham. "AJ's from a different era but he's raced front engine roadsters at the Speedway and ended with the turbo-charged CART Indy cars, so he's had an amazing career, and his is a very storied team, so it's quite an honour to drive for him."
As this will be Cunningham's first attempt at the Indy 500 he'll still need to complete the Rookie Orientation Program on May 10 first. That shouldn't be a big problem for someone of his oval racing experience in Indy Lights and at other IZOD IndyCar Series oval speedway tracks.
He'll be driving the #41 ECat/ABC Supply car with associate sponsorship from Alfe Heat Treating. Like his new team mate Mike Conway, he'll be powered by a Honda engine for the month. The two will share Conway's #14 car at Texas Motor Speedway for the IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test there, giving Cunningham crucial preparation just three days ahead of his ROP test.
The official week of practice at IMS starts on May 12, with pole day qualifying on May 19. The race itself starts at 11am ET (4pm BST) on May 27.