Servia confirmed for two-race stint with Panther
5 June 2013
Things were looking bleak for Spain's Oriol Servia following this year's Indianapolis 500. Despite finishing the race in 11th place, Servia was faced with losing his IZOD IndyCar Series race seat for the second time in less that two years.
Servia had a break-through season in 2011 racing with Newman/Haas, only for the long-standing team to announce at the end of the year that they were closing their open-wheel racing operation with co-owner Carl Haas blaming "the economic climate" for the decision.
Servia found a new race seat at Dreyer & Reinbold, but a struggle to get sufficient backing for the team saw DRR scale back to a one-car operation fielded in association with Panther Racing alongside their existing driver JR Hildebrand, and branded Panther-DRR
But despite these cost-cutting measures, team co-owner Dennis Reinbold was forced to announce the suspension of team activities following this year's Indy 500, leaving Servia once again on the sidelines as the series headed to Detroit for last weekend's double-header event.
When Panther Racing owner John Barnes announced before the weekend that JR Hildebrand was leaving the team 'by mutual agreement', it was immediately speculated that Servia was about to be handed the vacated #4 National Guard-sponsored race seat. That didn't happen in time for Detroit and Ryan Briscoe filled in instead, with Servia said to still be resolving contractual issues with DRR.
But on Wednesday Panther were finally able to confirm that Servia would be stepping into the cockpit for this weekend's race in Texas and also at the following event in Iowa.
“Oriol has been part of our extended family for over a year now, so this will be a seamless transition for the National Guard team,” said Barnes. “We know what Oriol is capable of, and our team is always happy to add a driver that can contend at any circuit on the IndyCar schedule.
"We're also excited to get him more integrated with the National Guard, as he's a perfect fit for their recruitment efforts in lots of diverse markets across the country," he added.
“I couldn't be more excited about this opportunity,” contributed Servia, delighted to be back on active duty after just a minimal hiatus. “I'm very thankful for the opportunity that Mr. Barnes has given me to continue this season with Panther and in the Chevy family.
“I hope this relationship extends for many races and many seasons, but right now I just want to do the best job I can and hopefully we'll have a great result," he added.
So far, Servia's stint at Panther is only confirmed for the next two races, and Barnes indicated that Panther wouldn't be naming a full-time replacement for Hildebrand for the remainder of 2013 but would instead choose between a number of different drivers according to which ones are available and who best suits which upcoming circuit.
“The biggest thing we want to accomplish the rest of this season is having a clear direction on who will be the driver of the #4 car in 2014,” explained Barnes of this thinking on the matter. “We're going to take full advantage of the opening we have here to determine what is in the best interest of the National Guard and Panther Racing's long-term future.
"With limited off-season testing this is a great chance for us to get familiar with several drivers in a true race weekend scenario," he continued. "We think the world of Servia, and we couldn't have been happier with Ryan Briscoe last weekend in Detroit, but there may be a few others who will have a run in our car before the season ends.”
Kanaan gets Sunoco, Turbo sponsorship
The 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan is reaping the rewards of his success in May with new sponsorship due to take over the livery of the #11 car for the next four races of the season at Texas, Iowa, Pocono and Mid-Ohio.
Finding from series fuel suppliers Sunoco will mean a bright yellow look to the car and to Kanaan's firesuit though the rest of June and July. Sunoco's first turn as a primary sponsor of an IndyCar was back in 1968, and in 1972 Mark Donohue driving the #66 Sunoco Penske Racing McLaren won the Indianapolis 500. This year the company sponsored Townsend Bell's #60 Panther Racing car in the Indy 500.
In addition, the car will feature the lead character from the upcoming DreamWorks Animation feature film "Turbo," a CGI-animated movie about a snail whose dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500 come true.
"I am very proud and happy that Sunoco will be my primary sponsor for four upcoming races,” said Kanaan. “Along with Sunoco, 'Turbo' will be riding along with me in those events. My son, Leo, will be excited to see that, and I am very proud to be associated with what is sure to be a very special movie.
“Sunoco has a long heritage in Indy car racing beginning in the late 1960s and is a proven winner. I look forward to my association with them and hopefully get them to victory circle starting in Texas.”
Ed Carpenter Racing re-organises after Walker exit
Ed Carpenter has said that he doesn't expect to hire anyone new to replace Derrick Walker as general manager of the Ed Carpenter Racing team, following the 68-year-old decision to take up the role of president of operations and competition for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Carpenter said that the existing management team would be able to divide up Walker's former responsibilities between them.
"We have some good leadership with our team right now in Tim Broyles as our team manager, Bret Schmitt as our crew chief and Matt Barnes as our lead engineer,” said Carpenter. "Plus we have a veteran team that proved they can win as we did last year at Fontana. Between the team and myself, we will continue to work hard and look to win races including this Saturday's event.”
Carpenter added that he was delighted to see Walker take up his new position with IndyCar and thought that good things would come from it for the whole sport.
"While we will miss Derrick being a part of Ed Carpenter Racing, we are excited about his new opportunity to join the leadership team at IndyCar,” he said Carpenter. "Derrick has done a phenomenal job for ECR. He really was the architect of our team, and helped up establish a very strong foundation that will continue to lead to future successes. I am confident that he will do an outstanding job at IndyCar. He will be an asset there that will also help the race teams within the series.”