Two more entries for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 next month have been unveiled, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing confirming that they are preparing a car for Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Oriol Servia and Chip Ganassi Racing announcing that they are adding Sebastian Saavedra to the team's driver line-up in 2015.
Servia will be making his seventh entry in the Indy 500 and his third with RLL, although his best result to date in the race was in 2012 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing which saw him finish the race in fourth position.
“I honestly couldn't be any happier to announce that I will be entering the 99th Indianapolis 500 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” said the 40-year-old Spaniard from Catalonia, who has made 195 starts in CART, Champ Car and the IndyCar Series since his rookie season in 2000.
"There is a saying in Spanish, 'A la tercera va la vencida' - third time lucky - that I feel fits our effort very well. This will be our third attempt together to cross the most famous brickyard first after 500 miles," he said. "The first two efforts were very promising and encouraged all parties to go for it again with the most ambitious aspirations.
"I have followed closely all the changes that the team has gone through over the winter and I am really excited as I have worked with most of the new hires," he continued. "I believe the whole team is perhaps the strongest and most talented group in the whole IndyCar paddock," insisted Servia, who will be paired up with the team's full-time driver Graham Rahal for the event.
"I must thank the whole team and especially the bosses - [Bobby] Rahal, [David] Letterman and [Mike] Lanigan - for their confidence and support. I can't wait to jump in the car and team up with Graham again. This will be a great month of May."
"Oriol is a very talented driver,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "He's a smart driver and he's got a lot of experience so we're looking forward to bringing him back to run the Indy 500 with us for the third time.
"Having teamed with Graham before at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and again last year, their setups seem to be quite similar so you can really take advantage of having a multi-car team," Rahal pointed out. "When we looked at who the best driver was to join us for the Indy 500, Oriol was our first choice. He's competitive; he's smart, has good race craft and brings it home."
Over at Chip Ganassi Racing, new sponsorship from AFS Racing/Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. has enabled the team to add Colombian driver Sebastien Saavedra to their line-up, not only for the Indy 500 but also for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and May's Indianapolis road course race, as well as the season finale GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma in August.
"It's good to be back in the Verizon IndyCar Series," said Saavedra, who since his series début in 2010 has 33 races to his credit with Bryan Herta Autosport, Conquest Racing, Andretti Autosport, Dragon Racing and most recently KV Racing Technology with whom he started on pole at least year's inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
"This is an amazing opportunity for me with AFS to work with one of the most prestigious teams in all of racing," said Saavedra, who will be making his first race start with Ganassi this weekend in California. "I'm very grateful to Chip and the team, which have had an incredible history in the sport, and specifically in the Indianapolis 500. I'm looking forward to Long Beach and doing everything I can to help get the #8 car to the front."
While the Indy 500 outing means that the Ganassi squad will expand to a five-car line-up for the greatest spectacle in motor racing, Saavedra's two other races will see the 24-year-old take over the team's #8 entry from rookie driver Sage Karam.
However Karam will still drive the car in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsport Park, the Indy 500 and the balance of the season until Sonoma, making the #8 a full-season entry in the championship after having previously been confirmed on a race-by-race basis for the first two rounds of the 2015 season at St Petersburg, Florida and NOLA Motorports Park, Louisiana.
"I'm grateful to Chip and the team for their ongoing commitment to me, and I can't wait to get back in the car at Barber," said the 20-year-old, who found the wet conditions at NOLA last weekend to be quite a handful. "I just take things one day at a time and nothing has really changed for me since I started as a development driver here– when Chip calls, I'm ready to go race."
"We've been committed to Sage and to running the #8 car in the full Verizon IndyCar Series season since day one, and this plan reflects our continued investment in the series and in the team," confirmed team owner Chip Ganassi.
"Sage continues to grow his race craft in his development role with us, and we look forward to having both he and Sebastian contribute to the #8 team moving forward this season."
Gary Peterson, owner of sponsors AFS who have helped make the full-season entry for the #8 a reality, said he was delighted with how the plan had come together.
"With the opportunities being limited for AFS, we had planned to sit this season out until this fantastic opportunity," he said. "I'm excited about this coming together quickly with the Ganassi #8 entry.
"It looks to be a great alignment between AFS Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Sebastian Saavedra. My heart has always been in racing and it will be great to see Sebastian have the chance he deserves with a great team."