Having been a thorn in the side of Sebastien Bourdais during the final year of Champ Car, Robert Doornbos could be poised to join the Frenchman at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing for 2009.
Doornbos sat out the 2008 season after the merger of Champ Car and the IRL saw benefactor Paul Stoddart pull out of his partnership with erstwhile Minardi Team USA co-owner Keith Wiggins - who duly signed EJ Viso for the campaign under the HVM banner - but was initially primed to return to the fold for the coming season.
However, having been a target for NHLR when Bourdais landed his break in F1 last year, Doornbos remained high on the list of drivers the team considered for its IndyCar programme and, with Justin Wilson's position faltering due to a lack of sponsorship, the Dutchman is being touted as a potential team-mate to the already-confirmed Graham Rahal.
It is understood that Doornbos is counting on backing from Red Bull and Dutch finance company ING - currently a major partner of the Renault F1 team - but is being made to wait while the latter ponders whether increasing its motorsport sponsorship to encompass the USA is a wise move in the present economic climate.
Representatives acting for the former Jordan and Minardi F1 substitute once suggested to autosportnieuws.be
that a deal 'is as good as done and will be announced in the near future', but have since reported that the situation may not be as clear-cut.
"Everything is looking good," Manager Lodewijk Varossieau originally claimed, "The deal is 99 per cent done and Robert will soon announce his plans."
With the date for the expected deal having been and gone, however, Varossieau has been forced to revise his opinion.
"The contract is not yet signed, but, within three weeks, we will announce what Robert will do this season," he has since said.
Doornbos - who raced in the inaugural Superleague Formula campaign to keep his hand in in 2008 - is still believed to be the favourite to partner Rahal at NHLR this season, but the team has made no secret of the fact that it is also courting four-time CCWS champion Bourdais should the Frenchman not be retained by Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Should the backing be found to land Bourdais, however, it could provide NHLR with an interesting dilemma. While several teams have admitted to having to throttle back on numbers, the veteran outfit could be in a position to run three stop-notch entries, with Bourdais expected to be a frontrunner from the off should he be forced to return to the US circuit.
Wilson, meanwhile, looks almost certain to leave NHLR after just one season - which yielded a maiden IRL win on the streets of Detroit's Belle Isle - and the Briton is reported to have been investigating opportunities outside of the IRL in a bid to keep himself active this year.