Confirming recent rumours, Richard Antinucci is to return to his American roots, having agreed a deal to contest the Indy Pro Series with Eddie Cheever's eponymous squad.

The long-time F3 racer is Cheever's nephew, but the former Indianapolis 500 winner insists that blood ties played only a small part in bringing to two together.

"Richard is a talented driver, and is an exciting addition to our team - family or not," Cheever said, "When the opportunity came up to have Richard in the team, obviously it was something that we sat back and thought long and hard about, because there's always more responsibility when you bring a family member into a business.

"But he has all the credentials to do very well. If you look at all the people that have succeeded in Indycars over the past ten years, there's a large majority of them coming from a European single-seater background. Look at somebody like [Juan Pablo] Montoya - comes from Europe, does well in Indy cars, goes to Formula One, comes back and does NASCAR. I think it's a very good training ground for anybody that wants to be successful in racing.

"I'm excited to have Richard here. There's a lot of pressure now that I have my nephew, and I have a feeling I'll go through the same apprehensions that my good friend [AJ] Foyt did when his grandson was racing. But that's all good."

At present, Antinucci will only drive a limited IPS season, focusing on the road course events at St Petersburg, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. However, the team is continuing to search for further sponsorship in order to prepare Antinucci for the Indianapolis 500 in future seasons.

"I am really looking forward to driving with Cheever Racing," said Antinucci, who finished second in the blue riband Macau F3 Grand Prix in November, "I feel that Eddie has taken me under his wing and wants to pass down his experience in motorsports.

"I'm very thankful to be part of my uncle's team - I see it as a family partnership that's great - but I don't think Eddie, or any other professional team owner, would have chosen me if I was just family-related. So I think it's also a pat on the shoulder. I've done a good last year. I'm on the upswing. We want to join forces for all the right reasons and achieve success humbly together."

Indianapolis remains the target for Antinucci, who admitted that his ambition now is to join his uncle on the winners' roster.

"I think the Indy 500 is the biggest single race in the world, and my dream would be to be the second person in the family to win that," he confirmed, "However, we're far from that at the moment. This is just the start of a, hopefully, prosperous project. My immediate goal is to adapt to American racing as quickly as possible with the 500 as my target. With hard work and a humble approach, success should be in our reach."

The Italian-American will make his series debut during the Homestead-Miami open test on 20 February.

"I want to learn as much as I can," he admitted, "I don't have any targets as far as position and placement in the first test go. I think [the car] has a very good power-to-weight ratio, and sounds fun to drive. I also know the Dallara chassis from F3, and it's quite a similar car. But I have no oval experience, so I want to be able to learn that. The first thing we need to do is really work thoroughly. I have to get the grips of the car. The team and I have to gel well, and go from there."

Cheever's 2006 pairing of Chris Festa and Nick Bussell are likely to move on, with Festa having already agreed terms to join the new Chip Ganassi Racing IPS team for the coming season.


Loading Comments...