Possibly the strongest field ever assembled for the streets of Surfers Paradise has been confirmed for next weekend's Nikon Indy 300, with all of the IndyCar Series' familiar faces making the trip 'down under'.

A total of 24 drivers - including three former Gold Coast race winners, ten 2008 race winners, five Indy 500 champions and the famous racing names of Rahal, Andretti and Foyt - will hit the track to form the biggest Surfers Paradise field since 2001.

The return of former drivers Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser to Surfers Paradise as team owners will bring the total number of former Gold Coast race winners on track to five, while Andretti and Bobby Rahal will look on as sons Marco and Graham continue the family legacy. AJ Foyt IV, grandson of the four-time Indy 500 winner and current IRL team owner of the same name, will make his Queensland race debut.

The former Indy 500 winners also include reigning Brickyard and series champion Scott Dixon, and Helio Castroneves, the two-time 500 winner having had his bail conditions modified to allow him to compete despite ongoing investigations into allegations of tax evasion.

The field will also include the high-profile Danica Patrick, who became the first woman to win a major open-wheel event when the IndyCar Series headed to Japan earlier this year, while some of the biggest team names in US open-wheel racing, such as Penske, Ganassi and Newman/Haas/Lanigan help to make up the best entry since Champ Car was in its heyday on the Gold Coast.

All of the regular IndyCar teams will be present, with the only change to the long-time 2008 line-up seeing Alex Tagliani continue in the second Conquest car in place of Enrique Bernoldi. However, recent driver changes ahead of the 2009 campaign will see Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti - two other Indy 500 winners - lining up with Panther Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing respectively, while Vitor Meira, runner-up in this year's 500, takes Darren Manning's place at AJ Foyt Enterprises, as he will next season.

The IndyCar Series field compliments an impressive 29-car entry that will shares headline billing for round eleven of the V8 Supercar Championship on the same weekend.

Nikon Indy 300 general manager Greg Hooton said he was thrilled at the depth and quality of the field, which he suggested could produce one of the greatest races ever on the streets of Surfers Paradise.

"This is one of strongest fields we have ever assembled for the Nikon Indy 300, and the quality of the names on this entry list is just phenomenal," he said, "The quality and depth of the IndyCar and V8 Supercar fields, and the variety of our support programme, means that we again have one of the truly great festivals in world motorsports and that is something we can all be tremendously proud of.

"Ticket sales for the event have been strong and I am sure the confirmation of this quality field will be the icing on the cake for so many race fans. A race win at the Gold Coast is a box so many of these guys want to tick - including our own local contingent of Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon - and I am sure their desire is going to give us a fantastic race."

It remains to be seen whether this will be the last Gold Coast appearance by US open-wheel racers, however, as the two sides appear deadlocked over a suitable date for Surfers Paradise to be included on the regular season schedule from 2009. Both parties wish the arrangement to continue, but IRL planners are keen to tie the Australian trip either to the start of the season or in a 'flyaway' double-header with Motegi in September. Race organisers, however, are keen to maintain the successful October slot, which takes the race beyond the end of the usual IRL calendar.

The full entry for next weekend's Nikon Indy 300 is as follows:

2. AJ Foyt IV Vision Racing
3. Helio Castroneves Team Penske
4. Dan Wheldon Panther Racing
5. Oriol Servia KV Racing Technology
6. Ryan Briscoe Team Penske
7. Danica Patrick Andretti Green Racing
8. Will Power Team Australia/KV Racing Technology*
9. Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing
10. Dario Franchitti Target Chip Ganassi Racing
11. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing
14. Vitor Meira AJ Foyt Enterprises
15. Buddy Rice Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman Racing
18. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne Racing
19. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne Racing*
20. Ed Carpenter Vision Racing
23. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
26. Marco Andretti Andretti Green Racing
27. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green Racing*
33. EJ Viso HVM Racing*
34. Jaime Camara Conquest Racing*
36. Alex Tagliani Conquest Racing
02. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing*
06. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing*

* denotes 2008 season rookie



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