Andretti Autosport revealed its 2013 squad of IZOD IndyCar Series entries at its Indianapolis headquarters on Wednesday, with the most significant change being a move from No. 28 to No. 1 for the DHL car of series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. However, because No. 28 carries special significance to Hunter-Reay – the estimated 28 million people globally afflicted with cancer – the team has incorporated that number into his car identity.
“It is a huge honor to have earned the right to run the No. 1,” said Hunter-Reay. “All of us at Andretti Autosport see this as a tremendous opportunity to leverage our sponsors, brands and message for 2013 and beyond. We certainly do not underestimate the task. I assure you we are already hard at work and will do everything possible to earn the right to carry the coveted No. 1 in future years as well.”
Hunter-Reay is a co-founder and global ambassador for the Racing For Cancer charity. His mother died from the effects of colon cancer in November 2009.
“The decision to switch to the No. 1 for the 2013 season was very tough. The No. 28 has so much meaning to so many,” said Hunter-Reay. “But we recognized that our team, partners and sponsors have all earned the right to carry the No. 1.
“Racing For Cancer's No. 1 goal is to beat cancer and we realized that running the No. 1 with the No. 28 incorporated into the design, a very important detail to me personally, would provide us with an opportunity to strengthen the message and cause of beating cancer while at the same time recognizing our partners and sponsors dedication to excellence on, and off, the track.”
According to the IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook, car No. 1 is reserved for the defending entrant (not driver) series champion. Most teams in recent years, however, have passed on the option, preferring to keep their existing team numbers. In fact, AA owner owner Michael Andretti was the last to use No. 1 on an Indy car in the 2006 Indianapolis 500 for defending race winner Andretti Green Racing (2005 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon had moved on to Target Chip Ganassi Racing). The last IRL/IndyCar champion to run No. 1 for a full season after winning the title was Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2004.
The RC Cola car driven by Marco Andretti also is changing numbers for the 2013 season, from 26 to 25. Andretti had run No. 26 since breaking into the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2006.
“The No. 26 will always be a part of me and my history in racing,” said Andretti, “but I think it's grown unlucky for me. I like the meaning of 25 versus 26. To me, 26 is a character-builder through heartache and trials. Looking ahead to the No. 25 means success and leadership. It's like my chance to be reborn as a veteran driver.”
James Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, will retain No. 27 for his second season with the team.
"For me, personally, this is the first time in my career I'll have the same team for two years in a row," said Hinchcliffe. "I'm excited to work with Go Daddy again, have the same crew and not have the learning curve at the beginning of next season. I won't have a new situation and a new team to learn and settle into and I'll have the same two teammates, which is great – it's just good to know that off the bat we'll be able to move forward. When the checkered flag dropped in Fontana we were able to immediately start working toward 2013 and we'll continue to work hard through the rest of the offseason."
Andretti Autosport also took the opportunity to officially confirm its 2013 Firestone Indy Lights lineup of Zach Veach and Carlos Munoz, and announce that it was promoting its 2012 USF2000 driver, Shelby Blackstock, to its Star Mazda squad. That step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder is currently in limbo following its owner's decision to sell the series, but Mazda issued a statement yesterday suggesting that a buyer for the series had been located and it was confident Star Mazda would continue unabated into 2013. Andretti will also continue to field a USF2000 squad next year, although the drivers have not yet been named.