Andretti Autosport team boss Michael Andretti has praised Tony Kanaan's contribution to his squad after releasing the Brazilian from his contract following a sponsor withdrawal.
Kanaan is now free to seek a new drive for the 2011 IndyCar Series, with his Andretti contract having been ended early due to 7-Eleven – the primary backer on his car since 2003 – deciding to scale down its involvement. The Andretti squad signed Kanaan when it moved from Champ Car to IndyCar at the start of '03, and he went on to win the 2004 title for the team, becoming the lynch pin of its four-car lineup.
"It is difficult to believe that Andretti Autosport and Tony Kanaan will no longer be competing together, but that is now a reality with the signing of this agreement," said Andretti. "When 7-Eleven notified us that they would not be returning as the primary sponsor of Tony's car in 2011, we were left with a very challenging situation. Given the timing of that notification, we felt it was important to give Tony the freedom to review his options outside of Andretti Autosport.
"We understand first hand his value as a driver in this series and we did not want to prevent him from furthering his career in the event we could not arrive at a reasonable solution for him for 2011. Today we agreed that the best option for both Tony and the team is to allow him the freedom to sign with another team.
"Personally, I want to thank Tony for all the effort and passion he shared with our race team and the fans during our eight seasons together and I am proud of what we accomplished. Tony deserved a chance when we signed him prior to the 2003 season and he made the most of that opportunity. He brought us our first pole, our first race win and our first championship.
"We were always a contender to win the Indianapolis 500, and while I'm disappointed we were never able to do that together, I am confident that Tony will win it before his career is over. We wish Tony many wins in the future, and will always consider him a member of our Andretti Autosport family and an important part of our team's history."
Kanaan also thanked Andretti for his support during their time together.
"We created some great memories that I will always cherish and we have much to be proud of," said Kanaan. "I personally want to thank my guys for all their hard work over the years and for always believing in me. This is a team sport at the end of the day and I've considered it a pleasure to have you guys on my team."
With Andretti's main rivals Penske and Ganassi already having full complements of drivers for 2011, speculation has linked Kanaan to the likes of KV Racing, Newman/Haas and De Ferran Dragon Racing for next season.