Just a week after Gil de Ferran and Jay Penske indicated their newly merged team would likely stick to a one-car operation, the team announced it will add a second car for IZOD IndyCar Series veteran Davey Hamilton for three races this season. Hamilton will compete at the Indianapolis 500, at Texas Motor Speedway and at another oval venue later in the season. De Ferran also announced that sponsors include HP, McAfee and Bell Micro.
"He still harbors strong ambitions as a driver, particularly regarding the Indy 500," de Ferran said of Hamilton. "He has also shown a keen interest in helping develop our team and young drivers. He is a highly experienced oval driver that can not only bring us a good result, but very importantly, can help bring us a point of reference and lift the whole team's performance."
"It's exciting for me to be back and able to run the Indy 500," said Hamilton, who has posted three top-10 finishes in at Indy. "It's always been something I wanted to do, run more than Indy and I haven't been able to put that together the last several years. I'm able to do that finally.
"Luczo Dragon already has some success and with Gil joining this team, I'm very excited about the possibilities," he added. "Rafa [Matos, the team's full-time driver] has done a fantastic job. He's out of his rookie season now, so he's been to these tracks before and has experience. We're hoping to be able to give each other a lot of information to excel the team and to get a victory. Hopefully we can do it sooner rather than later."
Hamilton retired as a driver after a crash at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001. After enduring 21 surgeries to reconstruct his feet, Hamilton returned to the cockpit for the Indy 500 in 2007 and finished ninth. He returned in 2008 and '09.
"I will have mixed emotions for sure, going to Texas and competing on that track for the first time since the accident, but it is important for me to return to Texas and to finish that race," said Hamilton, who will continue to drive the Indy Racing Experience two-seater on race weekends.
The 17-race schedule that begins March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, will be the second full-season effort for Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports.
"We have been working hard on expanding our program," said de Ferran, who noted that team co-owner Jay Penske would continue to be the race strategist for Matos and he'll "be the coffee guy" on race weekends. "We wanted to make sure we were expanding in the right way with the right amount of funding so that we make the right investment and make it worthwhile for everyone involved. Our sponsors were the key to making this happen."
Matos said the addition of a teammate would be a help. "It's extremely difficult to be a one-car team," he said. "There's no comparison for data or driver input. Adding Davey with his experience, as well as Gil, they've been through a lot of the situations I have not. I was fortunate to run the full season last year, and I was able to learn a lot but there's still a lot of learning for me. You don't learn everything in just one year. There's a lot of hard work for me and a lot of hard work for the team.
"We must improve at a lot of the tracks and we have a really good direction. We have good support from our new sponsor, HP, and I'm just very honored to be on my second year with the team."