De Ferran Dragon Racing president Gil de Ferran announced at a news conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil that the team has signed Tony Kanaan to drive its No. 2 Dallara-Honda in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series. The car will continue to carry primary sponsorship from Hewlett Packard.
Kanaan, who turns 36 on Dec. 31, became a free agent this winter after longtime team Andretti Green Racing was unable to secure a replacement sponsor for 7-Eleven, the backer of Kanaan's No. 11 car with that team, and was forced to settle his contract. He will now join the third-year team co-founded by Jay Penske and Steve Luczo, which added de Ferran to its ownership group this season.
“This is a great signing and a major coup for de Ferran Dragon Racing,” said de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and two-time CART champion. “He is a proven champion and brings with him a great record of success on the track. Tony has consistently placed at the sharp end of the field for more than a decade and shows no signs of letting up. I am sure his contribution to the team, both in terms of speed and experience, will be invaluable to our development and future success.
“Tony's presence is also a significant vote of confidence for our young and developing team with big ambitions. I have no doubt that he'll not only bring his speed and determination, but will help us being a major force in the series for years to come.”
Kanaan, who had raced with Andretti's team since switching to the Indy Racing League from CART for the 2003 season, took the 2004 series title when he became the first driver in major auto racing history to complete every lap of every race for an entire season on his way to winning the series title. The Brazilian has finished in the top six of the championship standings in each of his eight full IndyCar seasons.
“I am really excited to be working with de Ferran Dragon Racing,” said Kanaan. “I have a great deal of respect for Steve Luczo, Jay Penske and, of course, Gil, who I have known for many years both as a driver and now as a team owner. I know that the owners have a passion for the sport and a dream of being among the best in the series and will assemble all the right skills to turn this team into something really special.
“There is no doubt we have a lot work in front of us, but the energy I've felt from this team for becoming a top player and winning convinced me that this is a team where I can truly contribute and make a difference through my years of experience. One thing is for sure, 2011 is going to be a great journey for us all.”
Kanaan replaces fellow Brazilian Raphael Matos, who drove the team's No. 2 entry the past two seasons. He finished 14th in points this year, with a pair of fourth-place finishes his best results.