Ho-Pin Tung was confirmed Tuesday as the driver of the No. 8 Dallara-Honda that will be fielded at the Indianapolis 500 by Schmidt Dragon Racing, a joint venture of Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Jay Penske's Dragon Racing. Tung will become the first driver from the People's Republic of China to attempt to qualify at Indy.
“I am very excited to take part in the Indy 500 with Schmidt Dragon Racing,” Tung said. “The support for me in China has always been tremendous, and it's a great honor to be the first Chinese driver ever to take part in this special race, especially being the 100th edition. I realize it will be tough since it will be my IndyCar debut, but Sam Schmidt Motorsports has shown great results in the last few races at the Indy 500, and Jay Penske and the Dragon Racing team has proven they can deliver a highly competitive racecar, so I am confident to have a good chance to qualify for the race.”
Tung, who tested an IndyCar for the FAZZT team last fall at Sebring, is currently in his second year as a Formula 1 test driver for the Lotus Renault GP team. He started his racing career in karts at age 14 and quickly moved up through the open-wheel ranks, doing most of his racing in Europe. In addition to winning the Asian Formula BMW championship in 2003, Tung won the German Formula 3 championship in 2006. He has more than 20 wins in various rear-engine formulae.
“We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to compete at Indy with Ho-Pin,” Schmidt said. “He did a fantastic job at the Sebring test and I'm confident we'll be able to get him up to speed. To be the first team involved with a Chinese driver is huge. Our future success lies in our ability to generate commercial interest in our program, and what better way than to have a direct connection to the world's largest population? Also, having the ability to partner with Jay Penske and Dragon Racing ensures a quality effort both on and off the track. Hopefully, the No. 8 will bring us tremendous good fortune.”
Although entered by Schmidt Dragon Racing, Tung's car will be prepared and staffed by Dragon Racing. Dragon is fielding Paul Tracy at a limited schedule of IndyCar Series races this season but had to replace the Canadian for Indy, since Tracy had already signed to race for the Dreyer & Reinbold team before joining the reborn Dragon squad, which made its debut last month at Long Beach (ABOVE).
“Once again, I am thrilled to be part of the Indianapolis 500, especially for the 100 anniversary,” Penske said. “I have always had deep respect for Sam Schmidt Motorsports and couldn't be happier in partnering with Sam. We look forward to an electrifying month as we work to get Ho-Pin qualified for the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing.'”
The team still plans to run a second car alongside Tung at Indy, although no driver has yet been assigned.
Schmidt is also partnering with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing on a car for Jay Howard, while entering entering its full-season driver Alex Tagliani along with Townsend Bell at Indy.