Torrance, Calif. 04/23/2003 -- Honda strengthened its lineup for the Indianapolis 500 with the announcement that seven-time "500" veteran Jimmy Vasser will pilot a second Team Rahal entry at next month's 87th running of the Memorial Day weekend classic.
Vasser, who drove for Team Rahal in CART Champ Cars during the 2002 season, will drive the #19 Rahal/Letterman entry on May 18, the final day of qualifying for this year's Indy 500. The 38-year-old Californian currently drives for American Spirit Team Johansson in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford, and will be racing in the German 500 on the opening weekend of Indy 500 qualifying.
Not only does this entry mark a reunion for Vasser and Team Rahal, but also for Vasser and Honda. Driving with Honda power for the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing Team from 1996-1999, Vasser posted a total of eight Champ Car race victories, including 500-mile race wins at both Michigan International Speedway and California Speedway. He won the CART drivers' championship in 1996 and assisted Honda's successful manufacturers' championship efforts in 1996, 1998 and '99.
"Honda looks forward to working with Jimmy again," said Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of Honda Performance Development. "Honda and Jimmy enjoyed some excellent results from 1996 through 1999, and it would be great to win with him again at Indianapolis."
"To run Indy is always and special thing. To do it with Team Rahal and coupled with Honda - both of whom I have a lot of respect for and fond memories of - makes it even more special," said Vasser. "Certainly, we will have our work cut out for us with the one day in which to qualify the car. It would be better for our chances to qualify to be there [at Indianapolis] the full duration, but that isn't possible because of the race in Germany. Certainly, I will be the beneficiary of hours of work that [Team Rahal driver] Kenny Brack and [engineer] Don Halliday will log in early May."
Vasser has run the Indy 500 seven times previously, including the last three events. He was the fastest rookie qualifier in 1992, has a pair of top-five results (1994 and 2001) and has twice qualified in the top 10. Last year, he drove for Team Rahal and was classified 30th after his gearbox failed early in the race.
Today's announcement brings to eight the number of announced Honda-powered entries at this year's Indianapolis 500. In addition to the Team Rahal pair, Andretti Green Racing will field four cars, Super Aguri Fernandez Racing will run rookie Roger Yasukawa and Access Motorsports will enter a Honda-powered G-Force chassis for former IRL series champion Greg Ray.