Honda Unveils Strong 2005 Lineup For Defense Of IndyCar

3/1/2005 6:42:45 PM

Drivers, mechanics and manufacturers dream about having a season like Tony Kanaan, Andretti/Green Racing and Honda Performance Development did in 2004. Scratch "dream." Make that "fantasize."

Led by champion Kanaan, who had three wins, a dozen other top-five finishes and completed all 3,305 laps of competition, Honda-powered drivers won 14 of 16 races, dominated the Indianapolis 500 and captured the top three spots in the point standings.

And the good news for HPD? Virtually the same lineup is intact for 2005.

"Obviously, a season like that doesn't happen very often and it will be tough to duplicate, but I have every reason to believe we'll be very strong again," said Kanaan, the 30-year-old Brazilian who beat teammate Dan Wheldon by 85 points and Buddy Rice by 133.

"This is a great team, in every respect, and Honda is a great partner. What they were able to do last year in terms of power and reliability with a new three-liter engine was just incredible."

AGR's driver chemistry was almost as good as its record as Wheldon won three times and Dario Franchitti earned a pair of victories. Bryan Herta, the fourth member of AGR's armada, just missed winning at Chicago.

"A race driver is always hoping for the perfect combination and I feel like that's what we've got with this team," said Wheldon. "We're friends who work together and race each other hard and that's a unique relationship in motorsports.

"Our pit stops and race strategy are the best and Honda gives us whatever is necessary to succeed. You couldn't ask for anything better."

From Honda's perspective, Wheldon scored the biggest victory in HPD history by winning at Motegi, Japan - the first time Honda got to the top step of the race staged at its home track.

Rice gave the Rahal Letterman stable a season to remember by storming to victory lane at Indianapolis, capturing Kansas City and Michigan and also copping five pole positions.

"All a driver ever wants is an opportunity and I got the best one of my career with Bobby and Dave and Honda," said Rice, who replaced the injured Kenny Brack and has now signed on for three more years.

"And I've got the same package for 2005, so we've got some stability and momentum."

Vitor Meira, who led 152 laps in '04 and just missed winning at Kansas City and Nashville, returns for his second season with Rahal/Letterman, and Danica Patrick, following two impressive years in Formula Atlantic with the Rahal Team, moves up to Indy cars.

Adrian Fernandez jumped to the IRL after the '04 opener and caught up quickly by winning three of the final six races. But the owner/driver won't compete fulltime this year and has picked up veteran Scott Sharp to go with Kosuke Matsuura, who had some strong runs during his Rookie of the Year campaign in '04.

The 10th member of Honda's IRL family in '05 is a new addition with a familiar face. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has signed Roger Yasukawa, who ran all of 2003 with the Honda-powered Super Aguri Fernandez team, but only made two starts last year.