CITGO backed Duno to drive in IRL Milka Duno, the first woman in history to win a major international sportscar race in North America, and CITGO Racing, announced today at Homestead-Miami Speedway that they will compete in the 2007 IndyCar Series with SAMAX Motorsport. Duno will drive the No. 23 CITGO Racing/SAMAX Motorsport Dallara/Honda/Firestone in ten IndyCar Series events this season, including the 91st Indianapolis 500. She also plans to compete at Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Watkins Glen, Nashville, Mid Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Chicago.
[Editor's Note: CITGO is owned by the government of Venezuela that is led by USA hater Hugo Chavez.]
Duno joined Felix Rodriguez, president and CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corp., Peter Baron, team principal of SAMAX Motorsport, and Tony George, founder and CEO of the Indy Racing League, in announcing the sponsor and team plans to field an entry in the 2007 IndyCar Series season.
Although the team is new to the series, SAMAX Motorsport's IndyCar crew members are an experienced group with most having been part of an Indianapolis 500 win. Veteran campaigners Steve Challis and John Cummiskey have been named as lead engineer and team manager, respectively. Cummiskey has three Indy 500 wins next to his name and shared a 2nd place with Challis in 2002. The team will be based out of Gasoline Alley and members will be comprised of a mix of Indy specialists and a few familiar faces from Duno's Grand-Am team.
"This is a dream come true for me. I've always wanted to race in the Indianapolis 500 and in the IndyCar Series, and I can't begin to thank CITGO for continuing to support my racing, as well as everybody at SAMAX Motorsport. The SAMAX team brings a lot of open-wheel experience to the IndyCar Series and I'm hopeful that will make my transition into the series a bit smoother. To make this announcement in my hometown of Miami with my family and friends and fans around me is terrific."
"I am very proud of Milka's accomplishments as a member of the great CITGO family and as a fellow Venezuelan. We certainly look forward to her continued success in this new phase of her career," said CITGO President and CEO Felix Rodriguez.
"I would like to personally thank CITGO and Milka for their continued support and faith in our program. We know this effort, with a new sponsor, driver and team will not be easy, but we are thrilled to have this opportunity and will work our hardest to give Milka the necessary tools to succeed on track. I feel we have done a tremendous job creating a team with the perfect mix of 'Indy talent' and team members that have worked with Milka from the beginning. Milka is already at home with the team which is the foundation from where all the growth and success begins."
Duno begins her IndyCar Series campaign after three successful years competing in the Grand American Rolex Series. During her rookie season in 2004, Duno became the first woman in history to win a major international sportscar race in North America by capturing the overall win with Andy Wallace at the Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. She followed that victory with her second overall Rolex Series win at Homestead just seven months later. In her Rolex Series career, Duno has posted three wins, seven podium appearances, 10 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 finishes.
In her first race of the 2007 Rolex season, Milka recorded a second place finish in the legendary Rolex 24 of Daytona, posting the highest finish ever by a female driver in the 45-year history of the race. It was also the highest finish by a female driver in a major race at Daytona International Speedway. Currently, Duno is third in the driver standings and will be competing in her last scheduled Rolex Series race at Homestead on Saturday, March 24 at 2 p.m. EDT. She will be driving the No. 11 CITGO Racing Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype in the Grand Prix of Miami along with teammate Patrick Carpentier.