Hunter-Reay for Junqueira?

UPDATE #4 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with the announcement that Oriol Servia got the ride. 06/01/05 Hearing that Christian Fittipaldi may get the Newman/Haas ride, but is he in shape and ready not having been in a Champ Car for so long? 06/01/05 According to this SPEED TV article, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, co-owners of Champ Car, signed Hunter-Reay to a contract last winter to keep him from testing with Chip Ganassi's IRL team. They placed the 24-year-old Floridian with Paul Gentilozzi's Rocketsports stable.

After hearing Hunter-Reay was wanted by Newman/Haas, Kalkhoven called Paul Newman on Monday. "Paul (Gentilozzi) and I offered Ryan to Newman/Haas because it would be good for him and good for our series," said Kalkhoven. Hunter-Reay, who along with A.J. Allmendinger is the American future of Champ Car, was understandably excited about the possibility of joining Sebastien Bourdais this weekend at Milwaukee.

"Carl called me today and asked if I'd like to drive at Milwaukee and I said, 'Absolutely,'" said Hunter-Reay, who won the pole and led every lap last year at Milwaukee in the most dominating drive in Champ Car history. "But it's only a race-to-race offer and now Paul (Gentilozzi) doesn't want to let me out of my contract for just one race."

The next race after Milwaukee is Portland, where Hunter-Reay qualified second fastest in 2003, so it might behoove Haas to at least offer a two-race deal. "That would be great," said Hunter-Reay. If Haas, Hunter-Reay and Gentilozzi can't get together, there don't seem to be a lot of viable options. Michel Jourdain, now pursuing a NASCAR career in the Busch series, might be able to run a couple of races but couldn't do the whole season. Memo Gidley, Michael Valiante, Mario Haberfeld, Roberto Moreno and Fittipaldi might also get some consideration. "Whatever we do it's got to be done by Wednesday (today)," said Haas on Tuesday.

06/01/05 Newman and Haas must now decide what is best to do and that will no doubt cause some scrambling amongst the drivers in America to fill what is a very desirable seat in the series. Obviously Newman and Haas do not want to take too big a risk on a rookie and a look down the championship standings suggest that the likes of Cristiano da Matta, Timo Glock, AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Hunter-Reay would all be good targets. All are under contract elsewhere although in such circumstances contracts mean little if drivers are willing to pay to move to a better drive. The option is to bring in an outsider and thee obvious targets for that would be the drivers in and around F1 who are frustrated and looking for a future. There are several who leap to mind, notably Franck Montagny, Anthony Davidson and Antonio Pizzonia. Whatever the case a decision is needed quickly as the teams are racing this weekend in Milwaukee although the logical thing to would be to take on an oval specialist for the one weekend before making a decision about the rest of the year. 05/29/05 A reader writes, Dear, Our prayers go out to Bruno Junqueira that he may have a full and speedy recovery. Unfortunately, an oval track has injured another fine young man and great racer. The fact remains that Newman/Haas is going to put a replacement in for the injured Junqueira. Why not take this opportunity to put in a driver who has proven his loyalty to Champ Car and proven that if given a fast car he can and will win races, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Paul Gentilozzi could win a lot of friends by offering to loan Hunter-Reay to the Newman/Haas team and at the same time give a very deserving young American an opportunity to show what he can do in a top of the line car. It will be a crime after Ryan showed what he is made of turning down the money to run with a top team in the IRL if some ‘sub’ is given this seat. Gentilozzi can then put a new deserving driver, Ryan Dalziel or Michael Valiante in the 2nd seat that Hunter-Reay currently drives. John Wilkinson, San Jose California Dear John, You are correct in that Champ Car certainly could use the media attention from another American in a competitive car. Hunter-Reay didn't win two races and all of a sudden forget how to drive this year. I also heard he was offered $100K plus 50% of prize money to drive the Indy 500 but turned it down out of loyalty to Champ Car. The next race is Milwaukee where Hunter-Reay annihilated the competition last year leading every lap. Mark C.

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