Junqueira was on Indy pole in '02

Updated: April 27, 2004, 6:53 PM ET
Associated Press

Bruno Junqueira
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bruno Junqueira will return to the Indianapolis 500 with Newman/Haas Racing to try and give that storied team its first ever win at the May classic.

Junqueira, a former pole winner, will be coming back to the Speedway after a year's absence.

The May 30 race will be the only IRL effort this season for Newman/Haas, which will continue to race full time in Champ Car with Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais.

"In 2002, I had a really good car and a big chance to win," Junqueira said Monday. "Unfortunately the engine blew."

"But I think this year, the Honda engine is going to be really reliable and powerful," he added. "And I think I'm going to have a good shot to win the race this year."

The Brazilian was Indy 500 rookie of the year with a fifth-place finish in 2001. The next year, driving for Ganassi Racing, he won the pole and led the first 32 laps before the blown engine dropped him to 31st.

He was runner-up in the former CART series with Ganassi in 2002 and with Newman/Haas last year and was second to Paul Tracy in the Champ Car season opener last week at Long Beach, Calif.

Newman/Haas bought an IRL chassis last fall in anticipation of a possible entry at Indianapolis, its first since Speedway president Tony George launched the IRL in 1996. The best finish for Newman/Haas in 13 previous tries at Indianapolis was second place by Mario Andretti in 1985.

Junqueira said he did not care about the split in American open-wheel racing and the migration in recent years of many top teams and drivers from CART to IRL.

"I just care about driving fast and driving the big races, and I think Indianapolis is one of the biggest races, if not the biggest race, in the world," he said.

Junqueira will drive a G Force-Honda. The Indy program will be managed by Jim McGee, the Newman/Haas director of special projects.

Junqueira is expected to drive the car for the first time at Indianapolis on Wednesday and Thursday, the final open testing days before the start of practice May 9.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press