Newman/Haas/Lanigan signs Doornbos

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing confirmed Friday that it will field at least two cars in the 2009 IndyCar Series and announced that Dutchman Robert Doornbos has been signed to partner returning driver Graham Rahal.

Doornbos, 27, is familiar to American fans after competing in the 2007 Champ Car World Series for HVM Racing, winning two races and finishing third in the championship. In 2008 he contested several rounds of the A1GP single-seater series, claiming two podium finishes.

He gained notoriety within the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team after emerging as one of Sebastien Bourdais' toughest competitors during the 2007 Champ Car championship. Bourdais lashed out after Doornbos' victory at the Circuit Mont Tremblant when he accused the Dutchman of dirty driving tactics.

Doornbos failed to land a drive in the first year of the unified IndyCar Series, but never gave up hope of returning to race in America. Sponsorship for his program is yet to be revealed.

"I'm very happy and proud to get this chance to race with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing," Doornbos stated. "Racing in the IndyCar Series has been my biggest dream and especially to do it with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. The history of the team and the big success they have had in the past really attracted me and it makes me proud to become part of this winning team."

Doornbos has never competed on an oval track, and he will get his first taste of superspeedway action when he kicks off a three-day test Monday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

IndyCar rookies will have an exclusive practice session at Homestead on Monday before the rest of the field joins in on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ten of the 17 races on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule, including the Indianapolis 500, will be staged on oval circuits.

"Racing on the ovals should be very exciting," said Doornbos. "It will be tough, but I'm training as much as possible and am in good condition and ready to achieve results. I'm also excited to race in the legendary Indy 500. I really want to thank Mr. Haas and Mr. Lanigan for giving me this chance and I'm looking forward to the first race."

Formed in 1983 by Carl Haas and the late Paul Newman, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is one of the most successful operations in American open-wheel racing, claiming 107 race wins and eight championships under CART or Champ Car sanction. Those numbers rank second only to Team Penske.

In 2008, its first year in the IndyCar Series and the first with Mike Lanigan as a new co-owner in the team, NHLR's drivers Rahal and Justin Wilson won one race apiece. At this point, Wilson does not have a ride for the 2009 season.

"Mike and I are excited to add Robert to our lineup," Haas said. "He was a fierce competitor in Champ Car and we are hoping for the same in the IndyCar Series. He was able to quickly adapt to the new challenges in Champ Car which should bode well for the learning curve we will face in getting him acclimated to oval racing."

Internet reports recently speculated that Milka Duno would also be joining NHLR for a three-car attack, but no mention was made of the female driver from Venezuela in Friday's announcement. However, Duno is scheduled to take part in media activities at Homestead and an entry list for the test issued by the Indy Racing League includes three Newman/Haas/Lanigan cars with one driver to be announced.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.