Jeff Simmons wants to honor Dana this year and states that they have "shared a dream" to compete in the IndyCar Series. He will begin to train for the series tomorrow, April 5 and will succeed Dana for the remainder of the year.
Simmons was the winner of the first Indy Racing League (IRL) event held at Watkins Glen International on September 25, 2005 when fans were able to witness the return of open-wheel racing, during the inaugural race weekend. He took home the Steuben trophy of the Corning 100, Indy Pro Series race prior to the start of the Inaugural Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix IndyCar Series race won by Scott Dixon.
Simmons celebrated four victories in 2005 and was the only driver to win on a road-course, a short track and a speedway. Simmons also won this year's season opener Indy Pro Series race held at Homestead-Miami Speedway and came in second and fourth during the Indy Pro Series street races in St. Petersburg, FL this past weekend.
In 2005 Simmons won the Corning 100 by 0.631 of a second over Marco Andretti. Andretti is also a Rookie in the IndyCar Series this year and is expected to compete at The Glen on June 4th.
Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing, made the official announcement this morning, naming Simmons the new driver of the No. 17 Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda in the IndyCar Series beginning on April 22 in Twin Ring Motegi Japan. He will be competing for the entire season including the 2nd annual Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix, on the new date of June 4.
"Under the circumstances, we wanted to make sure that if someone was going to replace Paul (Dana), it was going to be someone who was going to be able to live up to the expectations," stated Rahal. "We thought that Jeff was that guy."
"These are not the circumstances that I would like this opportunity to come about, but Paul had the same dreams as me," Simmons said. "Like him, this is what I've worked so long for. I just want to do my very best to promote the cause that Paul worked so hard for and do the best job I can in the car for Team Ethanol." Paul Dana worked very hard to promote Ethanol, a renewable energy source.
Team Ethanol is comprised of the Broin Companies, Fagen Inc., ICM and 25 other companies who have joined together in a voluntary industry-wide coalition that represents more than half of the industry. Ethanol is a high-octane, high-performance fuel that is clean burning, renewable and made in America. As a growing component of the United States gasoline supply, it delivers improved vehicle performance for all passenger cars and trucks while reducing emissions and improving air quality.
Tickets for the 2006 race season at The Glen are on-sale now. Fans can order the best seats in the house at an advance price and save, until TOYOTA Opening Day, April 30th. For tickets and additional information, please contact the Watkins Glen International ticket office at 866-461-RACE, log on TheGlen.com, buy online at www.racetickets.com or stop by The Shop located at 2 North Franklin Street in downtown Watkins Glen.