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Friday, September 24, 2010

Beatriz Returns For Homestead Season Finale

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have announced that Ana Beatriz will drive the No. 24 Roll Coater Dallara-Honda in this year's IZOD IndyCar Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. Beatriz will make her fourth start of the season in the Cafes do Brazil Indy 300, the track's final IndyCar race before dropping from the schedule.

With Mike Conway focusing on completing his rehabilitation for the 2011 season instead of attempting the finale, the team needed to find a solid replacement driver, preferably one with race experience at DRR. Those fitting the criteria included Beatriz, Paul Tracy, Tomas Scheckter, and J.R. Hildebrand.

Beatriz has made three starts thus far this season, at Sao Paulo, Indianapolis, and Chicagoland. She finished 13th and on the lead lap in the Sao Paulo Indy 300, 21st at Indianapolis (completing 196 of 200 laps due to contact), and 24th at Chicago after a mechanical failure. None of those three events have seen her in the same car; she drove the No. 23 in Brazil, the No. 25 at Indianapolis, and the No. 24 at Chicago.

Her jump to IndyCar's highest level this year came after two consecutive seasons in Firestone Indy Lights, which saw her finish third and eighth in points, respectively, and score two race wins: the Sunbelt Rentals 100 at Nashville in 2008, and the Miller Lite 100 at Iowa last year.

Meanwhile, Conway has taken a conservative approach with his rehabilitation. He suffered a compression fracture in his back and a broken leg in a spectacular crash at the Indianapolis 500 in May. Rumors suggested that he could return to the car as soon as the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, but eventually the decision was made to wait. Conway's injuries have healed and he has adopted a rigorous training program to ensure that he will be 100% ready for next season's opener at St. Petersburg.

The No. 24 car was primed for a breakout season with Conway, but since the injury the revolving door of drivers have kept it decidedly mid-pack. The team has seen four top-10 finishes this year; three came from Conway in the season's first five races, while the fourth came with Graham Rahal at Iowa. Its best finish was an eighth place in the Sao Paulo season opener. Meanwhile, the car has seen DNFs at St. Petersburg (Conway), Indianapolis (Conway), Sonoma (Hildebrand), Chicago (Beatriz), and Motegi (Tracy).

It hasn't been all bad for DRR this season, however; new lead driver Justin Wilson has snagged two podium finishes and eight top-10s with only one DNF to rank a solid 10th in points. He also scored a pole at Toronto and led the most laps in that race. Also, DRR qualified four cars for the Indianapolis 500 for the second year in a row, albeit under less stressful circumstances than 2009's close calls.

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