The loss of ethanol as a sponsor has left Rahal-Letterman Racing (RLR) without a car or a driver for the upcoming IndyCar Series season, but co-owner Bobby Rahal is still looking.
In a statement responding to media reports this week, Rahal said, “As of this time we do not have any sponsorship that will allow us to compete in the IRL in 2009, but by no means does that mean that we are giving up. We are continuing to search for sponsorship to run the 2009 season and to run in the Indianapolis 500 and we feel that there is still time for us to put something together that will allow that to happen.”
Rahal is still hoping the team, which does have some secondary sponsors, will at least be able to compete in the Indianapolis 500 in May if a major sponsor steps forward. But the tough economy is making it difficult to find a replacement for what amounts to a $6 million commitment.
Rahal Letterman’s number 17 Team Ethanol car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay won its first race last year at Watkins Glen, N.Y. Hunter-Reay was also named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, but at this point he has no ride for the 2009 season.
RLR is co-owned by television talk show host David Letterman. The team won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 with driver Buddy Rice and brought Danica Patrick to the IRL in 2005 when she was named Rookie of the Year. Rahal himself won the Indy 500 in 1986. Rahal Letterman Racing remains committed to its programs in the Firestone Indy Lights Series as a partner with Andersen Racing, its American Le Mans Series program with BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team as well as its new partnership with Formula BMW Americas.