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Champion returns

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  • By Dave Lewandowski
  • indycar.com

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Alex Lloyd in May when the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion competes in the 93rd Indianapolis 500 through a partnership between Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Lloyd, a Chip Ganassi Racing development driver, will drive the No. 99 entry out of the Sam Schmidt Motorsports garage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In '07, the native of Manchester, England, teamed with Sam Schmidt Motorsports for a record-breaking Firestone Indy Lights season (eight race victories and five additional podium finishes in the 16-race championship). He's the only driver to win on the Speedway oval ('07 Firestone Freedom 100) and road course ('06 Liberty Challenge).

"To have something confirmed and to be back in the car is a nice feeling" said Lloyd, who last year as a rookie started 19th and finished 25th in the 500-Mile Race. "To have that link with Sam Schmidt is another great feeling because there are so many good memories. I'm still in close contact with a lot of the guys."

One, in particular, is engineer Tim Neff, who will partner with Chip Ganassi Racing engineer Andy Brown on Lloyd's race program. Brown, who worked with Lloyd last May, and Neff previously worked together at Pac West Racing. 

"I think it will be a good combination for both of us," Lloyd said. "I couldn't ask for anything more. (In '07), Tim and I really hit it off and he quickly figured out what I needed out of the car. I think that was part of the reason we were very successful in 2007. We had a good engineer-driver relationship and still do. Andy Brown has so much experience and for that reason you can have a lot of confidence in him. To come back together I think that will only help.

"We should be in a pretty strong position. We're still going in there with quite a big disadvantage (not running since last May), but this is the situation and we'll make the most of it. I think the start of this May we'll be in a better position, though no more experienced, in terms of what to expect and being able to navigate through the month."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing will enter May with drivers who have won the past two 500-Mile Races - Scott Dixon (2008) and Dario Franchitti (2007 with Andretti Green Racing).

"Alex is a great highlight in our team's history and remains the benchmark for drivers we evaluate today," said Schmidt, a longtime Indy 500 car entrant. "He is a perfect example of what Firestone Indy Lights is trying to create in the stars of tomorrow. To have the opportunity to team up with him again, on such a big stage, is fantastic. Teaming with Chip Ganassi Racing, a team boasting the last two Indy 500 winners, gives us our best shot yet at drinking the milk come race day in Indianapolis."

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