Andretti Autosport, sounding understandably testy after a week of being swamped by media requests about their 2011 driver lineup, issued a terse press release today updating the status of erstwhile race winner and sponsorless driver Ryan Hunter-Reay's future with the team.
John Lopes, AA's senior VP and embattled chief marketing officer, said that while the team is "in negotiations with multiple companies," one of their current sponsors has already put forth a proposal:
We notified our sponsor family late last week that Ryan's primary sponsorship was open for 2011 and 2012, and we have already received one offer. Putting together a proper full-season IndyCar budget these days typically takes multiple sponsor partners working together with the team and its fellow sponsors. Putting the puzzle together takes time, but Ryan may well be the most in-demand driver in our sport right now and we are fortunate that he brought all the right stuff to the team, and lots of key people noticed.
We agreed to a new contract with Ryan the evening prior to this year's Indianapolis 500 and now it is the team's job to pull the details together quickly in order to put that contract into effect.
Phillips-Van Heusen's IZOD brand was the primary sponsor for Hunter-Reay under what was supposed to be a limited-season deal. Hunter-Reay's race victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach earned him an extension through the rest of the season and resulted in a 7th-place points finish. However, IZOD's series sponsorship meant that the team sponsorship would end at season's end.
Hunter-Reay's sponsor search is the second high-profile news story regarding Andretti Autosport's financial backing. It was announced previously this week that 7-Eleven, longtime sponsor of Hunter-Reay's teammate Tony Kanaan, would terminate its primary sponsorship and remain strictly as an associate sponsor with Danica Patrick in 2011, leaving Kanaan a free agent. The team is still pursuing sponsors that might keep Kanaan in the family.
Andretti Autosport's press release concluded by saying that no further details would be released until the team's full 2011 sponsor lineup was announced "at a later date."