De Ferran, Luczo Dragon Indy teams to merge

Gil de Ferran wants back in the IndyCar series — this time, as a team owner. Jay Penske wants to beat his father on the racetrack.

Now they're working toward those goals together.

De Ferran announced Tuesday that he is merging his startup IndyCar team with Luczo Dragon Racing, an established team co-owned by Penske — a son of racing mogul Roger Penske — and technology executive Steve Luczo.

They're starting small, fielding one car for Raphael Matos, who won series rookie of the year honors driving for Luczo Dragon last year. Eventually, they hope to use technological innovation to go after Penske Racing and fellow IndyCar heavyweight team Chip Ganassi Racing.

"The goal is to be as good as them, if not better," de Ferran said on a teleconference Tuesday.

De Ferran, who won the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and two CART series championships driving for Roger Penske, retired shortly after winning Indy. But he eventually returned to the track as an owner-driver in the American LeMans series.

Now de Ferran says he's retired for good, focusing completely on becoming a team owner.

Would he consider coming back?

"I'll give you the very short answer: no," de Ferran said.

The Luczo Dragon team debuted at the Indy 500 in 2007, ran a limited schedule in 2008 and ran the full season last year.

Although the recession is hitting the IndyCar series hard — Vision Racing announced last month it was suspending operations because it lacked enough sponsors to race — Jay Penske said the merger wasn't motivated by economics.

De Ferran, who originally planned to field an IndyCar team on his own, said he has been talking with Jay Penske and Luczo for about a year about a potential partnership.

"We slowly came to the realization that we would be able to run a better operation together than we would to be apart," de Ferran said.

They hope to rely on technology to close the gap between their small team and the series' top teams, using computer simulations to make up for a lack of on-track testing.

"We think that investment in technology, investment in the science of performance, is going to give us an edge," de Ferran said.

The team intends to field a single car for Matos this season, relying on de Ferran to help him develop as a driver.

"The raw material, I believe, is of very high quality," de Ferran said.

And while the team has no immediate plans to add a second car, they haven't ruled it out down the road.

"We would like to expand the team, because that would give us more resources," de Ferran said. "But the point is, expanding it in the right way."

The IndyCar series opens March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.