Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-03-17

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Transitioning teams getting ready for Sebring test 2. Season Preview: Andretti Green Racing 3. Brian Stewart Racing signs younger Cunningham 1. Transitioning teams getting ready for Sebring...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Transitioning teams getting ready for Sebring test
2. Season Preview: Andretti Green Racing
3. Brian Stewart Racing signs younger Cunningham

1. Transitioning teams getting ready for Sebring test: Chris Mower has seen the "can do" attitude at the Conquest Racing shop the past 14 days -- almost around the clock.

The team manager and shop personnel have been diligently working to prepare the Dallara/Honda/Firestone package for delivery to Sebring International Raceway, where it will test March 19-20 in preparation for its first IndyCar Series race.

Conquest Racing, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, KV Racing Technology, Dale Coyne Racing and HVM Racing are expected to make the transition to the IndyCar Series from the Champ Car World Series. Since the announcement about unification in late February, teams have been working around the clock to prepare for the start of the season March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now," Mower said. "It's only basically come together (in the past couple of days) with a lot of items. It's been a monumental task not only for us, but for us, the IRL, for the other teams that have been assigned to help teams. To do it in two to three weeks has been incredible."

The teams received their cars the first week of March, and have been aided by existing IndyCar Series teams with technical instruction and data and basic setups.

"The first thing was the tubs, painting the tubs, adjusting the bodywork," said Eric Bachelart, Conquest Racing's co-owner. "While we were doing that, we only got the engines March 11, we started to prepare the different components of the car, crack test everything, build everything. Now that we have the engine, we can start to do all the trimming of the car."

Every box arriving at the shop is "like Christmas."

"Over the years, you find yourself in some amazing situations," Bachelart said. "There is always a solution. It's OK. We have a good team manager, and he's well on top of everything. I'm concerned but not overly worried. At least we're going to be there."

***

2. Season Preview: Andretti Green Racing: Although the honor of being quickest in preseason testing went to competitors Target Chip Ganassi Racing on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Team Penske on the road course at Sebring International Raceway, the IndyCar Series' winningest team, Andretti Green Racing, figures to be in the mix more often than not in 2008.

The team with 32 wins and three championships since 2003, including nine wins and the title in 2007, returns with a four-car effort in the IndyCar Series. Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, returns as the veteran of the group while fourth-year driver Danica Patrick and third-year driver Marco Andretti also will act as mentors to rookie Hideki Mutoh.

Kanaan, driving the Team 7-Eleven entry, has more IndyCar Series starts, 81, than his three teammates combined, 79.

"They say that (I'm the senior guy), but then I get my butt kicked by Danica and Marco and Mutoh and then I won't be the guy anymore," Kanaan said. "I have a bigger responsibility, but nothing has changed for me inside the team. I've always had that 'team leader' role. If you think about it, every year for the last three years I've had a new teammate. It won't be any different than when Marco got in and when Danica got in, and now when Hideki comes in.

"There's only one goal in racing -- it's win. We go through the preseason and we're always asked the same questions, and we always give the same answers because we're here to win. We're here to win the championship, we're here to win Indianapolis, we're here to win as many races as we can."

Looking for her first win in 2008 is Patrick, who finished a career-best seventh overall last year and who recorded a career-best race finish of second at Belle Isle.

"This is the most excited I've been going into a season, most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said. "This year I feel like excitement is sort of maybe number one to nervousness - where normally every other year I was more nervous than anything.

"I really feel like I'm becoming some sort of an old person in racing. This is my fourth year, so I'm going into this one instead of some of the others saying, 'Look, if I want a shot at winning championships, everything, you've got to get out of the box fast.' You have to go hard early and get some good results in. You have to finish because those DNFs at the beginning of the season will come back to haunt you later."

Andretti, the son of team co-owner Michael Andretti, is looking to rebound from a difficult sophomore season when he recorded six top-10 finishes.

"The first approach is you forget about last year," said Andretti, who became the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race when he won at Infineon in 2006. "Everything that happened, a lot of it was out of my hands -- some of it being my mistake, but it was bad luck. That's one aspect of the game that you can't control, so you have to forget about that part of it and just go in knowing that it's going to be a challenge. It's not going to be easy. When you prevail through your tough days, that's what's going to win you the championship, not the easy days. Go in with the mentality of trying to maximize the car's performance and enjoy yourself, because as drivers that's when you do your best work.

"I can tell you Marco Andretti is on a mission this year. I'm going for a championship. That's what we're racing for. I think it's realistic, I really do. Not with the mentality of 'I've got to win every race,' but that would be the approach. I think it's possible. And for me, there's one thing left to do at Indy, so I have very high expectations for this year. I'm ready to go. I've been ready to go since Chicago last year to try and redeem myself and prove some things to some people."

The newcomer to the team is Mutoh, who finished eighth in his IndyCar Series debut at Chicagoland last season following a runner-up campaign in the Indy Pro Series.

"This is a championship-winning team, and the No. 27 is the champion number. That means a lot to me, and for the Japanese and for Honda," Mutoh said. "Everybody knows how good Andretti Green Racing is. Tony won the championship, and Marco has won. Danica has promise to win a race, so those are very good teammates to have. I can learn a lot from them. I have no pressure at all. I'm more motivated than last year for sure. I'm really looking forward to the first race."

***

4. Brian Stewart Racing signs younger Cunningham: Brian Stewart Racing has signed New Zealand's Mitchell Cunningham to contest the eight road course races on the 2008 Indy Pro Series schedule.

Cunningham, 21, is the younger brother of 2005 Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham, who drove for Brian Stewart Racing in 2005 and again in 2006, when the team claimed its two series entrant titles.

"I think Mitchell will have great success in the Indy Pro Series," team owner Brian Stewart said. "I'm confident that he will do a good job for us and I know we'll do a good job for him."

Mitchell Cunningham made his debut in cars last year after following his older brother into European karting. He finished fifth in the Pacific Formula Ford 2000 Series scoring a win at Willow Springs in California in just his third start in the series. He finished sixth in the recently concluded Toyota Racing Series point standings in New Zealand.

"I see this as a way of getting experience in the bigger, more powerful (Indy Pro Series) cars before tackling a full program in 2009," Cunningham said. "It's a big jump from the cars I have been driving like the FF2000 and the Toyotas, which are four cylinders and produce up to maybe 200 horsepower, and the IPS car which is a V8 and produces 450 horsepower, but by doing it this way I can focus on one thing at a time."

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 2008 schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with ESPN. All races in 2008 will be telecast in High Definition. The 2008 Indy Pro Series season also begins on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, which features eight ovals and four road/street course doubleheader weekends, will be televised by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Wade Cunningham , Hideki Mutoh , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , HVM Racing , Conquest Racing , Toyota Racing