INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES - March 26, 2008
Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Dan Wheldon, Logan Gomez teleconference
2. IndyCar Series races to be seen in 212 countries
3. Donoso joins SWE Racing
4. Panther adds Battistini
1. Dan Wheldon, Logan Gomez teleconference: IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon and Firestone Indy Lights driver Logan Gomez were guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
Background on Homestead-Miami Speedway: Homestead-Miami Speedway will play host to the IndyCar Series for the eighth time in 2008. For the seventh consecutive season, the race at Homestead-Miami will be the season opener, and for the second consecutive season the race will take place at night.
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today's teleconference.
Q. You will have a bigger car count this year on a very fast track, and some of those guys maybe not being experienced on ovals. What are your feelings going into Saturday night about the increased car count and maybe having those less than experienced guys on the track?
DAN WHELDON: Hopefully it won't make any difference to myself because we'll be out front again and not worry about them. It will change the complexity of the race a little bit. I think certainly you're going to be in traffic more whether you're lapping cars or just having to come through the field because of strategy; and with the fact that there are more cars, the risks you're going to have to play with strategy might mean where last year or the year before you dropped back to fourth or fifth in the back, now you might drop back to 10th or 11th and have to come through. And there's more cars that will employ that strategy where they stay out and perhaps others come in. So you will have to work with your car from that standpoint, making sure that it certainly handles better in traffic.
But with these drivers we have coming in, I think they are all very, very talented and with that being said, their grasp of IndyCar racing and particularly our style of racing on ovals they will pick up relatively quickly. I have not raced with many of the people that will be part of the series, but like I say -- there's a lot of incredibly talented people within that group, and I think that because of that, you're not going to see too much of a learning curve.
Q. Talk about the excitement level around the merger.
DAN WHELDON: I've touched on this before, it's fantastic for everybody involved and also the fans because you know, IndyCar racing needed to get back to being where it was in the past and there's no doubt it took a steep -- time when there was a split in the two series or in the one series to make it two.
But it's back together now and I can answer from a driving standpoint, when you're a driver, the drivers -- you want to be racing against the best drivers and teams but you want to be racing at the best venues in front of big crowds, and the way the merger has been facilitated and everybody has gone about their business, it's going to happen as quick as it possibly can and that's exciting.
>From a driving standpoint, I can't wait to get to Homestead and be racing against 25 other cars, and not just 25; there are some great names and it's going to be really fun to be racing against them but also to build up these different individuals that are racing in these cars and these teams. It's going to be good to hopefully getting back to having household name IndyCar drivers and to be a part of that for me is very special.
Q. Obviously you're on a new team this season. I just wanted to ask you, have you noticed differences in philosophy from Sam Schmidt to Guthrie Racing or other differences like that?
LOGAN GOMEZ: Philosophy is a pretty broad word. Big difference is they are both very professional teams, and if anything, I believe Guthrie Racing is a little more homey feeling. They make it more of a family. You can definitely tell the efforts they are putting forth. Sam Schmidt was run more like a business, and that's good, but I believe when you're a learning driver, it's really important to be very comfortable in your surroundings and Guthrie Racing definitely provides that.
Q. Curtis, can you give us an update on preparations for this weekend's GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 and tell us about what we can expect.
CURTIS GRAY: Obviously we are very honored to host the inaugural event again this year, and it's a heck of an exciting way to start out the year. We announced the unification here with Tony (George) with his big announcement, and that just got a whole lot of interest here in South Florida going. The promotions have been great and the drivers have done a super job promoting the event.
But this event has really taken shape and we are excited to host the event again this year. And what we have done is we have created Speed Jam to make it more than the racing activities on the track, it's become a whole festival. Besides the season‑opening for the IndyCar Series and Gainsco coming on as our new sponsor, we have also got the Rolex Grand Am series here in the afternoon, and we have got a concert by Three Doors Down and other concerts during the day, car show, Memphis barbeque festival, karting and remote control cars and things for people to do all day long
2. IndyCar Series races to be seen in 212 countries: ESPN will broadcast IndyCar Series races in 212 countries around the world in 2008, providing a truly global audience for IndyCar Series racing. Additional countries are expected to be included for the broadcast of the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. The international broadcast reach also ensures that U.S. troops serving overseas will be able to watch IndyCar Series racing in 2008 via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network.
"2008 is an exciting year for IndyCar Series racing," said Charlie Morgan, President and Chief Operating Officer of IMS Productions, the broadcast and productions arm of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Speed and competition appeal to people everywhere. Broadcasting our races to people in more than 200 countries is a big part of growing the IndyCar Series and exposing our brand of racing to an ever-growing international audience. 2008 is the first year of unification under the IndyCar Series banner and the first year for High Definition race broadcasts. Clearly, we have a great product to deliver to our fans overseas."
ESPN previously announced that all IndyCar Series races in 2008 will be telecast in High Definition in the United States, a first for the series. The IndyCar Series will also feature onboard HD cameras with 360-degree panning capability - a first in motorsports. The new cameras will provide spectacular onboard views of IndyCar Series wheel-to-wheel competition at speeds exceeding 200 mph.
3. Donoso joins SWE Racing: Chile's Pablo Donoso will compete for SWE Racing in Firestone Indy Lights for the 2008 season.
"I'm very excited about having Pablo run for SWE as I have had numerous drivers come up through the ranks from South America including (Gil) de Ferran, (Christian) Fittipaldi and both (Felipe and Affonso) Giaffone," said SWE Racing owner Steve Eppard. "I have been extremely impressed with the caliber of racers and the talent that continues to come from those countries and I'm looking forward to having the next young stand-out on my team."
Donoso, who passed his Firestone Indy Lights rookie test on March 21 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, has spent the last two seasons competing in the USAC Silver Crown Series, where he became the first South American to compete in the series. He finished a career-best second at Iowa Speedway in 2006 driving for Hemelgarn Racing before moving to the two-car effort of A.J. Foyt Racing in 2007, scoring a pole at Richmond International Raceway.
Donoso made his U.S. racing debut in 2005 racing in the Star Mazda Series for Andersen Walko Racing, where he competed against current IndyCar Series stars Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal. Donoso posted his only series victory from the pole at Infineon Raceway and he also earned several other podium finishes.
The 23-year-old began his career in karting, competing in the Chilean and Argentine championships, before moving to Formula Renault in Argentina in 2002 and Europe the following two seasons in World Series Light by Nissan and the World Series by Nissan.
4. Panther adds Battistini: Panther Racing signed British driver Dillon Battistini to pilot its second Firestone Indy Lights entry. Battistini, the defending Asian Pacific Formula 3 champion, will join Brent Sherman in the the team's 2008 lineup beginning with the Miami 100 on March 29.
"I've really liked Dillon from the first time I met him, and he possesses a lot of qualities you look for in a good driver," Panther team owner John Barnes said. "Obviously, he's fast and knows how to get around a racetrack, but he's also a humble guy, very well-spoken and respectful. We feel like he's going to fit right in with Panther's Firestone Indy Lights program and with his teammate Brent Sherman. We had plenty of options with drivers that could have run a second car for us, but I didn't want to do it unless we found the right guy, and Dillon is the perfect fit for Panther Racing."
Battistini , who will drive Panther's No. 15 car, passed his Firestone Indy Lights rookie test with Panther during a one-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval on March 21.
"I'm extremely happy to join Panther, the guys here have treated me like family and I feel like I'm at home already," Battistini said. "Right now I'm at the start of a big learning curve because I've joined the team so late and there is a lot to catch up on, but there couldn't be a better team to work with right now."
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 Firestone Indy Lights 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.