Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-03-31

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. History on Dixon's side 2. Patrick wins Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award 3. Drivers gear up for St. Petersburg charity event 4. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. History on Dixon's side
2. Patrick wins Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award
3. Drivers gear up for St. Petersburg charity event
4. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race

1. History on Dixon's side: In winning the season opener on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon may have put himself in the driver's seat for the 2008 IndyCar Series championship. Drivers who have won the Homestead opener have gone on to win the series championship four times, including Dixon as a rookie in 2003.

In addition to that long-term history, Dixon is proving to be the man to beat in the IndyCar Series based on his short-term history. In the 18 races since the start of the 2007 season, the New Zealand native has finished first or second 11 times.

"Finishing second, with ('07 titlist) Dario (Franchitti) leaving, you'd sort of think that I'm a (title) contender," said Dixon, who edged Andretti Green Racing's Marco Andretti by 0.5828 of a second at Homestead-Miami. "I think every year there's a crop of five, six or seven of us that have a great shot at it. And I think you saw all of us racing at the top.

"It's going to be a tough championship. I think Homestead definitely helps. It puts you off to a great start. It's a tough place to race; not a place I've done particularly well since it changed to the banked oval. I loved it when it was a flat circuit or a flat track.

"For our campaign for 2008, that was exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to come out of the blocks fast and hard. I don't think we had a car that was enjoyable to drive throughout the race. But we had to fight on. That's how we got to win championships."

Dixon moved to the point on a Lap 197 restart, following an incident that knocked race leader Tony Kanaan's No. 11 team 7-Eleven car from contending at the end.

"As I keep saying, for a bad day we still come away with maximum points," said Dixon, the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award winner. "That's what we've got to do. We've got to hit the start hard and gain as many points as possible, because I think last year that's how we lost it."

It will be Dixon's final reference to last year's title chase, which left him a half-mile short of being the reigning champion entering 2008.

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2. Patrick wins Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award: While Danica Patrick accepted a sixth-place finish March 29 in the season-opening GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, 2,740 miles away in Los Angeles she was the winner of another contest.

The Andretti Green Racing driver was honored as the "Favorite Female Athlete" during the 21st Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards show. Winners in 18 categories of entertainment were determined by 88 million votes on the channel's official Web site.

Also in the category were tennis players Venus and Serena Williams and WNBA player Cheryl Ford.

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3. Drivers gear up for St. Petersburg charity event: IndyCar Series drivers Danica Patrick, A.J. Foyt IV, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Firestone Indy Lights driver Arie Luyendyk, Jr., and racing legends Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser, Jr., are teaming up with St. Petersburg media outlets to raise money for their favorite charity at Seminole Hard Rock April 2.

The drivers and media personalities will pair up and race custom-painted 18-inch race cars for 20 laps on the 7th floor of Seminole Hard Rock's newest South Parking Garage off N. Orient Road. Seminole Hard Rock will donate the grand prize of $5,000 to the winner's favorite charity and $1,000 to the other four charities. Among the charities scheduled to benefit from the event are the Ryan Neece Foundation, All Children's Hospital, the American Cancer Society and The Pinellas Animal Foundation.

Ronnie Setser Customs painted the electronic race cars to reflect actual IndyCar Series race cars.

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4. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone each week. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executive will pick three "Tire"-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.

From the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, fans can choose from:

* Marco Andretti using the grip from his Firestones to pass Scott Dixon for the lead on Lap 73.

* Dan Wheldon relying on his Firestones to charge from 22nd to as high as first.

* Ed Carpenter running an extra stint on a set of Firestones and finishing fifth.

In past seasons, Firestone has awarded the bonus to the driver who led the lap that corresponded to the total number of races in IndyCar Series history.

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. 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 continues April 5-6 with a doubleheader weekend at St. Petersburg. The 16-race schedule, which features eight ovals and four road/street course doubleheader weekends, will be televised by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS