Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-08-07

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Championship battle heads to Kentucky Speedway 2. Select quotes regarding 2009 IndyCar Series media partnerships 1. Championship battle heads to Kentucky Speedway: The IndyCar ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Championship battle heads to Kentucky Speedway
2. Select quotes regarding 2009 IndyCar Series media partnerships

1. Championship battle heads to Kentucky Speedway: The IndyCar Series makes its ninth visit to Kentucky Speedway Aug. 9. As usual, the 300-mile race on the 1.5-mile oval comes at a critical part in the championship. This year the Meijer Indy 300 is the fourth-to-last race.

In the previous eight races at Kentucky, only last year's champion, Dario Franchitti, finished outside of the top five (eighth). Two champions, Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006 and Buddy Lazier in 2000, used victories at Kentucky to further their runs to the IndyCar Series title.

The top four contenders for the 2008 title hope to make a move in the standings again this season when the series races under the lights for the second consecutive season.

"Kentucky is a tough track," said points leader Scott Dixon, who holds a 65-point advantage over Helio Castroneves. "We just tested there, so that might help a little bit since it's only a two-day event. It still comes down to the race, and (Helio's) always there at the end. You have to make sure you have everything right.

"We've got four races to go and a 65-point lead, but that's very catchable, for Helio especially. For the next four races, the people we're competing against are all really good at those four races. Helio, I think is the real threat. He's been very quick the past few races. They've stepped up their game a lot."

Dixon, a five-time winner this season, has finished second three times in five starts at Kentucky. Castroneves, who has six second-place finishes this season, has a best finish of third at Kentucky.

"Kentucky is a tough track to master, because it's very bumpy and very fast," Castroneves said. "There is hardly any banking, so it's always a challenge to make sure we get the right setup on the Team Penske car. The racing is extremely tight with a lot of side-by-side action, which makes for an exciting show for the fans. It seems that the race always comes down to the final laps, and I'm not expecting anything different this year.

"Historically, this hasn't been one of my stronger tracks, but it's my goal to turn that around this year. I have had a solid and consistent year, and we're right there in the championship standings. We'll need a strong finish this weekend as well as a little luck to go our way in order to make up some ground in the points battle. We have a lot of momentum heading into Kentucky; we've won the last four poles and I've finished on the podium the last three races. I certainly think with the way Team Penske has been performing we have it in us to claim the title when all is said and done."

Four other drivers remain in contention for the title although Ryan Briscoe (-181) and Danica Patrick (-209) will be eliminated if they can't climb to within 159 points coming out of Kentucky.

The other two contenders include Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Dan Wheldon, and 2007 Kentucky winner Tony Kanaan.

"You're not always going to have perfect seasons, but I really feel in these last four races, the tracks that we're going to, I feel confident I can make it a strong ending," said Wheldon, who finished third at Kentucky in 2004 and in his championship campaign in 2005. "The thing now is to try to take as many points off Helio as I can. To some degree, I'll always support Scott to make sure the team can win the championship, but at the same time it would be nice to finish the season with a couple more wins.

"These last four races, I want to win, but if the team feels it's a benefit for me to do something to help Scott, then I absolutely will. I like to think I'm a real team player, but at the same time I really want to finish second in the championship. Hopefully, if we can get Scott locked up pretty quick, he can help me do that, too."

Kanaan, the only past race winner entered in the 26-car field, finished fifth at Kentucky when he won the championship in 2004.

"I had a great time at the Meijer Indy 300 last year, and I fully expect the Team 7-Eleven car to challenge for the pole and the win again," Kanaan said. "We know that we have our work cut out for us, though. Those of us in the top four are still fighting for every point. I think the Meijer Indy 300 will be a competitive race and great for the fans."

***

2. Select quotes regarding 2009 IndyCar Series media partnerships: Tony George, the founder and chief executive officer of the Indy Racing League; Marc Fein, executive vice president of programming, production and business operations for Versus; Scott Guglielmino, vice president of programming and acquisitions for ESPN; Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League's commercial division; and Charlie Morgan, president and COO of IMS Productions, were guests on a teleconference discussing the Indy Racing League's partnership with ABC and VERSUS for 2009 and beyond.

Select quotes from the teleconference are listed below.

TONY GEORGE: We're very excited to be able to continue our 44-year relationship that we've had with ABC Sports. It's been one of the most enduring relationships in all of television sports. We're very proud of that.

I had as a priority to encourage our team here at Indianapolis to really focus on doing everything in our power to maximize the opportunities that we have with the new unified series, with the centennial year celebration that kicks off next year. So we went about in a very methodical way, organizing ourselves and sort of setting out our priorities.

First of all, we wanted to understand what was most important to our constituents. That was very pretty consistent with what our thoughts and feelings were. It was good to get that validation.

We also respect and honor our existing relationships with our current broadcast partners, ABC and ESPN. We wanted to do everything that we knew to make sure that we were serving the needs of everyone to the best of our abilities.

We consulted with them, got their concurrence that this was an important opportunity for us. And what we've come up with I think is really a very exciting opportunity. We were able to go out and engage the interest of most every potential broadcast media partner out there. What we found was that there was a lot of genuine interest in our property. There was a lot of excitement and buzz about the opportunities with the unification and with the centennial year coming up. There was even some interest from some entities that most wouldn't be familiar with.

Suffice it to say that we set out about trying to secure the best media partnership going forward that will allow us to grow this property. Again, having the opportunity to continue with ABC, but more I think that adds to the excitement is the fact that we're bringing in a new partner into this mix going forward that will give us the opportunity to expand our coverage, create some new programming that we haven't really seen in the past, but really to help us become a focal point of their new and growing platform. We're excited to be a part of it and to make this announcement.

SCOTT GUGLIELMINO: As Tony mentioned, the partnership throughout the years has been tremendous. It was something that from the onset of the discussions that was a focus of ours. Our ability to land on an agreement that includes the 500 is something we're really, really happy about. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500, they're just totally unique and very special. We are very excited about continuing that relationship.

MARC FEIN: It's a great day for us here. We're very excited. We join two organizations that have a lot of momentum going, a lot of great things can happen over the long haul. Certainly the IRL, with the unification, with all the stars they have, the attendance, the ratings, for us with the new properties we continuously add, with our ratings and distribution growth, it really means a lot.

Our game plan of adding properties that we can really embrace and put our arms around and super-serve those passionate fan bases, certainly the IRL fits in that perfectly. We were very excited to be able to get this deal done with them and look forward to great things over the next 10 years.

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Meijer Indy 300 Aug. 9 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Kentucky 100 on Aug. 9. The race will air at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 on ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing