Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park will host pre-season Open Tests
2. Strous joins ASR-Nelan for 2009

1. Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park will host pre-season Open Tests: IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights teams will participate in Open Tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park to prepare for the 2009 season.

The first Spring Training dates are scheduled for Feb. 23-25 on the 1.5-mile, variable-banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. IndyCar Series teams will test under the lights from 4-10 p.m. Feb. 24-25 in preparation for the 17-race schedule that includes 10 ovals. Firestone Indy Lights rookies will practice Feb. 23 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and all Firestone Indy Lights drivers will be allowed to test Feb. 24 from 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

The two series will prepare for the road and street courses on the 2009 schedule with an Open Test March 21-23 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. IndyCar Series teams will test from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 22 and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 23 on the 16-turn, 2.38-mile course, while Firestone Indy Lights teams will test from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 21.

This will mark the second time the IndyCar Series will hold an Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. Seven drivers tested at the facility in October 2007.

"Everyone is ready to get back to the racetrack, and there are no better places to prepare for the 2009 season than Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. "This will be our third consecutive season to test under the lights at Homestead-Miami. It's a fantastic venue that gives everyone the opportunity to measure the progress they've made over the winter and prepare for the season.

"We're excited to bring both the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights to Barber Motorsports Park. The facility is first class, and we know the fans in that part of the country are excited to have us there."

"The 2009 Indy Racing League season brings some pretty exciting new changes, and moving championship weekend to Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 9-10 is at the top of that list," said Homestead-Miami president Curtis Gray. "Seeing as how we'll be providing the South Florida finish line for both the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights championships this fall, it's fitting that we'll also host Spring Training 2009. Book-ending the Indy Racing League season in Miami is as good as it gets for race fans."

"It's no secret we've been courting the Indy Racing League for a while now," said Gene Hallman, president of ZOOM Motorsports, the exclusive promoter and management team for the Barber Motorsports Park. "We're very happy they've selected the finest motorsports facility in the U.S. for their sole pre-season road course test, and we feel that open wheel fans across the Southeast will extend some of our famous Southern hospitality to the drivers and teams during their stay here in Birmingham."

2009 Open Test Schedule

Homestead-Miami Speedway (Feb. 23-25)


Monday, Feb. 23
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights rookies

Tuesday, Feb. 24
9 a.m. - 3:45 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights
4-10 p.m. IndyCar Series

Wednesday, Feb. 25
4-10 p.m. IndyCar Series

Barber Motorsports Park (March 21-23)

Saturday, March 21
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights

Sunday, March 22
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. IndyCar Series

Monday, March 23
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. IndyCar Series

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2. Strous joins ASR-Nelan for 2009: Junior Strous has signed to race with ASR-Nelan (formerly known as American Spirit Racing) in the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season.

The 22-year-old Dutchman, who raced the last two seasons in Champ Car Atlantics, will drive the No. 18 car for co-owners Jon Lewis and Rick Nelan as he attempts to move up the racing ladder.

"I am very happy to race in the Firestone Indy Lights series in 2009," Strous said. "My aim is to race in the (IndyCar Series) in the future. Insiders advised me to compete one year in (Firestone) Indy Lights to gain experience on the oval tracks.

"I love to race in America. The fans are close, and to race on the Indy Brickyard is one of my dreams."

Strous finished fifth in Atlantics in 2008 after leading the championship for most of the season. He won the race at Mont Tremblant from the pole and recorded three podium finishes. He was given the Gilles Villeneuve Award at the end of the season. He previously raced in Formula Renault in Europe and won the U.S. Formula Renault 2000 Winter Invitational in 2004.

"Junior brings a wealth of driver talent to our team," Lewis said. "He's a proven winner and dedicated to being the best. We are looking forward to the 2009 season with Junior on board, and we're going to give him everything we have to help him win the championship."

For the second consecutive year, the ASR-Nelan team will be fielded in partnership with Paul Diatlovich, whose PDM Racing will be the operational partner of the program. Veteran engineer Tim Wardrop will act as chief engineer for the team.

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg.

-credit: irl