IndyCar Series news and notes 2011-02-24

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Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Teams head to Barber to tune up for 2011 season
2. Belardi Auto Racing signs Goncalvez
3. Wilson visits Milwaukee to promote Milwaukee 225

1. Teams head to Barber to tune up for 2011 season: A.J. Foyt Racing team director Larry Foyt scheduled two days of testing at Barber Motorsports Park as Round 1 of preparation for the 18-race IZOD IndyCar Series season, which includes the first four events on road and temporary street circuits.

Round 2 will be the Open Test at the same venue March 14-15, where the team can fine-tune setups on the No. 14 ABC Supply car driven by Vitor Meira.

"The Open Test can get pretty busy so at the private test we'll get a lot of track time," Foyt said. "We decided that the permanent road courses and that type of track was our weakness or Achilles' heel last season so we really felt that getting a good baseline setup on that type of track would help us throughout the season. At the Open Test with everybody there, we'll be able to gauge where we are and then fine-tune from there.

"Secondly, it's really tough to re-create a street course because they're all different -- different bumps at different places. The last few years we've tried to do it and it's been a help but we felt like we had a pretty good setup for those kinds of tracks so going to the permanent road course was the most important thing for us."

Team Penske's Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves, along with KV Racing Technology-Lotus drivers E.J. Viso and Takuma Sato, will join Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing's Charlie Kimball and Meira on the 2.38-mile course March 1. It will be the first track time for Kimball, who finished fourth in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship.

Other drivers are testing either Feb. 28 at Texas Motor Speedway or March 9-10 at Sebring International. The first practice for season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is 10 days following the Open Test. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, which was won by Castroneves last April, comes two weeks after the St. Pete street course race.

"Barber is a perfect place to try things in a private test," Meira said. "For the road courses you have to find a baseline, learn what the car likes combined with myself and the team. Everyone will be at the Open Test so we will have a lot of rubber on the track and the track conditions will be race-like with a lot of cars running.

"By going prior to that test we can sort out the bigger things, such as ride heights, springs, the geometry package, things that we worked on during the off-season. Hopefully we will come up with a good baseline package for the road courses that will work for us not only at Barber but throughout the year."

2. Belardi Auto Racing signs Goncalvez: Belardi Auto Racing has signed Venezuelan Jorge Goncalvez to compete in the Firestone Indy Lights in 2011.

The 19-year-old from Los Teques, Venezuela, finished fourth in the Star Mazda Championship in 2010, scoring five second-place finishes and 10 Top 10s. Goncalvez will be driving the team's No. 4 car entry while teammate Andres Krohn will be in the No. 9.

"I am very pleased to have this opportunity to move up to Firestone Indy Lights," Goncalvez said. "I know this will be a big challenge for me, but I am confident that with the support of the talented crew around me that I will do my countrymen proud. I'm really looking forward to the season and to working with all the guys at Belardi and to being a part of the Firestone Indy Lights Series...to compete with so many great drivers at such incredible venues."

Goncalvez competed in the Formula BMW Americas series (2008), the French Formula Renault Series (2007), and the Renault French 1600cc in the Pan-Am GP Series (2006). In preparation for his international racing, he raced karts to many national championships in his home country.

Goncalvez and the team recently completed two test-outings in preparation for the season alongside Krohn. Also joining the team will be his long time driver coach Rod MacLeod and Engineer Louis D'Agostino.

"It's all about continuity," said Team Owner Brian Belardi. "It's continuity that wins championships - so we've worked hard at surrounding our drivers with people that they already have a short-hand with, a confidence... Like Rod and Louis for Jorge and Mike Reggio and Larry Nash for Anders. I think this will be the key to helping these drivers find success in their first year in Firestone Indy Lights."

Goncalvez is known for a fierce little chicken painted on the back of his helmet with the words, "El Pollito" - his nickname, which translates from Spanish to be "Little Chicken." But certainly has nothing to do with his courage on the track. Goncalvez's father is the "Big Chicken" in Venezuela and the owner of one of the country's largest poultry operations.

3. Wilson visits Milwaukee to promote Milwaukee 225: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson will greet fans Feb. 26 at two events in Milwaukee as part of the promotion for the Milwaukee 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.

Wilson will join car enthusiasts at the Milwaukee Bucks booth at the Greater Milwaukee Auto Show at the Frontier Airlines Center. Later in the day, he'll be at the Bradley Center to meet fans before the Bucks' game against the Chicago Bulls. Just look for the two show cars.

For tickets to the Milwaukee 225 on Father's Day weekend (June 18-19), visit www.MilwaukeeMile2011.com or call 1-800-722-3840. The Milwaukee 225 Tix Man will be at the auto show to answer questions and assist with ticket orders.

"The Milwaukee Bucks know how to bring the excitement," said Chris McGrath, promoter of the Milwaukee 225. "We see this as a great partnership because IndyCar is all about speed and excitement. Not only is the Milwaukee 225 a great family event, but there are six other races that weekend as well. The whole experience is designed around thrill and value - something Wisconsin fans will appreciate."

-source: indycar

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Series INDYCAR
Tags barber motorsports, indyl lights, mazda

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