Series news and notes 2011-08-16

IndyCar

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Next generation car to debut at St. Pete
2. Pantano to fill In for Wilson at Infineon, Baltimore
3. Conway to carry Buffalo Wild Wings colors at Baltimore
4. Plowman granted full membership in BRDC

Dan Wheldon tests the new 2012 IndyCar from Dallara
Dan Wheldon tests the new 2012 IndyCar from Dallara

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA

1. Next generation car to debut at St. Pete: For the second consecutive year, the 2012 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the opening race on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.

The event, entering its eighth year, will take place March 23-25 on the scenic streets of downtown St. Petersburg.

It was the first INDYCAR road/street course race in 2005, and it will host the debut of the next-generation car that is currently undergoing testing with St. Petersburg resident and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon behind the wheel.

The IndyCar Safety Cell replaces the current chassis introduced in 2003. The event also will mark the beginning of a new form of competition among engine manufacturers Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus.

"The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is arguably the region's most exciting event," said Tim Ramsberger, vice president and general manager. "In 2012, we'll be making history and race fans from across the state, country and world are invited to witness these important changes and enjoy action that is sure to come from our weekend schedule."

In March, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg saw the introduction of double-file restarts to the IZOD IndyCar Series that delivered intensified competition. Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing began defense of his IZOD IndyCar Series championship with a victory.

The event achieved impressive growth with increased ratings - ABC's broadcast of the race delivered its highest overnight rating other than the Indy 500 since 2007 - along with strong ticket sales and attendance.

Tickets to the 2012 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will go on sale this fall

2. Pantano to fill In for Wilson at Infineon, Baltimore: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced Aug. 16 that Italian driver Giorgio Pantano will join the team for the next two IZOD IndyCar Series events at Infineon Raceway and Streets of Baltimore.

Pantano will replace the injured Justin Wilson next weekend and will drive the team's No. 22 entry for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma and Baltimore Grand Prix.

"We are extremely excited about putting Giorgio in our car at Sonoma and Baltimore," said Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Co-Owner Dennis Reinbold. "He will add another dimension to our program and we are happy to have him on board for those events. We will be testing him at Sonoma this weekend and we are excited to get him acclimated to the car. Giorgio has a lot of experience and talent and we believe he will be a good fit,"

Pantano, who made two starts for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2005, will compete with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the first time at Sonoma on Aug. 24, and then in Baltimore on Sept. 4.

The Padua, Italy has competed in the Auto GP Series last year and Superleague Formula after winning the GP2 title in 2008.

"For me, this is a very good opportunity," Pantano said. "I want to say thank you to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and the sponsors for giving me this opportunity. I'm here to do the best that I can as always and I look forward to the chance to compete in these two races."

3. Conway to carry Buffalo Wild Wings colors at Baltimore: Andretti Autosport announced a partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings and Wings Across America, LLC (the Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar Maryland Franchisee), for the popular restaurant chain to be the primary sponsor of the No. 27 IZOD IndyCar Series car driven by Mike Conway in the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix set for Sept. 2-4 in the streets of downtown Baltimore.

Conway joined the Andretti Autosport driver lineup this season and immediately scored his first victory in the streets of Long Beach, Calif., the most famous street race in America.

Conway's No. 27 car will be painted in Buffalo Wild Wings colors during the Baltimore event and will carry the official name of Team Buffalo Wild Wings. The car was unveiled Aug. 15 in a special presentation at the Buffalo Wild Wings store in Owings Mills located at 10391 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, Md.

In addition, Buffalo Wild Wings will be an associate sponsor of Conway's No. 27 machine for the remaining events in 2011.

"I am thrilled to have Buffalo Wild Wings as a primary sponsor for the very first Baltimore Grand Prix," said Conway. "Buffalo Wild Wings is one of the most popular restaurant chains in the United States and it has become a fixture for sports events. It is a great place to go with friends or family and enjoy great food and drinks while watching a race or a game. I look forward to working with them in the future."

Andretti Autosport is one of the nation's leading teams in American motorsports and sports marketing and fields four cars in the IZOD IndyCar Series with Conway, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Danica Patrick as its drivers. Andretti Autosport is the only team to field four full-season teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series. In addition, Andretti Autosport participates in the Mazda Road to Indy program with teams in the Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda Championship and USF2000 National Championship campaigns.

"We are very pleased to add Buffalo Wild Wings to our family of corporate partners in Andretti Autosport," said Michael Andretti, chairman, president and CEO of Andretti Autosport. "The Baltimore Grand Prix will be a spectacular event over the Labor Day weekend and having Buffalo Wild Wings on Mike's No. 27 car just extends the excitement for our team that weekend. We are anxious to see the new Buffalo Wild Wings livery racing through the streets of Baltimore."

"It is a great partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings and Andretti Autosport for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix," said John Weiler, managing partner of Wings Across America, LLC. "We are very excited to have Long Beach winner Mike Conway carry the Buffalo Wild Wings colors in the streets of Baltimore. This event will be a big racing spectacular and we want B-Dubs to be a prime contender for the race win. In addition, we will have several great promotions for the racing fans at our restaurant locations."

4. Plowman granted full membership in BRDC: The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has recognized IZOD IndyCar Series driver Martin Plowman's excellence in the field of motorsport by naming him a Full Member of the esteemed organization.

The BRDC, founded in 1928, is the most exclusive club in motor racing with only 850 members comprised of the most successful racing drivers from Great Britain and the Commonwealth.

Membership of the BRDC is highly sought after and extremely difficult to achieve. Those who have met the exacting entry criteria have achieved at the highest levels of the sport, or made a significant contribution to enable others to do so. The list of Members, past and present, reads like a 'Who's Who' of motor sport and the Club's current President is Damon Hill OBE, Formula 1 World Champion, 1996.

"Martin was spotted as a real talent by the BRDC some time ago and was one of the very few drivers ever to join the BRDC 'Rising Stars' program whilst still in karting," said Stuart Pringle, Secretary of the British Racing Drivers' Club: "I am therefore delighted that he has qualified to become a Full Member of the Club and he joins the likes of Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon flying the flag in North America. Martin's membership comes just as he is poised to break in to the Indy Car Series and we could not ask for another stronger ambassador for British motor sport in the USA and the internationally important ICS."

Plowman's success in the Firestone Indy Lights series helped him earn top honors. Previously a BRDC Rising Star - a junior member considered the future of motorsport - his top finishes at Mid-Ohio, Iowa, and Edmonton along with an overall 3rd place finish in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship helped him fulfill the requirements of becoming a Full Member.

His application was also firmly supported by the high recommendations of current members. His dedication to the sport, strong on-track performance, and off-track charity work set him apart.

"It's a tremendous honor to be selected as a full member of the BRDC," said Plowman, who recently made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut with AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports. "I look forward to proudly wearing the BRDC emblem in America throughout my career."

***

The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 28 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Baltimore 100 on Sept. 4 at the Streets of Baltimore. VERSUS' coverage of the Grand Prix de Trois Rivieres will air at 4 p.m. on Aug. 17.

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Series INDYCAR
Tags conway, indycar, pantano, plowman