Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. If you missed it Cindric-Hull teleconference
2. Championship primer
3. Panther links up with Chevrolet power for 2012, beyond
4. Saavedra returns to Conquest for finale
5. Beatriz to don special helmet at Las Vegas
6. Bernard, Wilson serve Buddy Walk co-chairs
1. If you missed it Cindric-Hull teleconference: IZOD IndyCar Series team executives Tim Cindric and Mike Hull participated in an INDYCAR teleconference earlier today to preview the Las Vegas Indy 300, the headline event of the IZOD INDYCAR World Championship Presented by Honda.
Selected quotes are below.
Q. Gentlemen, it seems like I ask this question to you every year, but what is it about the two organizations you work for and oversee that keeps putting drivers in positions to win the title? Mike, we'll start with you.
MIKE HULL: Thank you, Arni. I don't know, listening to all of that between Tim and myself and Penske Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing, man, if you listened to that you'd be derailed.
I don't know, it's not easy to answer that question. I think what it actually is, though, it's a team of people for us that work well together, and we continue to work well together. We're surrounded by great drivers, great sponsors, and certainly a great owner who devotes -- who all together devote their tireless energy to continuing to win together, and I think it's as simple as that.
And secondly, racing in IndyCar racing against a team like Penske Racing is what motivates us at Chip Ganassi Racing because of what Penske Racing has accomplished over time. We've only -- we're only at the tip of the iceberg on that. We're just really starting, whereas Penske Racing has been doing it a lot longer than we have and certainly very successfully, and it's fun and a pleasure to race IndyCars together with these guys.
Q. Tim, same question for you. What is it about the Penske organization that keeps putting drivers in position to win the IZOD IndyCar Series title?
TIM CINDRIC: I think Mike covered most of it. I think it's the drive that Roger has, and behind that drive he puts us in a position relative to not only resources but just the overall legacy that he has within the sport that when you become part of this organization, you just -- you want to try and at least keep that legacy moving forward, and obviously you'd like to add to it. But you certainly don't want to take away from that legacy. It's something that did I ever think that I'd be a part of a team that's achieved those type of results; I think it's a bit unrealistic to expect that. But here it's something that he does expect, and he expects results, and with that, it usually breeds confidence and you find more of yourself and of your team maybe than what you had thought was possible.
Again, it's the people that make the difference, but those people also need resources, and we've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by the right type of sponsors. But at the end of the day, his leadership has a lot to do with it. You know, you just feel like being able to race -- you have to have people to pass, but you also have to have people that challenge you, and that's certainly been the case with Mike and his group.
Q. Let's talk about Will and Dario, the two drivers competing for the title. Tim, is Will the same driver who battled for the title in 2010? Is he different than he was this time a year ago?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, he's got another year under his belt just like the rest of them, but I think his overall demeanor and his approach and really his self-confidence on the ovals is different than it was last year. I think right now it's hard to match the overall experience level of really Mike's drivers on the ovals relative to Will, but I think that he's certainly grown in that respect, and he knows he has more to do, but right now I don't look at him any differently than our other two guys in regard to what's possible.
Q. Mike, a little bit about Dario going for a third championship in a row and the fourth for your team. Where do you rank him in terms of the champion drivers you've worked with?
MIKE HULL: Certainly he's representative of the great drivers we've had at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, if not the great drivers that have driven IndyCars over the years. I've been lucky enough to be around some really good ones and have seen guys, particularly at Penske Racing, that have represented oval racing and what it means.
When I first was lucky enough to be involved with IndyCar racing, there was a guy like Rick Mears who raced IndyCars, and I have enormous respect for what he accomplished and who he is today and the integrity of how he represents the sport, and I think that's what Dario does extremely well. He represents the integrity of our sport, the support of IndyCar racing, particularly oval IndyCar racing, and I think he guards and very much defines the lineage that he represents in terms of IndyCar champions, and that's why it's great to be around drivers like Dario and Scott Dixon and all the others that have done this. Will Power certainly represents that already with what he's accomplished. He's very special in what he does. Dario is very special at what he does, and it makes it fun to be part of IndyCar racing when you can be associated with guys like that.
Q. This question is for either or both. With Vegas being kind of a brand new track in terms of it being a brand new track for a championship race, how does that change your strategy going into the weekend?
MIKE HULL: I think that it allows us to bear down on what we need to do. It's a one and a half mile oval, so certainly some people would think that's the same as a lot of the other racetracks where we race. But I don't know, with effect, I think Las Vegas is going to provide personality, the kind of personality for a racetrack that will be new and different for us.
The second thing is there's going to be 34 race cars represented at Las Vegas, and I think that provides complexity that we haven't seen for quite a long time. And I don't think in fairness you can say it's like Indianapolis that has 33. So that in itself will be a huge challenge for everybody involved, not only Will and Dario but the other people that are involved in racing at the racetrack.
2. Championship primer: Some stats and about the IZOD IndyCar Series title contenders entering the INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
- Dario Franchitti leads Will Power by 18 points after regaining the lead at Kentucky on Oct. 2. It is the sixth time Franchitti and Power have exchanged the points lead.
- Franchitti leads the IZOD IndyCar Series championship after 16 rounds for the second time in his career. Franchitti also led going into the season finale in 2007, when he won his first IZOD IndyCar Series title. Franchitti and Power are the only drivers mathematically eligible for the championship.
- This is the sixth consecutive season that the IZOD IndyCar Series title will be decided in the season-ending race.
- Franchitti has won the final race of the season to capture the championship in both 2007 and 2009.
- With one race to go, the championship duel (18 points separate first and second) is the largest since the 2008 season when first and second place were separated by 30 points. The average point deficit with one to go since 2005 is 11.5.
- Neither Franchitti nor Power has raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
- Franchitti has 15 wins on ovals, most recently at Texas1 in June. Of Franchitti's 15 oval wins, four have come on 1.5-mile ovals (Chicagoland 2007, 2010, Homestead 2009, Texas 2011). Power has one oval win at Texas2 in June.
- Power has recorded a series record-tying six victories, and has an average finish of 7.35.
- Franchitti has four victories and an average finish of 4.8.
The track and Indy car history
- 1.5-mile tri-oval
- 20-degree banking in the turns
- Asphalt surface
IZOD IndyCar Series
Sept. 15, 1996 - Las Vegas 500k, won by Richie Hearn.
Oct. 11, 1997 - Las Vegas 500k, won by Eliseo Salazar.
Oct. 11, 1998 - Las Vegas 500k, won by Arie Luyendyk.
Sept. 26, 1999 - Vegas.com 500, won by Sam Schmidt.
April 21, 2000 - Vegas Indy 300, won by Al Unser Jr.
Champ Car World Series
Sept. 25, 2004 - Bridgestone 400 Presented by Corona, won by Sebastien Bourdais.
Sept. 24, 2005 - Hurricane Relief 400, won by Sebastien Bourdais.
- There have been eight different race winners and five different pole sitters this season.
- There are an IZOD IndyCar Series record 34 entries for a non-Indianapolis 500 race.
- Franchitti needs to lead 16 laps to break the series record for laps led in a season -- 899 held by Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, set in 2008 on his way to the championship.
- Danica Patrick has been running at the finish in 50 consecutive races.
3. Panther links up with Chevrolet power for 2012, beyond: Two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced tat it will reunite with Chevrolet to run the new Chevy IndyCar V-6 racing engine beginning next season.
All of Panther's 15 IndyCar Series victories and both of its IZOD IndyCar Series championships were captured with GM engines.
"I just couldn't be more excited that Chevrolet has decided to return to IndyCar racing and obviously it's a natural fit for Panther to have Chevrolet powering our cars once again," Panther Racing Managing Partner and CEO John Barnes said. "We've got a long list of race wins and championships together and we're looking forward to continuing our successful partnership starting in 2012. Chevy races to win, and so do we, so we're ready to get to work and pick up right where we left off."
Panther won its first race in 1999 with Scott Goodyear in the team's GM-powered No. 4 entry, and later captured the 2001 and 2002 IZOD IndyCar Series championships with Sam Hornish Jr. Panther was the lone team to remain with Chevrolet entering the 2005 season, a year in which they captured a team-record three pole positions (Homestead, Nashville and Texas) and a victory at Texas Motor Speedway with Tomas Scheckter.
"Chevrolet and Panther Racing enjoyed tremendous success together in the past, winning races and winning championships, and we look forward to more success in the future," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "As Chevrolet returns to IndyCar competition in 2012 with an all-new twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6 engine, we're pleased to renew our longstanding relationship with Panther Racing. Both organizations share the same commitment, focus, and dedication to winning."
Chevrolet's roots in Indy car racing reach back to company co-founder Louis Chevrolet, who drove, designed and built cars in the early days of open-wheel racing. Chevrolet stock-block V-8 and V-6 engines powered independent racers for decades, and Chevrolet has won championships in Indy car racing as an engine manufacturer with turbocharged and naturally aspirated engines.
Panther driver JR Hildebrand, 23, from Sausalito, Calif., has collected two top-five and five top-10 finishes in the No. 4 National Guard entry. He'll attempt to wrap up the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"I definitely grew up in a Chevy family," Hildebrand said. "My first real introduction to racing was my dad racing a 1968 Camaro out on the West Coast, so that was always part of my upbringing and it's going to be cool to be part of that Chevrolet family myself now. The new engine manufacturers coming into the IndyCar Series add a whole new dimension to the racing and the preparation that goes into it, and I know the history and commitment that Chevy has to winning races. I'm excited to be a part of it."
4. Saavedra returns to Conquest for finale: Sebastian Saavedra and Conquest Racing will reunite for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda on Oct. 16 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
He'll drive the No. 34 Bogota es Mundial car in the 34-car field.
"It's good to be back," said Saavedra, who competed in the first 15 races of the season. "I don't like to watch the races from a couch and now I'm ready to make my second finale with Conquest Racing. It's been a year of getting the miles on my back and I'm exited to keep putting everything into practice. I've learned more in a season in IndyCar than what I've learned in my whole racing career."
Saavedra, 21, of Colombia, closed the 2010 season in a Conquest Racing car at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They will be looking to improve on their best result of the season, which came at the streets of Sao Paolo, Brazil, where they finished 11th.
"We are very happy to have Sebastian back in our car," team owner Eric Bachlart said. "He's done a good job all year and we are very glad that he'll drive the No. 34 Bogota es Mundial chassis for the last time before we move on to the 2012 cars. This is going to be quite an event, having 34 cars should be pretty exciting and it will make for some great racing. We look forward to fighting side by side out there and taking home a good result."
5. Beatriz to don special helmet at Las Vegas: Although Ana Beatriz's rookie season will come to an end next week in Las Vegas, the race will provide a thrill for one child that will last a lifetime.
Beatriz will wear a helmet designed through a coloring contest sponsored by Racing for Kids and dreyer & Reinbold Racing for patients and family members of patients at the hospitals that the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing drivers visited on behalf of Racing for Kids this year.
Hospitals were given the helmet design contest rules and templates prior to each visit. After the visit the drivers selected the design he or she liked "best." Each hospital had a winner and those semi-finalist designs were posted on www.IndyCar.com for online voting to select the final winner.
The winning design was created by Sheyenne from Akron Children's Hospital. Sheyenne will receive a mini helmet in the same design as well as some racing gear from the team and Beatriz. At the conclusion of the final race, Beatriz's helmet will go up for auction on eBay.com. All proceeds will go to Racing For Kids.
"I think this was a great opportunity. It's always a good experience for me to make the Racing For Kids visits, but to give the kids a chance to do something different and to take their mind off of what they are going through was really special. I liked all of the designs, there were some really creative ones, but I'm thrilled to wear Sheyenne's helmet design during the race", commented Beatriz.
The winning designs from the hospitals that participated, which included All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.;Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Ala.;Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis, Ind.;Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis.; Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, Ohio;Akron Children's Hospital in Akron, Ohio., and North Valley School in Santa Rosa, Calif., were available online for two days for fans to vote on their favorite. More than 1,200 votes were cast during the online competition.
"The many kids who participated obviously spent a lot of time and effort on their creations, " said Pat Wright, Executive Director for Racing For Kids. "We were amazed at the broad range of colorful and often intricate designs. We were also impressed by the large voter turnout on IndyCar.com."
6. Bernard, Wilson serve Buddy Walk co-chairs: INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard and Andretti Autosport Firestone Indy Lights driver Stefan Wilson will serve as honorary co-chairman of the 14th annual Buddy Walk®, to be held Saturday, Oct. 8 at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, which benefits Down Syndrome Indiana.
Wilson, who won the most recent Firestone Indy Lights race at Kentucky Speedway on Oct 2, has donated the visor he used in that race as one of the silent auction items
The Buddy Walk® is a 2.6 mile no-fee walk along the canal beginning at Celebration Plaza in White River State Park.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Las Vegas Indy 300, the headline event of the IZOD INDYCAR World Championship Presented by Honda, on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by ABC at 3 p.m. The race will be broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on XM 94. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Las Vegas 100 on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.