Series news and notes 2011-10-10

IndyCar Series press release

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Franchitti could make history at Las Vegas
2. Kanaan, Meira earn title of Ironman
3. What happens in Vegas: Events surround IZOD INDYCAR World Championships

Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Photo by: Ted Rossino

1. Franchitti could make history at Las Vegas: Dario Franchitti admits he won't consider what he's accomplished in his racing career until after he's retired and looks back at what he's done.

But the Scotsman's record in the IZOD IndyCar Series over the last three seasons has certainly impressed those who know the sport, including legendary drivers and the ones who compete with him week in and week out.

"It's tough to win period and to win multiple championships is always difficult and (Dario's) done a great job," said four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, who won six Indy car championships (CART and USAC) in his storied career. "He's always been a smart runner and keeps out of trouble and that's what it takes to win championships. When you have strong competition, you always have top teams that run up front. That's always the way it's been over history. There are always guys who can run fast and hard, and you have to try to outthink them and run smarter than them and you have to have lady luck on your side also."

Luck has certainly been on Franchitti's side over the last three seasons, and should Franchitti outduel Will Power and locked up his fourth IZOD IndyCar Series championship in the last five years this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he will become just the third driver to win three-consecutive Indy car championships (Joining Sebastien Bourdais (2004-07) and Ted Horn (1946-48). Franchitti would also join drivers such as A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti , Mears and Sebastien Bourdais with at least four Indy car championships to their name.

"It just shows, he's obviously winning races, he's very consistent," said teammate Scott Dixon, the last driver not named Franchitti to win the INDYCAR crown. "It's like he has little angel wings or something because even on a bad day they seem to pull it through. That's what it's all about. Championships, you've got to have consistency, you have to dominate some races. He's had a bit of bad luck just like all of us throughout this year. But it's cool to be a part of.

Bourdais, who won four-straight Indy car titles from 2004-2007 with Newman/Haas Racing in the Champ Car World Series, said comparing Franchitti's run with his is difficult, but accomplishing the success in this era of racing is a note-worthy feat.

"I find it very hard to compare experiences and careers," Bourdais said "When I was in Champ Car, I got a unique opportunity to drive for a great team, stable, very well organized. This was for sure a decisive factor in our success.

"These days, you have mostly two teams that have been able to build such a package in IndyCar, with Penske and Ganassi. That leaves five drivers with roughly the same chances to win, so for Dario to win as much as he does, I find it very impressive."

Equally as impressive is Franchitti's ability to stay on an even keel no matter what the circumstances. That above results is what makes him special to those who work with him.

"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," said Target Chip Ganassi Racing's managing director Mike Hull. "When I first was lucky enough to be involved with Indy car racing, there was a guy like Rick Mears who raced Indy cars, 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."

As for Franchitti he's just focused on winning the current championship and not what his place is in the pantheon of racing greats.

"I'm not thinking about what's happened before," he said. "I think if you get too distracted thinking, 'Oh, man, three championships, whatever,' you're losing focus. So I'm just thinking about Vegas next week now, what I have to do there to get number four. When eventually I retire, I'll think about things in that wider picture."

2. Kanaan, Meira earn title of Ironman:IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Vitor Meira were victorious in a different type of race over the weekend.

"Now I can say I'm an Ironman," Kanaan relayed a few hours after crossing the finish line in the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.

Kanaan and countryman Meira completed the grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 24.2-mile run in under 13 hours. Both had competed in Ironman 70.3 events, but this was their first full-scale endurance race.

"The day after a car race doesn't feel this bad," said Kanaan, who checked in at 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

Meira completed the race in 12 hours, 24 minutes, 2 seconds. A total of 1,918 male and female triathletes who qualified or participated via a lottery jumped in the Pacific Ocean in Kona for the start of the event.

""This was awesome, and painful," said Meira, who along with Kanaan is resting and recovering before getting in the race car Oct. 13 for the initial practice session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda. "The pros are unreal."

Maybe this will spur on the 36-year-old Kanaan and the 34-year-old Meira: Craig Alexander, 38, of Australia, won the event for the third time and set a course-record 8 hours, 3 minutes, 56 seconds in the process. How awesome is that? After completing the consecutive swim and bike, he ran a 2:44.03 marathon.

3. What happens in Vegas: Events surround IZOD INDYCAR World Championships: Planning and programming logistics for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda in Las Vegas have been ongoing for seven months, and on- and off-track elements have been incorporated into a week-long festival of speed and entertainment.

Now, it's showtime.

In conceptualizing the composite event, INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard sought to engage visitors, race ticket-buyers and residents of Nevada and neighboring states by complementing the IZOD IndyCar Series championship-deciding race Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with complimentary entertainment away from the racetrack. Vegas was the first -- and only -- choice.

"Las Vegas is an entertaining city and when you put on a great event like the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships and you have two men fighting it out for the championship with Will (Power) and Dario (Franchitti), I think it's important for us to make sure that we give everything we can to our fans," Bernard said. "There will be a lot of activities and a lot of different opportunities to mingle with the drivers during the week.

"It's my job to make them bigger stars; we've said that from day one. We're not only creating storylines, we're letting them mingle with who is buying those tickets and I think that is essential."

The first public event is an autograph/photo session with all 34 IZOD IndyCar Series drivers - and maybe even a few surprise guests - at 6 p.m. Oct. 12 at Macy's at the Fashion Show Mall on Las Vegas Boulevard. Also that evening is the Graham Rahal Race for Research karting event at Pole Position Raceway.

Following practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 13 is the IZOD IndyCar Series Parade Presented by Verizon Wireless on Las Vegas Boulevard. This isn't a run-of-the-mill car transporter lap but the stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series behind the wheel of the car they'll be driving in the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda three days later in the championship-deciding race on the 1.5-mile oval.

IZOD IndyCar Series drivers, plus Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford, will be introduced about 7:30 p.m. as the cars are staged in front of the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. The best viewing of the parade will be between the Monte Carlo and Flamingo hotels.

Following the parade, fans with a race day ticket are invited to join drivers and other celebs for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Kickoff Party Presented by Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka at Wet Republic at the MGM Grand Resort & Casino.

"This might be first time ever in prime time (city officials have closed The Strip)," Bernard noted. "I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a big production with introductions in front of the Bellagio fountains. It will be a fun event, and then we go straight to the Wet Republic at the MGM Grand and we have a big kickoff party."

Practice and qualifications for IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights is Oct. 14 - a full day of on-track activity - followed by the INDYCAR Charity Blackjack Tournament presented by AirMed at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino with some stunning Ritmo Mundo timepieces as prizes and an all-star list of celebrity participants from the sports and entertainment worlds.

Throughout the week, the Fan Zone will be at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, featuring meet & greets (Arie Luyendyk at 6 p.m. Oct. 13 for example), concerts (Licorice Pizza at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and Good Charlotte at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 15 on the Verizon Stage) and interactive displays for all ages.

The IZOD IndyCar Series title contenders and Go Daddy INDYCAR Challenge driver Dan Wheldon will participate in an Ortsbo Live & Global chat at 10 a.m. Oct. 15. It's a reprise of the successful event at Infineon Raceway in August in which fans around the world can submit questions in their native language (Ortsbo translates 53 different languages) and watch at www.liveandglobal.com.

The INDYCAR Fan Village moves up I-15 to the speedway Oct. 16.

"We think it's convenient for the fans. If you go to Vegas you definitely want to travel out to the track on race day, so why not bring it to the hub?" Bernard said. "What's important is Las Vegas is a partner, the MGM Grand Resorts is a partner. Mandalay Bay has been a great partner. It brings in more foot traffic and overall it helps us create a successful event."

Race week culminates at the speedway Oct. 16 with the Firestone Indy Lights race at 9:45 a.m. followed by a public IZOD IndyCar Series drivers meeting. A complimentary concert by Los Lonely Boys at 11:15 on the Neon Garage Stage sets the stage for the 200-lap IZOD IndyCar Series race. The 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus will perform the national anthem.

"We'll have a drivers meeting that everyone will be able to watch on the big screens and then go into a concert by Los Lonely Boys right into the introduction of the drivers and then right into what everyone has been waiting for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships," Bernard said.

Spectators will be invited to celebrate with the IZOD IndyCar Series champion in the Neon Garage Victory Circle.

But the party atmosphere doesn't end there. At 6:30 p.m. at the House of Blues is the Concert to Beat Paralysis presented by William Rast to benefit the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation at the Mandalay Bay featuring The English Beat.

On Oct. 17 is the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation's Racing to Recovery Golf Tournament presented by IZOD at Southern Highlands Golf Club, and for the first time the public is invited to attend the INDYCAR Championship Celebration at the Mandalay Bay .

Bernard likens the week-long event to a snowball rolling downhill.

"We have great partners. Everyone has stepped up and sees the value in this and wants to see a great event," he said. "I think this is an event that will grow and grow. The city will be alive. It's going to be a fun event."

***

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.

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Series INDYCAR
Tags franchitti, kanaan, las vegas, meira