Series news and notes 2011-11-03

IndyCar Series press release

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Team Penske lineup returns for 2012
2. Racing veteran Anderson joins Rahal Letterman Lanigan
3. Carpenter launches own team with backing from Fuzzy's
4. KV Racing Technology to be powered by Chevrolet
5. Star Mazda champ Vauiter looks to fit in:

Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske

Photo by: Covy Moore

1. Team Penske lineup returns for 2012: Team Penske confirmed that two-time IZOD IndyCar Series championship runner-up Will Power, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and six-time race winner Ryan Briscoe will comprise its driver lineup for the 2012 season.

It will be the third consecutive full season (fourth overall) that the trio will be teammates. Since 2009, the three Team Penske drivers have generated 21 victories and 28 poles. Power contested a partial season (six races) in 2009.

"We are excited to return with a three-car team in 2012," Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said. "The combination of Helio, Ryan and Will has been a formidable one on the track and they work very well together as teammates. Our goal all along has been to continue running three cars and thanks to our terrific partners, we have been able to make everything work from the business side.

"Now, all of our focus will be on developing the new Chevrolet IndyCar and getting ready for a strong return to the track in 2012."

Power earned a series record-tying eight pole starts and six victories this season in finishing 18 points behind Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti in the championship chase for the second consecutive year. The Aussie, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, suffered a compression fracture of the fourth thoracic vertebra in the season finale but is expected to be fully healed for the start of the 2012 season March 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Power also was the driver for Chevrolet's initial engine development program test in early October at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Castroneves, who has been driving for Team Penske since the 2000 CART season, posted four top-five finishes this season. His streak of seasons with a victory ended at 11 (an IZOD IndyCar Series record).

Briscoe, who turned 30 on Sept. 24, also recorded four top-five finishes in his fourth season with the team.

A team highlight came Aug. 28 when the trio swept the podium in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

2. Racing veteran Anderson joins Rahal Letterman Lanigan: Rahal Letterman Lanigan has hired a proven veteran to direct the team in not only defending the three American Le Mans Series championships that it won this year, but also to take a lead role in ramping up toward an anticipated return to the IZOD Indy Car Series.

Tom Anderson will join the team as President of Racing Operations today, bringing the veteran of more than 40 years in the racing world onto the Ohio-based team. Anderson began his career in 1969, but is more well-known for his successes as the Managing Director at Chip Ganassi Racing beginning in 1990 where he helped guide the team to four consecutive Indy Car championships in the CART series.

"I have known Tom since the Can-Am days in the 1970s and have always respected and admired how he went about his business," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "I look forward to working with Tom and raising the competitive level of all aspects of the team. Also, I want to point out that Scott Roembke remains a valued member of our team and will act as a consultant and advisor to the team in 2012 and beyond."

Anderson left Ganassi after the 2000 season for Adrian Fernandez and his startup Indy Car team, where he served as the team's Managing Director for nine seasons. The Modesto, California native has six Indy Car/CART championships on his resume as well as three Indianapolis 500 wins. He has worked with some of the greats of the sport including Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Al Holbert, Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser.

"I am extremely excited to be a part of the expanding program at Rahal Letterman Lanigan," Anderson said. "They have a championship-winning team in the ALMS and what we want to do is to continue that success and build the Indy Car side to enable it to match their sportscar prowess. I am looking forward to working with the new car as well as working with the quality people that RLL has assembled on its team."

3. Carpenter launches own team with backing from Fuzzy's: IZOD IndyCar Series veteran Ed Carpenter plans to compete in the full IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012, driving for Ed Carpenter Racing.

The team is owned and operated by Carpenter and his stepfather, Tony George, who started Vision Racing in 2005. Carpenter, who has 113 IZOD IndyCar Series starts, drove for Vision Racing for five seasons. Additional details are expected to be announced at a news conference Nov. 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I am extremely excited about the opportunities that lie ahead with Ed Carpenter Racing," said the driver who won his first race in October at Kentucky Speedway. "Team ownership is something that I have thought about for quite a long time, and is now becoming a reality as a result of a great relationship with Fuzzy (Zoeller) and Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka.

"I don't know that I ever thought that I would have the opportunity to be an owner/driver, but when an opportunity like this comes along you can't pass it up. I can't wait to get to work and begin building this team for not only 2012, but beyond."

Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka, which sponsored Carpenter's car in 2010 when he raced with Panther Racing, will be the primary sponsor of Ed Carpenter Racing as part of a three-year commitment. The company served as Carpenter's helmet sponsor in 2011 in addition to sponsoring a car from Panther Racing driven by Buddy Rice for the Indianapolis 500.

"We're looking forward to playing a full round with Ed in 2012. In the past, we've only been able to play a few holes," said Fuzzy Zoeller, PGA and Champions Tour professional and owner of Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka. "Ed caddied for me last year and he's definitely a much better driver. We've had a great time with Ed and IndyCar and now we're really going to tee it up in 2012."

Carpenter, 30, began his IZOD IndyCar Series career in 2003 with PDM Racing after competing in Firestone Indy Lights. He's also driven for Red Bull Cheever Racing, Vision Racing, Panther Racing and 10 races this season with Sarah Fisher Racing. He has one pole (Kentucky 2010) and 29 top-10 finishes.

"Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka has been a strong supporter of mine since 2010," Carpenter said. "I am very grateful for the commitment that they are making in me and this new team. We are going to have a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to having a very successful future together.

"If we can have the same success on track that Fuzzy has enjoyed on the golf course, there will be quite a bit of celebrating."

4. KV Racing Technology to be powered by Chevrolet: KV Racing Technology announced that the team will be powered by the Chevrolet IndyCar V-6 racing engine for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

KV Racing Technology was founded in January 2003 by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser and joined the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2008.

"I am very pleased to announce that KV Racing Technology has reached an agreement to compete with Chevrolet power during the 2012 IndyCar season," Kalkhoven said. "Chevy has a proven history of innovation and success in motorsports and we look forward to continuing that legacy."

KV Racing Technology joins Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Panther Racing as IZOD IndyCar Series teams aligned with Chevrolet for the 2012 season.

Vasser, who owns a Chevrolet dealership in Napa, Calif., competed with a Chevy engine for the first two years of his Indy car career and earned his first career podium with Chevy power (third at Phoenix in 1993).

"I am very excited Chevrolet is returning to IndyCar racing and that we will have the opportunity to work with them," he said. "I have a long personal history with Chevrolet. My first car was a 1969 Camaro. We look forward to a very successful relationship with Chevrolet for many years to come."

Chevrolet, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, has totaled 104 Indy car wins, including six series championships and seven Indy 500 victories. The 2012 Chevrolet IndyCar V06 will have an aluminum block and cylinder heads, direct injection and twin turbochargers. The engine will also be a fully stressed chassis member supporting the gearbox and rear suspension

"We are pleased to welcome KV Racing Technology to Team Chevy for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "The team puts a high value on advanced technology, as does Chevrolet with its IndyCar engine program that uses key technologies from our production engines.

"Jimmy Vasser was already part of our extended family as a Chevrolet dealer, and like our company co-founder, Louis Chevrolet, his roots run deep in racing. We're delighted to have Jimmy, Kevin Kalkhoven, and the entire KV Racing Technology organizationas part of our IndyCar racing program."

5. Star Mazda champ Vauiter looks to fit in: After the shine of being a series champion starts to fade, reality sets in. Being awarded the scholarship up to the next rung on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder means the winner must settle into a new car, in a new series and compete against veteran drivers. It's like graduating from high school, only to be a freshman all over again in college.

Looking to move quickly past that transition stage is 2011 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear champion Tristan Vautier.

Vautier got to spend some time in a Firestone Indy Lights car on Oct. 28-29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and exceeded expectations when he set the fastest lap of the two-day session by more than a half-second while driving for Andretti Autosport.

Vautier tested a Firestone Indy Lights car a year ago, but acknowledged he needed a refresher.

"The way to drive it is pretty different (from a Star Mazda car)," Vautier said. "You have to be patient in the corner and wait on the throttle because if you go too early, you just get wheel spin, and it's not even better than going later and with more power all at once. It's pretty different, but I quite like it. I need to keep working and keep improving."

The 22-year-old from Corenc, France, spent two years in Star Mazda. In 2010, he won two races, finished on podium three times, had five top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and finished fifth in the championship.

This past season, he had four wins and six podiums with JDC Motorsports, but more importantly, he never finished outside the top five.

"I was trying to go for the title. It was my second year in the series and there was this big prize from Mazda and INDYCAR to win," Vautier said. "But when I was in the car, I was not really thinking about it. I was just trying to take it step by step, session after session and race by race.

"If you think too much about the big objective, you can lose focus on the present, so I really tried to do my best session for session instead of thinking too much about it."

Though he is not in a hurry to race through Firestone Indy Lights, Vautier isn't counting himself out of the championship mix. Looking at trends over the last couple of seasons, the odds are in his favor -- the past two championships have been won by drivers in their first year of the series.

For the immediate future, he is focused on learning as much as possible.

"You always want to be as quick as you can as soon as possible, but I cannot say that I am going into Indy Lights for the title right now," he said. "I have a lot of work to do. I have to first pick my team, and then I have so much to learn that it's going to be a matter of how quick I manage to learn. I know that there's tons of work ahead, so I cannot say I really am going for the title. I'm just going in the car to do the best job I can and we'll see. If I do a good job, I should win."

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Series INDYCAR
Tags carpenter, kbvt, penske, rahal