ANOTHER CHANCE FOR CUNNINGHAM TO SHINE
This weekend's 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series final at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the United States will provide Kiwi driver Wade Cunningham with another chance to shine.
The 27-year-old former Firestone Indy Lights series champion finished seventh in only his second complete IndyCar race at the penultimate round of this year's IndyCar series in Kentucky a fortnight ago and heads to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a clear idea of what he would like to do in the final.
"The goals are still pretty simple," he said this week. "The first is to avoid trouble and the second is to finish the race. If we do those two things we know we have the potential for a top five finish because my team, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, has been competitive all year on these types of tracks.
"In terms of myself and the guys running the #17 car we need to improve our pit stops, because to be competitive with Ganassi (who Cunningham's compatriot and former series champion Scott Dixon drives for) and Penske we can't afford to leave anything on the table. But Kentucky was my first weekend working with the car's engineer so we are expecting to build from that and we believe we have all the ingredients to improve on our Kentucky result."
This weekend Cunningham will be flying the flag for sponsors Play Again, Air Ride Pallet, Creatherm, Bald Spot Sports and ALC, the group of backers who have enabled him to make his three round debut in this year's IZOD IndyCar Series.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 2.4km (1.5 mile) D-shaped oval similar in layout to the Kentucky Motor Speedway but with progressive banking up to a maximum of 20 degrees which is considerably more than Kentucky. Cunningham says he is also expecting the track surface to be smoother which he believes will produce more 'pack' racing than was seen at Kentucky.
As befits a season finale the grandly named World Championship presented by Honda meeting has attracted a bumper 34-car field made up of drivers representing 12 different countries.
The usual 20+ strong field has been supplemented this weekend by entries from the likes of former series regulars Tomas Scheckter from South Africa, and both Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracey from Canada