IPS: IRL: 2004 Indy Racing League Banquet report

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Champion Kanaan Collects a Cool $1 Million as Bonus NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday, Oct. 29, 2004 -- Tony Kanaan and Thiago Medeiros are both from Brazil and drove No. 11 entries this season in Indy Racing League events. They also share the...

Champion Kanaan Collects a Cool $1 Million as Bonus

NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday, Oct. 29, 2004 -- Tony Kanaan and Thiago Medeiros are both from Brazil and drove No. 11 entries this season in Indy Racing League events. They also share the distinction of being champions of their respective series.

Kanaan and Medeiros -- along with other drivers, teams and manufacturers -- were recognized Oct. 29 for their accomplishments during the IRL Championship Celebration aboard the Disney Cruise Ship Wonder. The program will be broadcast at 4 p.m. (EST) Nov. 9 on ESPN2.

Kanaan, who had three victories and finished in the top 10 in each event, accepted the IRL IndyCar® Series Cup and $1 million bonus from IRL CEO and President Tony George. Kanaan completed an IRL-record 3,305 laps in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone over the course of the competitive and grueling 16-race schedule. He wrapped up the title in the penultimate event with a runner-up finish at California Speedway, and officially celebrated the championship after a second place at Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 17.

"Tony drove like a champion from the first race on," said team co-owner Michael Andretti, who retired as a driver after the 87th Indianapolis 500 in May 2003. "He proved that he is the champion this year."

Medeiros, driving the No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, won half of the 12 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series races, including four in a row. He started from the pole position a series-record eight times. Medeiros and Sam Schmidt Motorsports team members were presented the Firestone Firehawk Cup by Menards Infiniti Pro Series Executive Director Roger Bailey.

Kosuke Matsuura accepted the Bombardier Rookie of the Year award and $50,000 bonus. Matsuura, one of three rookies in the IndyCar Series, had a high finish of fourth among his quartet of top-10s. He also was the Bank One Rookie of the Year for the 88th Indianapolis 500, where he started ninth in the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone.

IRL Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Brian Barnhart, Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi and Debbie Savini presented the IRL Rising Star Award, which honors the late Tony Renna, to Vitor Meira.

Meira also received the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap award, and received a timepiece from TAG Heuer for the "Closest Finish" contest with Rahal Letterman Racing teammate Buddy Rice. Meira was runner-up in the July 4 race at Kansas Speedway by 0.0051 of a second.

Dan Wheldon, the 2003 rookie award recipient, received the EMCO Gears Hard Charger award from John Wolfe, president of EMCO Gears. Wheldon, who was runner-up in the points race to his Andretti Green Racing teammate, had three victories and 13 top-10 finishes. Eight times he came in third.

Andretti Green Racing's Kyle Moyer received the IndyCar Series Championship General Manager award, while Jeff Simon was presented the IndyCar Series John Bearce Motorsports Chief Mechanic of the Year award.

Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing accepted the IRL Marketer of the Year award. Gen Takakuwa, vice president and general manager of Twin Ring Motegi, accepted the IRL Promoter of the Year award for the second year in a row. Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of Honda Performance Development, accepted the IndyCar Series Engine Manufacturer champion award.

Gil de Ferran, who retired after the 2003 IndyCar Series season, presented awards to Robbie Buhl and Al Unser Jr. Buhl, co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, retired after the event at Twin Ring Motegi. Unser, a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion, retired in June after the event at Richmond International Raceway.

Award winners

IndyCar Series championship driver
    Tony Kanaan

IndyCar Series championship team
    Andretti Green Racing

Bombardier Rookie of the Year
    Kosuke Matsuura

Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap
    Vitor Meira

MBNA Pole Award
    Buddy Rice

EMCO Gears Hard Charger
    Dan Wheldon

IRL Rising Star
    Vitor Meira

Marlboro Lap Leader
    Tony Kanaan

IRL Marketer of the Year
    Firestone

IRL Promoter of the Year
    Twin Ring Motegi

IndyCar Series championship general manager
    Kyle Moyer

IndyCar Series John Bearce Motorsports Chief Mechanic of the Year
    Jeff Simon

IndyCar Series engine manufacturer champion
    Honda

IndyCar Series championship team sponsor
    7-Eleven

TAG Heuer Closest Finish Award winners
    Rice and Meira

IndyCar Series second-place championship driver
    Dan Wheldon

IndyCar Series third-place championship driver
    Buddy Rice

IndyCar Series second-place championship team
    Andretti Green Racing

IndyCar Series third-place championship team
    Rahal Letterman Racing

Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship driver
    Thiago Medeiros

Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship team
    Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Menards Infiniti Pro Series second-place championship driver
    Paul Dana

Menards Infiniti Pro Series third-place championship driver
    Arie Luyendyk Jr.

Retirement recognition
    Robbie Buhl, Al Unser Jr.

Manufacturer recognition
    Chevrolet, Toyota, Dallara, Panoz G Force, Firestone, Delphi, X-Trac.

The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-irl-

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS