IPS: IRL: Chicagoland: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-09-12

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Franchitti conquered diverse schedule 2. Indy Pro Series enjoyed record growth 3. Franchitti on "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" 1. Franchitti conquered diverse schedule: To win the...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Franchitti conquered diverse schedule
2. Indy Pro Series enjoyed record growth
3. Franchitti on "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"

1. Franchitti conquered diverse schedule: To win the 2007 IndyCar Series championship, Dario Franchitti had to conquer one of the most diverse schedules in motorsports. That he was able to accomplish it makes his first championship in the United States that much sweeter.

"Each week is a different track," Franchitti said. "Last week we were in Detroit on an extremely bumpy street course. You've got to do well there. The next week you're at a superspeedway at Chicago. You've got to do well there. You've got all these different kinds of tracks that you have to do well on, and that's just the driver."

The combination of 12 ovals -- ranging from the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway to the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- three road courses and two temporary street circuits proved to be a challenge that Franchitti was able to master better than anyone else.

He scored two of his four wins on the shortest ovals (Richmond and Iowa) and another on the biggest track that the series competes on (Indianapolis). While his title rival Scott Dixon was winning on the road courses, Franchitti was posting solid top-three-finishes to minimize points hit.

"I think that's one of the reasons this championship means so much to me is the fact that it was all those different tracks this year. And each one requires something completely different.

"To go from Detroit to Chicago, I can't think of two different tracks. I think the direction the series has been taking and going to different types of tracks, short oval, one and a half milers, the big tracks, street courses, road courses, that makes it more difficult to kind of do a good job on all of those. It leaves me and definitely my guys with a sense of satisfaction, a big smile on our faces."

But most satisfying to Franchitti was the work that his crew accomplished in helping him achieve his championship goal. Though he gets the credit for the title, he knows winning is a team effort.

"It's not only a challenge for the driver," Franchitti said. "The guys have to build the cars. The engineers have got to find the way to make the car go fast, from a team perspective it's a much more difficult championship than it's ever been."

***

2. Indy Pro Series enjoyed record growth: A record-setting finish was a fitting way to cap off a record-setting season in the Indy Pro Series. Logan Gomez edged Alex Lloyd by 0.0005 of a second in the season-ending Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 -- a margin of victory that may never be beaten. Other Indy Pro Series milestones set in 2007 however are just stepping stones to a bigger and brighter future.

An average of 23 cars started the 16 races, an increase of 48% over 2006 and 85% over two seasons ago. Teams also earned a record payout of $3,771,000 -- up $2.7 million from 2005.

"This truly was the best year so far in the six seasons of the Indy Pro Series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series. "The on-track action continued to be very competitive and the equipment continued to prove to be highly reliable.

"What's most exciting is the increased level of participation by teams and sponsors. We saw so much growth in 2007, but we're poised and ready for even more growth in 2008. The level of interest at this point of the year far and away surpasses what we've seen in previous years."

A record 43 drivers and 29 entrants were drawn to the Indy Pro Series for numerous reasons.

"Having been involved since the beginning of the series, the current status and car count is a reflection of not just one magic program," said team owner Sam Schmidt, who has guided three drivers to the championship in the past four seasons. "It's been an evolution, starting with a consistent, reliable and affordable engine package, factoring in the prize money, which makes this series relatively affordable, and the addition of road-course racing."

Teams competed on seven ovals, four road courses and one street course with a record-tying seven drivers recording victories. Doubleheader events on the road courses maximized the amount of racing while containing costs.

"When you look at the Indy Pro Series as a training ground, there's no place better for drivers and team members to hone their skills," Bailey said. "You have to learn to master road courses, short ovals like Iowa, speedways like Chicagoland and superspeedways like Indianapolis."

"Once you've proven yourself on all of those circuits, you can feel confident that you're ready to look to advance to the next level."

The next level of racing is the IndyCar Series, and in 2007 the Indy Pro Series also provided an unprecedented level of opportunity for advancement. Four IndyCar Series teams also fielded cars in the Indy Pro Series, creating the opportunity for five Indy Pro Series drivers to test IndyCars.

"I think the Indy Pro Series is by far the strongest open wheel feeder championship out in America right now," said Lloyd, who won the series championship on the strength of a record eight victories. "The cars do a great job in preparing yourself for IndyCar. I've driven the IndyCar now and I can compare the two. After 10 laps in an IndyCar, I felt at home. That's a testament to how great the Indy Pro Series is at developing you on that."

At the end of the season, Indy Pro Series rookie of the year Hideki Mutoh competed in the IndyCar Series race at Chicagoland, improving from 13th to eighth and recording the fastest lap of the race.

"Hideki proved to be a quick study," Bailey said. "I think we'll see him and at least two or three other deserving graduates competing in the IndyCar Series next season."

***

3. Franchitti on "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson": 2007 IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti will celebrate his championship in his third city in as many days when he appears on the "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" in Los Angeles on Sept. 12.

The IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion warned that he and host Craig Ferguson may talk about all things Scottish -- and maybe even some racing.

"I watch him sometimes when I'm up that late and he's a really funny guy," Franchitti said. "I'm sure there will be a few jokes that only he and I will get. As long as we don't get too carried away, everyone will be OK. If we get carried away, no one will understand a word we're saying."

The "Late Late Show" airs at 12:35 a.m. (ET) on CBS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Sam Schmidt , Alex Lloyd , Roger Bailey , Logan Gomez