IPS: IRL: Homestead Open Test notes 2007-02-22

INDYCAR SERIES COMPLETES OPEN TEST AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY HOMESTEAD, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007 -- 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon paced the IndyCar Series Open Test on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the second ...

INDYCAR SERIES COMPLETES OPEN TEST AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007 -- 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon paced the IndyCar Series Open Test on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the second consecutive day, but this time without incident.

Wheldon, who was fastest during testing on Day 1 at the variably banked 1.5-mile oval, recorded a lap of 24.9405 seconds, 214.350 mph in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara.

"It was a very good test in terms of outright speed, but I did destroy a car the first day," Wheldon said. "That was my first crash since 2003. I'm performing well, but there are still some improvements that we can make. I know (Tony) Kanaan is quicker than he's letting on, and Sam (Hornish Jr.) is always quick. Scott (Dixon) had a little bit of trouble with his car, but it will be fixed and he'll be up with us for the race.

"It was a productive two days other than the fact that I did $300,000 worth of damage. Chip (Ganassi) was nice about it. I have a good relationship with Chip. I made a mistake yesterday. I was working in traffic, and I just lost too much of the car too soon. You're going to make mistakes. I never said that I was perfect. But when you race on ovals and you make a mistake, it can be expensive. Chip understands that, and I think he respects that fact that if I make a mistake I'll tell him.

Wheldon's lap was faster than 2006 IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 6 Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara, who recorded a best lap of 24.9606, 214.178 mph. Tony Kanaan (214.119 mph) Marco Andretti (213.944 mph) and Helio Castroneves (213.869 mph) rounded out the day's fast five.

"We're not exactly where we want to be yet, but we're in a lot better shape than where we were last night," Hornish said. "We're going to continue to analyze the data to see if we can continue to move forward. Hopefully, we'll have everything straightened out when we come back for the race."

Also on Feb. 22, Bobby Wilson led the oval-testing portion of the Indy Pro Series Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Wilson, driver of Brian Stewart Racing's No. 1 entry, recorded a lap of 28.7611, 185.876 mph. Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Alex Lloyd was second-fastest at 28.7828, 185.736 mph.

There were 2,852 incident-free laps turned by IndyCar Series cars and 2,817 incident-free laps turned by Indy Pro Series cars.

DAY 2 TESTING NOTEBOOK:

Happy Birthday, Larry: A.J. Foyt surprised his son, Larry, with a bikini birthday cake Feb. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in honor of his 30th birthday.

He said the worst thing "is I can't say I'm in my 20s any longer."

Larry, who competed last week in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway, is in his first year as team director of A.J. Foyt Racing. Driver Darren Manning, participating in his second Open Test in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car, was limited during the first day on the 1.5-mile oval because of a clutch issue.

All wet: Despite leading the first day of Indy Pro Series testing Feb. 20, Super Aguri Panther Racing rookie Hideki Mutoh was the bane of some jokes from countryman and IndyCar Series driver Kosuke Matsuura.

It seems Mutoh mistakenly put both of his cell phones, one for the U.S. and one for Japan, in the washing machine recently.

"After going to the gym I was really tired, and I just forgot them in my jacket pocket," Mutoh said.

Matsuura and Mutoh are developing a strong friendship. They live in the same apartment complex in Indianapolis and spend quite a bit of time together.

Godzilla: The Super Aguri Panther Racing team has named Hideki Mutoh's No. 55 Dallara 'Godzilla.'

The number five in Japanese is pronounced 'go.' Team members translated 55 into 'go-go' and then referenced the Blue Oyster Cult song "Godzilla," which contains the phrase 'go go Godzilla' to come up with the moniker.

"Godzilla is one of the strongest characters in Japan," Mutoh said. "He's never lost against any other monsters."

Every time the Panther team took the car back into the garage during the Open Test they decorated the chassis with stuffed Godzilla dolls.

"I'm very pleased to be with the Panther team," Mutoh said. "They're very warm and kind. We're getting along very well."

Hall of Famer: Leo Mehl says he will represent thousands of people who have contributed to motorsports when he is inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Mehl, who as executive director shepherded the Indy Racing League during its formative years of operation, will join 1960 Indianapolis 500 winner Jim Rathmann, Indy car mechanic/team manager Jim McGee, 1988 NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, sports car champion John Fitch, motorcycle champion Bubba Shobert and the drag racing team of Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin as inductees Aug. 15 in Detroit.

Before joining the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series, in December 1996, Mehl was general manager of worldwide racing for Goodyear for 22 years.

"Everyone has always said that racing is a team sport and representing Goodyear for all those years and then the Indy Racing League, the team that I represented was several thousand people in factories, engineers, tire fitters and service people who also have made contributions," Mehl said. "I accept it on behalf of those people."

As a chemical engineer with Goodyear, Mehl helped develop the tires that put A.J. Foyt and Goodyear back into the Indianapolis 500 winner's circle in 1967.

"When I started in the mid-60s, my first real important job was making rubber compounds for the Indy 500," Mehl said. "Once A.J. won the race in '67, I got promoted because of that to Formula 1.

"Tires are the only things that actually touch the ground on a race car, so the tires always have been very important in winning. I've been very fortunate to stay in a business I love so much for so long."

The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is located in Novi, Mich.

Ethanol Proves To Be A Great Performance Fuel With The IndyCar Series: The image of ethanol as an important fuel alternative has been a hot topic for several years now.

Everyone from U.S. President George W. Bush to former vice-president Al Gore to Indiana Senator Evan Bayh to executives of the Detroit auto manufacturers to environment advocates have expounded on the virtues of ethanol for passenger cars in the United States.

Yes, the facts that ethanol helps the atmosphere by burning cleaner, assists the American economy by using crops from the U.S. farmers and slows the dependence of foreign oil have been well documented.

But the use of ethanol in high-performance vehicles has been one of the renewable fuel's most attractive qualities and best kept secrets. Leading the charge as the key proponent for the use of ethanol is the IndyCar Series. With racing machines that reach speeds in excess of 240 mph on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol, the IndyCar Series is the ultimate challenge for ethanol as a performance fuel. For the first time in 40 years, the Indy car racing has made a fuel switch, and the move from methanol to renewable ethanol has put the series at the forefront of the racing industry. No other racing series has made a complete switch to 100 percent renewable fuel.

"The IndyCar Series jump to ethanol has been great," said Tony Kanaan, the series champion. "We are definitely on the right path with ethanol. There is more power with the new (3.5-liter Honda V-8) engine. It runs clean and it is better for the environment. So it is a win-win situation, and that is great for the series. Ethanol is another alternative to gasoline. If we can show that the IndyCar Series cars can run ethanol, then it is good for everyone's street cars."

The move to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol also illustrates the performance aspects of the fuel including a higher octane rating (113 to methanol's 107), a high flash point (55.4 º F to 52º F) and a larger energy content (77,000 BTU per gallon to 64,250 BTU per gallon). Ethanol's positive energy balance means the energy source produced gives back more energy than it took to create it. And that balance helps give the IndyCar Series cars a positive feel on and off the track.

Like Kanaan's previous comments, the IndyCar Series drivers have been excited about the switch to fuel-grade ethanol in 2007.

"The engine is much stronger on the lower end," said Helio Castroneves, the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion. "The (ethanol) fuel is something that's new for us, but so far it's been a big plus. We're headed in the right direction. We're going to be fun to watch this year."

Vitor Meira added "I think the IndyCar Series is doing a great job with the use of ethanol. It's pretty innovative, and I think sets a good example for the rest of the United States and the world on using this source of fuel. I remember the first go-kart I ever drove in Brazil was ethanol-powered, and I feel like I've come full circle since my Delphi car is now running on ethanol."

Ethanol fuel has been a performance component in a variety of racing vehicles for the last 20 years including drag racing, sprint car racing, karting, boat racing and airplane competition.

The 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol for the entire IndyCar Series campaign comes from Renova Energy of Torrington, Wyo. Dan and Jamie Schwartzkopf of Renova Energy have been developing fuel-grade ethanol for racing for two decades as they compete in the National Hot Rod Association drag racing circuit.

"In all the conversations I have had with the (IndyCar Series) crews, everybody seems to like ethanol," said Dan Schwartzkopf. "No bad remarks whatsoever."

The IndyCar Series will make history on March 24 at Homestead Miami Speedway when the 2007 season gets underway with the entire field of 700-horsepower open wheel machines running on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol, becoming the first motorsports series to transition to renewable fuels.

President gets close-up look at Team Ethanol car: Before heading indoors to participate in a panel discussion about cellulosic ethanol in North Carolina on Feb. 22, President George W. Bush got a close-up look at a Team Ethanol show car at Novozymes North America.

In his State of the Union Address, Bush set a goal of reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next decade (the "Twenty in Ten" plan). This goal requires progress in fuel economy standards for cars and harnessing technology to increase the use of alternative fuels such as ethanol.

The IndyCar Series is the first in motorsports to use 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in its Honda Indy V-8 engines.

Novozymes produces enzymes, which speed up chemical reactions and a key to producing ethanol. Enzymes break down starch in plants such as corn so it can be converted to fuel. Novozymes' work with enzymes also is making it possible to produce ethanol from plant material other than corn.

"The goal is for the United States to be -- to diversify away from old, old ways," said Bush, who has set a goal of 35 gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017. "And it's possible. And I do believe it is a proper use of your money, taxpayers' money, to spend to encourage research on interesting ideas.

"We spent about $12 billion since I've been your president to try to stimulate technologies that will literally change the way we live. A lot of that money has gone into clean coal technologies. If you're worried about dependency on oil from overseas, then it seems to make sense to me that we ought to be able to have the technology so that we can better use the resources we have here at home.

"And these are exciting times, they really are. I've always said, America needs to stay on the leading edge of technological change. It will mean we remain a really important economy in the world, but it will also mean that our folks will be able to find good high-paying jobs."

DAY 2 TESTING QUOTEBOOK:

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This was really a one-day test for Team 7-Eleven. We had some issues yesterday and didn't get much time on the track. We had the speed today for sure but I'm not happy with my race car. It was productive because we learned what to do and what not to do but we don't have any test days left to get ready for the first race so we'll see what happens."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I have to hand it to the NYSE team. They did an awesome job getting the car ready and finding exactly what we need. There's still work to do but now we're in it. I didn't always look forward to coming to one-and-a-half mile ovals last year but if this test is any indication, I think we'll be in good shape this year."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Things seem to be a little different for us this year with the changes in the rear wing and a new tire compound, so we've been searching for the right combination that will allow us to get to the top of the speed charts. I think that there are a lot of teams like us who aren't exactly where they want to be at this point. We've made progress, though, so we're optimistic that when the engineers get back to the race shop and have a chance to analyze the data we've collected that we'll be able to come back here in a couple of weeks and contend for the win."

INDY PRO SERIES QUOTEBOOK:

LOGAN GOMEZ (No. 23 Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fourth-fastest): "The Sam Schmidt Motorsports team gave me a great car to learn on. There's no better team I could've jumped on to. They couldn't have made it easier for me to learn how to drive on an oval, especially one like this. It takes a lot of confidence to go around here flat out, for me. It was a big step. The team really made it easy, comfortable car. From there, we focused on getting it fast. Having a great teammate like Alex (Lloyd) to go out there and go flat out in five laps really set the benchmark too. Hopefully, rookies like myself get to get the right habits going, learn how to drive in a pack, and hopefully we'll have some good, clean racing this year."

ALEX LLOYD (No. 7 Sam Schmidt Motorsports, second fastest): "We had a good day. We had a few troubles just before lunch and right after lunch, which cost us a couple of hours of running, so we didn't get to do any running in a pack at the end. We did a 28.8 on our own, not in qualifying spec really either, so we were very happy with our pace. I think were comfortably quickest out there on our own. Unfortunately, I thought on my last lap I was going to get a really good draft and try and come away with P1, but it didn't happen. The cars in front got a bit tangled up, and I had to back off a bit. But all in all we were really happy. It's amazing how good the car is. It's really a very well-balanced car. We're looking forward to the race."

BOBBY WILSON (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, fastest driver during test): "Hats off to the team today. They did a great job. The car was awesome. I'd like to thank my sponsor, Ocala Gran Prix, for allowing me this opportunity to run with Brian Stewart Racing this year. My outlook is very positive and optimistic. We showed some speed straight away in the session and then kept getting faster. All in all it's a good day. We were trying some different setups. It's pretty windy out there, and one end of the track handles a little different than the other. We were just kind of jacking around with various setups. We came across a pretty good compromise, and that's how we got our time."

***

The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Homestead-Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It will be webcast live on www.indycar.com and will be telecast on at 5 p.m. (ET) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Bill Elliott , Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Marco Andretti , Kosuke Matsuura , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Bobby Wilson , Hideki Mutoh , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing