IRL News and Notes -- Oct. 26, 2004

Today's IRL headlines
1. Kanaan Draws Hero's Welcome In Brazil
2. Indian Driver Tests With Red Bull Cheever Racing
3. Four Test With Sam Schmidt Motorsports

1. Kanaan Draws Hero's Welcome In Brazil: IRL IndyCar® Series champion Tony Kanaan returned to a hero's welcome upon his return to Brazil last weekend.

"The reception I got from the fans here has been a big one, bigger than I expected, and I'm very pleased," he said. "It is the best thing that can happen to a driver. You pursue your dream and you win the championship, but when you get recognized, especially by your fans from your home country, it is pretty good."

Kanaan spent the weekend at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, where he was cheering for Rubens Barrichello in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Kanaan and Barrichello have been friends since childhood.

"I told him if I can bring him all the luck I had this year," Kanaan said. "I'll let him borrow it here, and then he will give it back to me after this race."

Barrichello used some of that luck as he drove his Ferrari to third place. Juan Pablo Montoya, winner of the 2000 Indianapolis 500, won the race in a Williams-BMW. Kimi Raikkonen finished second in a McLaren-Mercedes.

Barrichello, who won the 2002 United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is a big fan of Kanaan's.

"I think Tony is one of the talents that went to America," Barrichello said. "He won the championship in a nice way." Kanaan said that the thrill of winning the IndyCar Series championship is still sinking in.

"It is definitely a dream come true after all those years fighting for a spot in the sun," he said. "It is the result of a lot of teamwork and effort, and me persisting in what I want to do. It is still sinking in, and it is not 100 percent in yet. But now that I am here in Brazil, the fans are congratulating me and the people are making me feel it more and more."

Kanaan's achievements resulted in an invitation to meet with Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on Oct. 25.

"I think that is awesome," Kanaan said. "It's a big thing for me; to meet your own president of your own country, and especially when he just calls you and invites you to come and meet him. He wants to congratulate me, so that is definitely big."

After meeting the president, Kanaan planned to spend some time relaxing with Barrichello. The IndyCar Series and Formula One seasons are over, and it's time to go on vacation.

"We are going to spend a lot of time together," Kanaan said of Barrichello. "We have a go-kart race to do, and we are going on vacation together."

Kanaan was one of several famous Brazilian drivers to visit the paddock during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend. Gil de Ferran, winner of the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and another good friend of Barrichello's was there as was Emerson Fittipaldi, winner of the 1989 and 1993 Indianapolis 500 and the 1972 and 1974 Formula One World Champion, and Nelson Piquet, the World Champion in 1981, 1983 and 1986.

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2. Indian Driver Tests With Red Bull Cheever Racing: Narain Karthikeyan became the first driver from India ever to test an IndyCar Series car during a test Oct. 21 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Karthikeyan, who races in the Nissan World Series as part of the Red Bull Junior Team, ran approximately 60 laps around the 1-mile oval under the supervision of Red Bull Cheever Racing engineer Iain Watt, before rain put an early end to the testing session.

"The addition of road-course races to the Indy Racing League calendar next year is attracting drivers of all different racing backgrounds," Red Bull Cheever Racing managing director Max Jones said. "It's great for the league to be generating even more international interest. We really enjoyed meeting Narain and were happy to give him the opportunity to test one of our race cars."

Karthikeyan's racing career began in the ELF Winfield Racing School in France and includes stints in Formula Ford, Formula Asia, British Formula 3 and Formula Nippon. The 27-year-old was also the first Indian driver to test a Formula 1 car, after earning tests with Jaguar and Jordan.

"Narain was a pleasure to work with during his test," Watt said. "He was eager to learn and improve upon each lap, and absorbed a wealth of information from our engineering staff."

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3. Four Test With Sam Schmidt Motorsports: Sam Schmidt Motorsports tested four drivers in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series car Oct. 22 at Kentucky Speedway. The team, which fielded as many as three cars in 2004, including that of championship-winning driver Thiago Medeiros, is beginning its search for drivers for 2005.

Jason Bowles, Jaime Camara, James McCabe and Bobby Wilson completed laps on the 1.5-mile tri-oval.

"We've tested 35 people over the past two years," team manager Michael Crawford said. "This was the best collective group of talent we've had. It was stellar."

Bowles, who has won several regional karting championships, competed in the Cooper Tires Formula Ford Zetec Championship in 2004, winning rookie of the year honors after finishing fourth overall in the point standings. The 21-year-old is from Ontario, Calif.

Camara is a 23-year-old from Goiania, Brazil. He is in his third season of competition in the South American Formula 3 series, the same series that Medeiros competed before coming to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.

McCabe, 24, won the World Karting Association Enduro National Championship in 1999. Since then, the Luzerne, Pa., native has competed in Skip Barber Formula Dodge, Formula Mazda and Star Mazda series among others.

Wilson won the Cooper Tires Formula Ford Zetec Championship title in 2004. The 23-year-old from Dousman, Wis., won championships in Snap On Stars of Karting in 2003 and the SuperKarts USA ProMoto Tour in 2000.

The group also was evaluated by Menards Infiniti Pro Series technical director Butch Meyer.

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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.

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