Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Dec. 15, 2004
Today's IRL headlines
1. Hornish Gets Unique Gift From Father
2. Matsuura Helps Raise Funds For Earthquake Victims
3. Penske Nominated For Award
4. MIS Gets Renovation
1. Hornish Gets Unique Gift From Father: In 2000, PDM Racing gave Sam Hornish Jr. the opportunity to compete in the IRL IndyCar® Series a year after the Defiance, Ohio, native won Rookie of the Year honors in the Toyota Atlantic Championship.
Two series championships and an IndyCar Series-leading 12 victories later, Hornish will soon be reunited with the No. 18 entry that he drove in his first three IndyCar Series races. His father, Sam, purchased the car from PDM Racing principal owner Paul Diatlovich, and IndyCar Series technical manager Kevin Blanch is restoring it to driving condition.
"This race car is very special to me," said Hornish, who won one race in 2004 in his first season driving the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. "It's the car in which I passed my IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 rookie tests and earned my first podium finish."
One of last of the series' first-generation G Force chassis, it will be displayed in the headquarters of the family's trucking business.
"I just never imagined he'd make it to that level," said Sam Hornish, whose Hornish Brothers Trucking Co. was the car's co-sponsor with Advantage Power Coating. "I thought (buying and displaying the car) would be something neat to do."
The project evolved into something more than building a show car.
"Sam (Sr.) asked if I could put it back as close to the way it was when Sam drove it," said Blanch, the crew chief at Panther Racing when Hornish won consecutive IndyCar Series titles. "He said, 'I'd like to in 20 years be able to start it up and let the boy drive it because it's the first IndyCar (Series) car he drove.'
"For his family, that car has a lot of memories of Sam's first step into big-time auto racing."
Rebuilding the engine, recovering the seat, painting and decaling were among Blanch's list of refurbishments.
"I called everybody who was involved with that car when it was running and asked if they could help," Blanch said. "I didn't want to take the motor out, paint it, put it all back together and let you have it. So I just went through it slowly and got it to where in 20 years they can put some methanol in it and drive the car around."
Blanch said delivery should be at the beginning of 2005.
"It's basically done," he said. "It's just a matter of putting it back together. Because the car won't be running next week, I have to make sure that 10-12 years from now everything is preserved and won't go to waste. I'll spray the fuel cell to keep it from drying out and rotting and pickle the fuel pump. I want to make sure everything works and is lubricated and will last for 20 years until they decide to run it.
"It's something I wanted to do for his father. It's an honor because his son is a champion and will continue to be a champion for a long time. For me to be associated with that car that started him out adds to my career."
The younger Hornish is looking forward to seeing -- and sitting in -- the car.
"My dad bought the car, my former crew chief is restoring the car and Speedway Engine Development is doing the engine work," he said. "Each of their efforts means a lot to me because they were all instrumental in my growth as a race car driver.
"I think it's a great thing to have the resources to restore such a meaningful part of my racing background, and I can't wait until I have kids so that I can fire up the engine to show them what got my career in the IndyCar Series started."
2. Matsuura Helps Raise Funds For Earthquake Victims: 2004 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Kosuke Matsuura was featured in the fourth Honda "2 & 4 in Christmas" event earlier this week in Tokyo, during which an auction of racing memorabilia raised more than 301,000 yen for the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake Charity.
Honda, which began the event to show appreciation to motorsports fans in Japan, invited motorcycle riders and Matsuura -- the only "four-wheel driver" -- to participate in question and answer and photo sessions with the large crowd at the Honda Welcome Plaza Aoyama.
3. Penske Nominated For Award: Roger Penske is a nominee for the sixth Eagle One-Shav Glick Award, which recognizes distinguished contribution to motorsports in California.
The owner of Marlboro Team Penske, which will enter two cars in the 2005 IndyCar Series season, built California Speedway in Fontana in the mid-1990s. The IndyCar Series season finale will be at the 2-mile track in October 2005.
Other nominees include J.C. Agajanian, John Force, Jeremy McGrath and Ivan Stewart. The award will be presented during festivities at the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at California Speedway on Feb. 27.
4. MIS Gets Renovation: The largest renovation project in the 37-year history of Michigan International Speedway will be completed for the IndyCar Series race at the 2-mile oval on July 31.
The project includes a reconfiguration of the frontstretch area, which will include new ticket gates, vendor and display areas, several concession stands, and a suite/club structure above the main grandstand near the start/finish line. The suite/club area will hold 16 suites, press box, 870 Champions Club seats, timing & scoring area, television and radio broadcast area, and race control.
"In recent years, large interactive fan displays have become a huge part of our facility on race weekends, and the merchandise areas have always been popular with our fans," MIS President Brett Shelton said. "This will allow the area in front of the speedway to be even more enjoyable for our guests during our race weekends. Fans come early and stay late, so the improvements are perfect for our loyal fans."
The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) 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. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.