Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Jan. 17, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. IndyCar Series Teams Prepare To Hit The Road 2. Kanaan Earns Top Honor 3. Briscoe Joins Ganassi's Three-Car IndyCar Series Effort 1. IndyCar Series Teams Prepare To...
Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Jan. 17, 2005
Today's IRL headlines
1. IndyCar Series Teams Prepare To Hit The Road
2. Kanaan Earns Top Honor
3. Briscoe Joins Ganassi's Three-Car IndyCar Series Effort
1. IndyCar Series Teams Prepare To Hit The Road: Testing of man -- and woman -- and machine commences Jan. 19 for IRL IndyCar® Series teams on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway. They'll double their fun on the 2.21-mile circuit Jan. 20 before switching to the oval package for a day on the 1.5-mile, high-banked track.
Think teams have a comprehensive checklist? As the IndyCar Series adds two road-course events and a temporary street-course race to complement 14 ovals in its 10th anniversary season, shaking down new components and getting a set-up baseline is imperative. The opener is March 6 at the Homestead oval.
"Usually, we start these tests with a mechanical checklist," veteran IndyCar Series driver and road racer Bryan Herta said. "This is the first test of the season so it's our first chance to see how we're going to stack up against the competition this year. Everyone's been doing a lot of preparation, and we feel like we've improved our whole team."
Andretti Green Racing's season will be difficult to top. Teammate Tony Kanaan's unprecedented feat of completing every race lap (3,305) on his way to the IndyCar Series championship is still the talk of the off-season. Dan Wheldon won three races, Dario Franchitti two and Herta had top-10 finishes in 10 of the 16 events.
"For the drivers, it's getting familiar with these race cars on the road course," Andretti Green Racing team co-owner Kim Green said. "We'll work through a test list to try to get them comfortable and make sure we have a reasonable baseline. The oval track is the first time we'll be racing that track with the aero rules that we ran from Indy onward, and that certainly makes a difference in the way the cars run on that racetrack."
Last year's Toyota Indy 300, won by Marlboro Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr., was competed using an aerodynamic package that was refined with the switch from 3.5-liter to 3.0-liter engines for the 88th Indianapolis 500 and beyond.
IndyCar Series teams will use the short-oval wing configuration for the road course and street events. A limited slip differential will replace the spool drive used on ovals, and the brakes have been super sized.
"We'll leave several guys behind, because while this test is going on we have to be preparing for the season," Andretti Green Racing team general manager Kyle Moyer said. "Less than two months from now we have to have eight complete cars ready for the full season. We have to look at the big picture in addition to looking at what's happening now getting ready for this test."
The picture in the mind of Herta is of his nimble, high-performance No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Honda-powered Dallara making right-hand turns.
"I'm definitely looking forward to getting back in an IndyCar (Series) car," he said. "The guys who have driven on the road courses already say it's a lot of fun. I really like road course racing, so I'm probably as excited as anybody to do it."
Herta is one of the 20 expected to get behind the wheel. He'll see many familiar faces, plus a few first-year competitors. Roger Yasukawa, who competed in 16 events in 2003 with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing and two in 2004 with Rahal Letterman Racing, is now driver of the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Honda-powered Dallara.
Newcomers will be veteran open-wheel racer Patrick Carpentier of Red Bull Cheever Racing, Toyota Atlantic Series graduate Danica Patrick of Rahal Letterman Racing and former Toyota Formula 1 test driver Ryan Briscoe.
2. Kanaan Earns Top Honor: IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan received the Jerry Titus Memorial Award as the Driver of the Year during the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association's 35th All-America Team dinner.
"It is a tremendous honor," said Kanaan, who attended the dinner in Pomona, Calif. "I did receive some awards this year but, for sure, this one is really important. It shows that my job is being recognized by everybody, and I feel really proud to be recognized in this manner."
Kanaan and IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion Thiago Medeiros also accepted their All-America Team awards. The top vote-getter from the various racing classes is the winner of the Jerry Titus Memorial Award. The All-America Team is elected by AARWBA members, the country's oldest and largest organization of motorsports media professionals.
The dinner, which was hosted by Dave McClelland, was the first event of AARWBA's 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Kanaan, who returns to the No. 11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, on Jan. 19 for the start of an IndyCar Series three-day road course and oval Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, said he's looking forward to challenging for another series title. Kanaan recorded three victories, an IndyCar Series-record 15 top-5 finishes and completed every race lap (3,305).
"It will take a lot of work from everybody at Team 7-Eleven, including myself," he said. "We have a great team and we will keep doing our job the same way we did last year. I'm very excited to start the season and very confident that we will have an excellent package."
Also during the dinner, the Hulman-George family, A.J. Foyt and Roger Penske -- all with ties to the IndyCar Series -- were among the 12 nominees for the organization's Newsmaker of the Half-Century Award.
Also nominated were 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti, Kenny Bernstein, Dale Earnhardt, John Force, the France family, Jeff Gordon, Dan Gurney, Wally Parks, and Richard Petty.
3. Briscoe Joins Ganassi's Three-Car IndyCar Series Effort: Australia's Ryan Briscoe will drive a third Toyota-powered Panoz for Chip Ganassi Racing during the 2005 IndyCar Series season.
"We're excited about adding a third Toyota powered car to our IndyCar team and even more excited to have a young talent like Ryan come on board with us," said team owner Chip Ganassi, who is known for having a good eye for finding and developing talent. "When we took the decision to add a third car, we had a strong list of drivers to look at, but to have a one become available with the kind of talent and drive Ryan has, was a great opportunity for this team. He is as hungry as he is technically oriented and that reminds me of past champions we've had."
Sponsorship details for the team's third 2005 IndyCar Series entry are being finalized and will be announced shortly. In preparation for the start of the 2005 IndyCar season, Briscoe will take part in the IRL Open Test this week at the Homestead--Miami Speedway.
The 23-year-old Briscoe moves to North America and IndyCar Series competition after serving as a Toyota Formula One test driver last season. He participated in six F1 Grand Prix race weekends at the tail end of the 2004 season as the third driver (Friday test driver) for the Toyota Panasonic team in Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Japan, China and Brazil.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing," said Briscoe, who will make his IndyCar Series debut at the Toyota Indy 300 in Homestead, Fla., March 6. "It's a fantastic step forward in my career and I am really looking forward to it. F1 was still an option until I got the opportunity to test with Ganassi. I want to be out there winning races, and there's no doubt in my mind that with the Ganassi team, we can be in contention every race weekend."
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.