IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-03

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Feb. 3, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Hemelgarn returns to IndyCar Series with Dana, Ethanol 2. Menards Infiniti Pro Series rule changes focus on competition, safety 1. Hemelgarn returns to IndyCar Series...

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Feb. 3, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Hemelgarn returns to IndyCar Series with Dana, Ethanol
2. Menards Infiniti Pro Series rule changes focus on competition, safety

1. Hemelgarn returns to IndyCar Series with Dana, Ethanol: Ron Hemelgarn, who won the 2000 IndyCar Series and 1996 Indianapolis 500 as a team owner, returns full time to the IndyCar Series with Paul Dana behind the wheel of the No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone for the 17-race season.

"I got a feel for how they run their shop and what the attitude is in the shop last year when we had a good season in the (IRL Menards Infiniti) Pro Series," said Dana, who was runner-up in the 2004 standings. "The 2000 championship that they won seems like a long time ago, but a lot of the same guys are in the shop. They remember what it's like to win, and they're hungry to do so again. I like being surrounded by people who are hungry and motivated, and the Hemelgarn guys definitely are."

Hemelgarn, an entrepreneur in fitness and financial industries, has been involved in racing since sponsoring the cars of Dick Simon (1978-79), Spike Gelhausen and Josele Garza (1980). He purchased the Primus team in 1984 and created Hemelgarn Racing.

The team made an immediate imprint on the IndyCar Series, with Buddy Lazier starting from the pole position in the inaugural race on Jan. 27, 1996, at Walt Disney World Speedway. Lazier also was behind the wheel for the victory in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" later that year and the IndyCar Series title. The team was runner-up in the series standings in 2001.

"I take pride in being one of the sort of founding fathers of the IRL," said Hemelgarn, a Dayton, Ohio, native, who ran Lazier in the 88th Indianapolis 500 last May in a joint business venture. "I'm very pleased and honored to carry that on."

Dana follows in a line of successful drivers who have competed under the Hemelgarn banner, including Scott Brayton (1985-89), Gordon Johncock (1988-89, 1991-92), Tom Sneva (1988), Stan Fox (1991-95), Billy Vukovich III (1989-90), Arie Luyendyk (1987), Rich Vogler (1987), Davey Hamilton (1991, 1995), Stephan Gregoire (1996), Lyn St. James (1997), and Johnny Unser (1997-99).

"It's a dream come true," said Dana, a St. Louis native who turns 30 on April 15. "It's what I've worked 10 years to be able to do, and to take the last step and reach the top level of the sport is just an unbelievable opportunity.

"It's a little surreal right now; I think I'll believe it when the green flag drops at (the opener March 6 at) Homestead. The parity in the IndyCar Series is unreal with how competitive it is. You have to be hungry for every little possible gain you can find because it will move you right up or down the grid. I don't have any illusions of how intense it is at the top level; I'm just anxious to get started."

Dana started either on the front or second row in 10 of the 12 Menards Infiniti Pro Series races in 2004, including a pole starting position in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He had one victory (The Milwaukee Mile) and seven top-5 finishes. He recorded six top-10 finishes in 10 starts in 2003 with Kenn Hardley Racing and Brian Stewart Racing.

Ethanol is a high-octane, high-performance fuel that is clean-burning, renewable and made in America. As a growing component of the United States' gasoline supply, it delivers improved vehicle performance while reducing emissions and improving air quality.

Currently enjoying record growth, the ethanol industry will continue to play a larger role in meeting our nation's energy needs.

"I am really honored to be associated with the ethanol group," said Hemelgarn, who noted the sponsorship agreement is for four years. "Not only for the racing, but this country has to find an alternative solution to petroleum, and we as American farmers have the ability to generate an alternative fuel as ethanol."

Team Ethanol was created through the cooperation of a group of companies within the fast-growing ethanol industry, led by the major ethanol design-build firms Fagen Inc., ICM Inc. and Broin Companies.

Associate sponsors are Victory Energy, Novozymes, Flottweg and McCormick Construction. Program supporters include New Energy Corp., Winbco Tank Company, E & I Specialists, A&B Process Systems, J&D Construction, Brown Tank and Laidig Systems Inc. The American Coalition for Ethanol assists with promotional support.

"There are so many people in the industry and companies around the country that are excited," Dana said. "There's a buzz about the program."

***

2. Menards Infiniti Pro Series rule changes focus on competition, safety: Rule changes for the 2005 Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù season increase competition and improve already high safety standards.

Highlighting the rule changes is a modification to the scoring system. For the first time in the series' four-year history, the winner of the pole position will receive one point in the championship point standings.

"There's no trophy or prize given for sitting on the pole," said Butch Meyer, technical director for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. "A lot of these guys work real hard to be able to sit on the pole, so we felt they should be rewarded for that effort."

In addition, qualifying procedures have been expanded to incorporate road- and street-course competition. At such events, the driver with the fastest practice lap during the previous day's sessions will choose whether the qualification order proceeds from fastest practice driver to slowest or from slowest to fastest. Each car will receive one timed lap of qualifying.

Other changes are designed to increase the level of safety at the racetrack. The speed limit on pit road will be dropped to 45 mph from 60 mph; only three crew members will be permitted over the wall during a pit stop; and no one will be allowed over the wall during a race, except during a pit stop.

Teams will no longer be permitted to add or remove fuel from their cars in the garage area.

"We've never had a fire in the garage area, but since there are no safety personnel permanently stationed there, we want to eliminate the risk of an accident," Meyer said.

***

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 televised 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 televised by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Arie Luyendyk , Lyn St. James , Tom Sneva , Paul Dana , Gordon Johncock , Johnny Unser , Dick Simon , Josele Garza