IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-11

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 11, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Open Testing By The Numbers 2. Sharp surprises in Open Testing 3. Schmidt to visit Congress 4. IndyCar Series car visits Florida State Fair 1. Open Testing By The ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 11, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Open Testing By The Numbers
2. Sharp surprises in Open Testing
3. Schmidt to visit Congress
4. IndyCar Series car visits Florida State Fair

1. Open Testing By The Numbers: It's hard to judge results at test sessions, as teams and drivers concentrate on different aspects of performance besides pure speed.

Some teams work on aerodynamics. Some focus on race setups and make long runs using full fuel tanks, which in turn, slow the car.

But looking at statistics, Dan Wheldon was the top overall driver during five days of Open Testing, Jan.19, 20 on the 2.21-mile road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jan. 22 on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and Feb. 9-10 at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway.

Three drivers, Wheldon, Helio Castroneves and defending IndyCar Seires champion Tony Kanaan, ranked in the top-10 on each day of testing.

Andretti Green Racing was the most consistent team in the preseason, with Kanaan, Wheldon, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta each ranking in the top five, in their Dallara/Honda/Firestone entries.

Rankings were determined by adding each driver's position on the final speed chart each day. The driver with the lowest score prevails, though it may not be the most accurate indicator of performance. Scott Dixon was the most consistent driver in testing in 2004, but was never a factor in the championship. Buddy Rice, who recorded three wins, including the Indianapolis 500, didn't even crack the top-10.

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2. Sharp surprises in Open Testing: Andretti Green Racing wasn't the only team to pick up where it left off in 2004. Fernandez Racing and new driver Scott Sharp continued the momentum gained by team owner Adrian Fernandez in 2004.

"We're real pleased with the Delphi Fernandez team," said Sharp, who will race the No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone. "It was a great couple of days and we really worked through a lot of stuff today. We're just trying to concentrate on things we can learn to help us here and at other tracks. Some improve the car, some don't, but you learn. We got a little bit race running in, so it was a good test."

Sharp was one of the top performing drivers during the oval portion of Open testing. He was second-fastest on the only day of oval testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway and ranked in the top-five both days at Phoenix International Raceway.

The results have left the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion anxious to start the season.

"I haven't slept well in a couple of weeks because I am so excited every night, and I can't quit smiling," he said. "I'm just so excited to start the season. I think we're going to go to each track and be contenders. I think we're going to get better and better as the year goes on."

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3. Schmidt to visit Congress: Menards Infiniti Pro Series team owner Sam Schmidt will visit Washington, D.C., next week to meet with senators and congressmen about paralysis rehabilitation issues. Schmidt, whose team won the Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship in 2004, has been paralyzed since a practice crash in 2000.

Schmidt and Ida Cahill, president of the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation, will meet with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and John Ensign, the two senators from Schmidt's home state of Nevada. They also will meet with Rep. Jim Gibbons, as well as other senators, congressmen and staff. The meetings are part of an effort coordinated by the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology

"There are issues coming before Congress which are vitally important to those with spinal cord injuries," Schmidt said. "We lost a powerful spokesman last year with the tragic death of Christopher Reeve, but the movement to find help hasn't had time to slow down. We need to pick up the torch and move forward."

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4. IndyCar Series car visits Florida State Fair: An IndyCar Series car will be on display in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg booth at the Florida State Fair at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla.

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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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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS