IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-03-07

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 7, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Teamwork goes long way in giving Wheldon a jump-start in title hunt 2. To the victor go the spoils 3. Nice record 4. Miami 100 coverage changed 1. Teamwork goes long...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 7, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Teamwork goes long way in giving Wheldon a jump-start in title hunt
2. To the victor go the spoils
3. Nice record
4. Miami 100 coverage changed

1. Teamwork goes long way in giving Wheldon a jump-start in title hunt: Michael Andretti fielded his share of questions about how the four-car Andretti Green Racing uber team would react to its 2004 IndyCar Series prosperity.

His answer was the same each time. Wait and see.

Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan answered any further questions with their performance out of the gate. Wheldon, runner-up to Kanaan in last year's championship race, won the Toyota Indy 300 in commanding fashion on the 1.5-mile variably banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kanaan, who increased his series-record total of consecutively completed race laps to 3,505 and finished in the top five for the 16th consecutive race, placed third.

It might sound monotonous, but teamwork is central to every team's success. And when you're working with a four-car entry in a highly competitive racing series, teamwork includes everything from logistics to polishing the sleek race cars. Andretti, Wheldon and new race strategist John Anderson drove home the point after the race that kicked off the 10th season of IndyCar Series competition.

"Dan and everybody on the team, the whole Jim Beam, Klein Tools team did a fantastic job," Andretti said. "Pit stops were perfect. The car was perfect. It was just one of those days. It's a great way to kick off the year, because I think a lot of people questioned how we were going to come out of the box, if we were going to be sitting back and resting on our laurels or not.

"I think you can see there's been a lot of hard work going on over the winter to try to keep the advantage or stay up with the competition. All that hard work has definitely paid off to get us here."

Wheldon, who started 11th in the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, led a field-high 158 laps and took the lead for good on Lap 151. But before the celebration in Victory Lane, there were hours of sweat and head-scratching.

"(Race engineer) Eddie Jones and I probably talked until about 10:30, 10:45 last night trying to know which way we should go with the car," said Wheldon, who also led a majority of the laps in recording his initial victory in the series at Twin Ring Motegi last year.

"Between him and all the other guys, they got their heads together, and I think they came up with a very good setup.

"It's not just those things. I mean, the guys got me out of the pits quickly. Any time you got a Penske (race runner-up Sam Hornish Jr.) around you, you got to be on your toes. We harp on about it, but it is a fantastic team effort."

Anderson is the newest member of that team, but one with a long association with Andretti and co-owner Kim Green. He spent the past two years as director of operations for the Champ Car World Series. Before that, Anderson spent two years at Team Green as a consultant and race strategist for driver Paul Tracy. He'll be the voice in Wheldon's headset during the year.

"Obviously, I take a lot of direction and help from the guys on the stand with me," Anderson said. "I didn't have to do very much at all as far as strategy was concerned. The guy in the chair, with those four wheels under him, did an awesome job, but he had a great car, as well.

"I've been very impressed with the team, its four drivers, its four sets of engineers who work very well, get on well together. The results obviously show."

The victory also solidified Wheldon, commencing his second full season with AGR, as a title contender, according to Andretti. Three of the past four IndyCar Series champions have won the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I think Dan has shown that he's learned where his weaknesses were and has improved them and now has become a legitimate championship contender," Andretti said. "You can't count out the other three guys on this team, as well. I think they're going to be strong. But it's going to be, as Dan said, a very exciting season, I can assure you."

Like Andretti said in the off-season, wait and see.

***

2. To the victor go the spoils: In addition to his race win, Dan Wheldon reaped a number of benefits for winning the season-opening IndyCar Series event.

Wheldon collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 104 of the Toyota Indy 300, and was presented with an engraved Formula One timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer will present an engraved Formula One timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.

The design of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 has been upgraded and redesigned from its original version. It now features a titanium-coated steel bezel, protective bumpers, and the six legendary features that define a TAG Heuer sportswatch -- screw-in crown, unidirectional turning bezel, luminescent hands and hour markers, scratch resistant sapphire crystal, water resistance to 200m and a double safety clasp.

***

3. Nice record: Dan Wheldon and runner-up Sam Hornish Jr. continued their streak of success at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Wheldon recorded his second consecutive top-three finish with his victory, while Hornish recorded his fourth top-two finish in Miami.

South Florida resident Helio Castroneves also has finished in the top five in each of his four appearances at his "home" track.

***

4. Miami 100 coverage changed: ESPN2's coverage of the Miami 100, the season-opening race in the 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season, will be telecast at 3 p.m. (ET) on March 14. The race had been scheduled for a March 17 broadcast.

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage on March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race will be broadcast by ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Phoenix 100 on March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race will be broadcast March 24 at 3 p.m. (EDT).

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Paul Tracy , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Kim Green , John Anderson , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.