IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-07-19

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 19, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Balance of power tilts AGR's way in first half 2. Foyt IV, Kite attempt double duty 1. Balance of power tilts AGR's way in first half: It's difficult to pin down a ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 19, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Balance of power tilts AGR's way in first half
2. Foyt IV, Kite attempt double duty

1. Balance of power tilts AGR's way in first half: It's difficult to pin down a priority in the Andretti Green Racing triumvirate. Competitors, confidants, champions of each other, and contributors to the cause are intertwined in the relationships between Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta.

Franchitti didn't know that his teammates -- who were all uncharacteristically out of the race -- were cheering from his pit box during his late drive to victory in the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

"I couldn't be happier for Dario," said Wheldon, who was slapped with his first DNF in a year because of a suspension problem. "When you see a close friend and a teammate win -- and he just didn't win, he overtook people, overcame some adversity and came back and won pretty convincingly -- it's nice to see. You don't realize how close you are to somebody until you're in a situation like when you're out and you get to root for him."

The vantage point was new to Wheldon, who also finds himself in uncharted territory by riding the crest of the IndyCar Series standings with nine of 17 events in the books. The driver of the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, thanks to four victories, has a comfortable 73-point lead over Kanaan (the largest lead at the midway point in 10 years of IndyCar Series competition) and 78 over Franchitti.

Before the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner commissions a trophy case for his new Florida home, there are some twists and turns guaranteed -- including road-course events at Infineon Raceway (Aug. 28) and Watkins Glen International (Sept. 25). The super-competitive and high-drama series already has yielded six different winners.

Wheldon, whose streak of 15 consecutive top-10s came to an end on a balmy middle-Tennessee night, will attempt to tie Sam Hornish Jr.'s single-season record of five victories at The Milwaukee Mile on July 24.

Kanaan, who was in Wheldon's colorful Puma's last year, knows it won't be easy to track down his teammate and successfully defend his series championship. But, then, how Wheldon handles the pressure as the front-runner also will come into play. The role reversal will be intriguing to watch unfold.

"He can't put his foot wrong and I can't either," said Kanaan, who used the victory last year at Nashville to cushion his points lead over Wheldon. "I hope I can catch him and win the championship. If I cannot win this championship, I hope he does.

"I think this championship is going to be decided in the last two races anyway."

Wheldon's pragmatism is essential in this compilation race. Last year, he posted three victories but three races out of the top 10 made the chase moot when Kanaan racked up 15 consecutive top-5 finishes.

"From my standpoint, whatever happens happens," Wheldon said. "You can't control it. The team always does a fantastic job for me. I'm sure we'll be good at Milwaukee. What you can control, you have to make sure you do good at. If I'm meant to win the championship, then it will happen. If not, then I'm not."

Andretti Green Racing's strength in numbers continues with Franchitti, who leaped into the fray last weekend with his first victory of the season. He could improve his fortunes in the second half on the short ovals at Milwaukee and Pikes Peak (where he recorded his two victories last year) and the road courses. Kenny Brack was in a similar position in 1998, when he made up a 73-point deficit to Scott Sharp and won the title.

"It's a season-long battle," said Franchitti, who has seven top-10 finishes, including five in a row. "We had terrible luck in the first half. I hope to have good luck in the second. We're right there. We'll just keep pushing and see where we end up."

So will Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. Castroneves' steady points haul has positioned him 87 points behind the leader, and Hornish is four points behind in fifth place. Castroneves, who won at Richmond last month, has seven top-10 finishes -- including five in a row.

Hornish is coming off his third runner-up finish, and he also has a victory at Phoenix.

"I made a couple mistakes in the last two races that cost us some points," the two-time IndyCar Series champion said. "Now we're trying to get them all back. We had a great day (at Nashville) as far as the points were concerned."

Piling up the points are what it's all about in the second half and, in the case of the AGR drivers, looking for a sweep of the top three spots.

***

2. Foyt IV, Kite attempt double duty: Friendships and business arrangements over the years have given A.J. Foyt numerous opportunities to compete in multiple disciplines, and have benefited many drivers.

This weekend at The Milwaukee Mile, IndyCar Series driver A.J. Foyt IV will pull double duty by competing in the ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt 225 and practicing and attempting to qualify a USAC Silver Crown car for the Weld Racing Silver Crown Series race. Longtime owner George Snider will put Foyt in the No. 111 ABC Supply Co. Inc. Beast/Chevy.

"We had a Silver Crown when I started and George Snider is a good friend of mine," said the elder Foyt, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner who competed at The Milwaukee Mile more than 90 times. "I told George, 'Let's run the second car and put Anthony in it.' And he said, 'All right, let's do it.' That's how it all came up, and he'll have a lot of fun in it."

The 21-year-old Foyt made his series debut in the 2001 Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, driving a car prepared by A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

"These cars are extremely fun to drive, and George has an extremely good team," said Foyt, who has tested pavement Silver Crown cars at Phoenix International Raceway and Indianapolis Raceway Park. "I've tested some of George's cars, but this will be the first time I've run a race for him. George ran for my grandfather in the Indycars, so it will be cool to get in one of his cars and hopefully have a good showing for him."

Snider, who won the first Silver Crown race at Milwaukee in 1988, will have Ryan Durst as Foyt's teammate. IndyCar Series driver Jimmy Kite also is scheduled to compete in the USAC Silver Crown event, which kicks off with practice at 10:15 a.m. (EDT) July 22. Kite is entered in the No. 5 Westcon entry. Qualifying is at 2:15 p.m. (EDT) and the feature is at 10 a.m. (EDT) July 23. Also on the schedule is a USAC Midget feature.

***

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the ABC Supply A.J. Foyt 225 at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) July 24 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152, "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series event is the Milwaukee 100 on July 24 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 on a tape-delayed basis at 3 p.m. (EDT) on July 28. The next episode of "The Fast Life," ESPN2's behind-the-scenes series about the IndyCar Series, airs at noon (EDT) on July 24.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Jimmy Kite , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Durst , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Team Penske