IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-09-12

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Sept. 12, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Wheldon achieves another goal 2. Briscoe transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis 3.. Priggee remains in Joliet, Ill., hospital 4. Dodge completes first lesson...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Sept. 12, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Wheldon achieves another goal
2. Briscoe transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis
3.. Priggee remains in Joliet, Ill., hospital
4. Dodge completes first lesson in Menards Infiniti Pro Series car
5. AGR drivers share post-race rewards

1. Wheldon achieves another goal: Check another goal off the list in the record-setting season of Dan Wheldon.

The 27-year-old Englishman entered the 2005 season with the single goal of winning the Indianapolis 500.

After winning the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in May, his fourth win in five IRL IndyCar® Series starts, Wheldon set out after Sam Hornish Jr.'s single-season record for wins in a season.

He tied the mark with his fifth victory at Pikes Peak International Raceway on Aug. 21, then claimed the record by winning the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 three weeks later at Chicagoland Speedway.

"I must say my primary goal coming into the season was to win the Indianapolis 500," Wheldon said. "When you achieve that, you then have to set yourself another goal. My goal after that was obviously to win the championship.

"Then we continued to win races. That record that Sam Hornish has gotten, obviously he's a very, very talented driver, has been around a long time, so I wanted to try to beat that. There's a lot of people that are capable of the same thing. But to me that means a lot. To win a championship and win a lot of races in the season is pretty special.

"If it came down to it and I was told that I could win the championship with no victories or come second in the championship with 10, that's the kind of guy I am. I much prefer to win a lot."

In addition to the record, Wheldon's victory all but clinched the IndyCar Series title for him. Wheldon essentially has to start the inaugural Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix on Sept. 25 to clinch his first season championship.

Still he stopped short of claiming the crown, saying he'd wait until he had officially clinched the title to celebrate.

"Until it's done, then I'm not champion," he said. "You know, certainly if that is the case, I'm not sure exactly what is the case in terms of what I have to do at Watkins Glen. If it's just a practice lap, that practice lap is going to be the slowest lap I've ever taken in history. Don't expect me to set a flyer on the first one."

***

2. Briscoe transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis: Ryan Briscoe, driver of the No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone, was transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on Sept. 12 for further evaluation and treatment under the direction of Drs. Terry Trammell and Kevin Scheid. He may remain in the hospital for several days for observation.

Briscoe sustained a concussion, two broken clavicles, a bruised lung and contusions to his arms and legs in an accident on Lap 20 during the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 Sept. 11 at Chicagoland Speedway. Briscoe was airlifted to Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., following the incident and was admitted overnight in good condition.

"I remember the initial contact with Alex (Barron) and thought that we might just get away with not hitting the wall, but suddenly I was airborne and the rest is a little fuzzy," Briscoe said. "I was really happy to see the Delphi Safety crew guys so quickly and they took great care of me, even reminding me to give the crowd a quick wave to let them know I was OK. The HANS (head and neck support) device and the safety features on the car did what they were designed to do, and I credit them for helping me walk away from the accident relatively unscathed. I was happy to hear that Alex and Kosuke (Matsuura) were OK as well. I haven't seen a replay of the accident yet but I hear it was pretty spectacular. It's been a difficult and disappointing weekend for the Target team, but I'm doing just fine."

***

3. Priggee remains in Joliet, Ill., hospital: Carl Priggee, a member of the Mark Schlatter Skydiving Team, remains in Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet, Ill., for further tests following a hard landing Sept. 11 prior to the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Priggee, a veteran of more than 3,300 jumps in 26 years, sustained a sprained left ankle and is suffering from back pain. Priggee has undergone a series of X-rays and CAT scans and will undergo an MRI to further evaluate his neck and back.

The Indy Racing League utilizes two skydivers in the pre-race ceremonies at each event. On Sept. 11, both skydivers said the winds inside Chicagoland Speedway were "swirling" with a lot of force, which caused both jumpers to have hard landings.

***

4. Dodge completes first lesson in Menards Infiniti Pro Series car: Geoff Dodge sat mesmerized in the No. 3 Brian Stewart Racing Infiniti-powered Dallara over the din of Chicagoland Speedway workers disassembling tents and hauling away trash from the sold out IndyCar Series and Menards Infiniti Pro Series races less than 24 hours earlier.

Neither the unfamiliarity of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series car nor the open spaces of the 1.5-mile paved oval overwhelmed the Knoxville Nationals "Fast Track To Indy" Rookie of the Year. But he hung on every word of advice and encouragement that four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rick Mears dispensed during the rookie test.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think this day would come. It's awesome to have you give me some pointers," the driver/fan from Colorado Springs, Colo., said as they concluded their dissection of Dodge's first 10-lap stint.

"Well, I never thought I'd get to the Indianapolis 500 until about six months before I got in the car," replied Mears, driver coach for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. "Everything looked good; just remain consistent."

Dodge did just that with his remaining laps in preparation for the 2006 season in which he's guaranteed at least six races through the "Fast Track to Indy" partnership between Knoxville Raceway and the Indy Racing League. Knoxville Raceway director of business development Bruce Neimeth said two potential major sponsors already are "very interested" in supporting the grass-roots program.

"It's a whole new ballgame and a lot of fun," said Dodge, who was acclimated to the car and all that goes into preparing for a race by being an unofficial team member over the weekend.

Sure he skipped his 10 a.m. micro economics and 2 p.m. statistics classes at Colorado State University to drive around the speedway at 185-plus mph. In a sense, though, he was attending class, with Mears, Menards Infiniti Pro Series point leader Wade Cunningham and Brian Stewart Racing team manager Doug Hoy the instructors. Plus, this could be "a life-changing moment," Dodge acknowledged.

Two months after the Fast Track to Indy program was announced at The Milwaukee Mile and a month after the Knoxville Nationals, Dodge was preparing for a seat upgrade on tires donated by Firestone. He initially gave lip service to his chances of winning the Knoxville rookie title.

"I was home from the shop after working on race cars and was watching a rerun of 'Wind Tunnel,' he said. "I thought, 'Man that would be an unbelievable deal for somebody.' But given my limited experience in the 410 sprint car, which is really an entirely different animal than the 360 (he had run), I figured there was going to be a lot of really good young racers there that would be vying for the Fast Track program. I didn't think about it too much because it seemed too farfetched to happen to me.

"We got to Knoxville and we went to the rookie meeting where they talked to us about the program. It was still something I didn't think I really had a shot at it. There were a lot of good racers in there with me. We just focused on doing our own thing through the whole Nationals."

Dodge's outlook changed a few days later at the facility in Knoxville, Iowa.

"When it all shook down about Sunday afternoon, I kind of took a look and they said we were leading the points," he said. "It dawned on me we had a real shot at it. When we got it, it was just absolute elation. I couldn't believe it. I'm just really excited to get started.

"I think it's a great opportunity that never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd get."

***

5. AGR drivers share post-race rewards: Andretti Green Racing drivers Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon reaped benefits following the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300.

Race winner Wheldon was presented with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT Camera and his sixth engraved Formula One timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents 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 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.

Kanaan collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 118 of the race, while Franchitti posted the fastest race lap, increasing his lead in the season-long race for the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap Award.

Franchitti leads in the season-long standings award with four fastest laps. Argent will award $25,000 to the entrant of the driver who completes the fastest lap the most number of times in the 2005 IndyCar Series season.

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix Presented by Argent Mortgage at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 25 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be broadcast by ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast also will be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). ESPN2's telecast of the Chicagoland 100 will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 15. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Corning 100 on Sept. 25 at Watkins Glen International. It will be telecast by ESPN2 at 3 p.m. on Sept. 29.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Rick Mears , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Wade Cunningham , Geoff Dodge , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing