IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League news and notes 2005-10-13

Today's IRL headlines 1. Extreme Makeover: IndyCar Series Edition 2. Don't quit your day job 3. Three drivers fight for Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship 1. Extreme Makeover: IndyCar Series Edition: How does an IndyCar Series driver spend...

Today's IRL headlines
1. Extreme Makeover: IndyCar Series Edition
2. Don't quit your day job
3. Three drivers fight for Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship

1. Extreme Makeover: IndyCar Series Edition: How does an IndyCar Series driver spend three weeks between races?

For Alex Barron, it was time spent finishing the makeover he's given his home in Menifee, Calif., about 40 miles from the California Speedway, site of this weekend's Toyota Indy 400.

"This all started more than a year ago when I had a pipe burst in my slab, which flooded part of the house," Barron said. "So, when I started to fix the damage, one thing led to another and the project took on a lot more detail."

Barron's home has all new flooring (carpet and Travertine tile), new paint, baseboards and a new desk/trophy case, which holds some of his racing memorabilia. He also changed the countertops and sinks and of course, replaced the interior plumbing.

Barron, driver of the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Toyota-powered Dallara, also received some help from team sponsor Cisco Systems, which installed a new fiber optic Internet connection along with a Cisco wireless router.

"Once I got started, I just kept going," he said. "The whole project has lasted a year and two months. It's just nice to have my house back again."

2. Don't quit your day job: When Helio Castroneves arrived at Indianapolis TV station WTHR, he thought he was there for an interview.

Instead, he got to try his hand at being an on-air personality during a behind-the-scenes tour. Castroneves sat at the anchor desk with anchorman John Stehr and learned how to do weather from meteorologist Chris Wright.

His toughest task? Pronouncing the name of the city of "Muncie, Ind.," which the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner pronounced "Munchie."

To watch Castroneves' visit at WTHR, visit www.wthr.com/Global/category.asp?C=23901&nav=menu188_1

3. Three drivers fight for Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship: The Menards Infiniti Pro Series heads to California Speedway Oct. 16 with three drivers set to battle for the championship. Thirteen races after the season started at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March, Wade Cunningham, Jeff Simmons and Travis Gregg remain in the title mix.

Cunningham has the edge on the group. The 21-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand, has a 33-point lead over Simmons and a 41-point advantage over Gregg. A maximum of 53 points can be earned race weekend.

Cunningham's lead comes on the strength of 12 top-five finishes in 2005. Among those are seven seconds, including an Indy Racing League-record four consecutive runner-up finishes at St. Petersburg, Indianapolis (oval), Texas and Indianapolis (road course).

The one thing lacking for Cunningham has been to drive the No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing entry into Victory Lane. If he wins the championship without winning the California 100, he would be the third driver in North American Indy-style racing to do so. Scott Sharp was the IndyCar Series co-champion in the three-race 1996 season, and Oriol Servia won the 1999 Indy Lights title without a race win.

The main man gunning for Cunningham is Simmons, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series runner-up in 2003. Simmons' hopes are slim; he must win for the fifth time in seven races and Cunningham must finish 10th or worse.

"Once we got going in the season and things weren't going very well for us, the championship started looking like a really real long shot, which it still is," Simmons said. "I mean, apparently we have a mathematical chance at it, but it's pretty distant.

"We have been focusing on just trying to get race wins and trying to improve the team, and I think we have done that somewhat. Obviously, we have got the wins and got a lot of momentum on our side. But going into this last race I am really, really focused on trying to win it."

While looking forward at catching Cunningham, Simmons also knows he'll face a lot of pressure from Gregg in the rearview mirror.

"I have to have to keep an eye on Travis Gregg certainly quite a bit because frankly, he's more of a threat in terms of (second)," Simmons said. "Wade is pretty far out there. He needs to have problems for us to have a chance at it. But Travis is going to be right there, and I don't think I am going to have any friends out there on the track this week.

"We're going to have all the (Sam) Schmidt (Motorsports) cars trying to help Travis out. Certainly, Wade will probably have a teammate on his side. Unfortunately, I don't have any teammates."

Gregg, winner of three races in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Products/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry, hopes his debut run on the 2-mile oval is strong enough to move him past Simmons into second. He will be eliminated from the championship battle once the race gets underway.

"Being out of the points race is disappointing, but I hope to end the year on a good note at California Speedway," Gregg said. "My crew and the whole Sam Schmidt Motorsports team has been great all year long. I look forward to being competitive and running up front. I'm only eight points out of second place, so it would be great for the team and for me to move up in the final standings."

Fifty laps on Oct. 16 will earn Cunningham, Simmons or Gregg the right to hoist the Firehawk Cup and join A.J. Foyt IV (2002), Mark Taylor (2003) and Thiago Medeiros (2004) as champion of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition concludes with the Toyota Indy 400 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast also will be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). The final Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the California 100 on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. The ESPN2 race telecast will be available live on ESPN360.com. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 20.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Oriol Servia , Alex Barron , Sam Schmidt , Chris Wright , Jeff Simmons , Travis Gregg , Thiago Medeiros