IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League news and notes 2006-01-20

Today's IRL headlines 1. IndyCar Series teams ready for Phoenix test 2. Andretti gets oval experience at Texas 3. Changes will improve performance for 2006 Indy Pro Series 4. Penske named Crain's Newsmaker Of The Year 5. Rahal Letterman adds Gehl...

Today's IRL headlines
1. IndyCar Series teams ready for Phoenix test
2. Andretti gets oval experience at Texas
3. Changes will improve performance for 2006 Indy Pro Series
4. Penske named Crain's Newsmaker Of The Year
5. Rahal Letterman adds Gehl sponsorship:

1. IndyCar Series teams ready for Phoenix test: At least 15 IRL IndyCar® Series teams are expected to participate in the first test of the 2006 season scheduled for Jan. 24-25 at Phoenix International Raceway.

"The main reason for the test is to allow the teams to familiarize themselves with their equipment," IRL Senior Technical Director Les Mactaggart said. "Several of the teams will be changing engine suppliers and chassis, and this will give them a chance to evaluate that equipment before the season begins."

One such team is Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which will debut its new Dallara/Honda/Firestone package with drivers Scott Dixon and reigning IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon.

"I like to be in the car all the time, so I'm looking forward to getting in the car Tuesday and Wednesday at Phoenix," Wheldon said. "It will be the first time that I'm driving in Target colors, and that will be pretty special to be out there driving for Chip's team. We're working hard to speed up our learning curve, because we're obviously new to each other. There is some groundwork we have to establish, because you don't get much testing in the series right now. It's going to be nice to come back as defending champion of the IndyCar Series and defending Indianapolis 500 champion."

Marlboro Team Penske will also debut its new Honda-powered Dallaras at the test.

"The start of a season always marks a new beginning with a fresh slate," said Castroneves. "We'll be using Honda power this year, so I'm definitely optimistic about the fact that we should be very competitive. There are so many good drivers in this Series, so it won't be easy, but I think if Marlboro Team Penske works hard all year we'll be in good shape for the championship."

In addition, the test will allow officials from Honda and the IRL to assess the durability of the Honda H16R Indy V-8 engines that will be used solely beginning in 2006.

"We're not sure where we stand in terms of mileage," Mactaggart said. "We have an initial target of 1,100 miles between rebuilds and a long-term goal of 2,000 miles between rebuilds, so this will help us find out where we are as we continue the mileage evaluation."

The test is not open to the public.

2. Andretti gets oval experience at Texas: Bombardier Rookie of the Year candidate Marco Andretti got his first extensive oval test in an IndyCar Series machine during a private rookie test at Texas Motor Speedway on Jan. 20.

Andretti, the third generation driver from one of racing's most storied families, turned laps in teammate Tony Kanaan's Honda-powered Dallara prepared by his Andretti Green Racing team.

"It was pretty interesting the first couple of laps," Andretti said. "We were moving pretty quickly for me. But, after you get settled in the car everything slows down and you get settled in."

Andretti's previous oval experience consists of two races in the IRL Indy Pro Series^Ù and a race in the Star Mazda Series. He also tested an IndyCar Series machine at Michigan International Speedway last August.

"It is definitely going to be a lot of fun, but this is all new to me," Andretti said. "I ran Michigan which is obviously half a mile longer and less banking. So, you get a lot more of a feel at this track."

Andretti's teammate Bryan Herta was on hand to help the young driver as he acclimated himself to the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

"I can't stress enough how my three teammates benefit me in my learning curve and just helping make it that much easier for me," Andretti said. "I don't have the oval experience, but if I am able to compare to these guys (teammates) and beat them, then I will be able to win races. It is the best to be able to compare to them. It is going to be a fun year."

3. Changes will improve performance for 2006 Indy Pro Series: The Indy Pro Series will introduce a dual-shock front setup for its cars in 2006 and will turn to Speedway Engine Development, Inc., to rebuild its engines. The changes are intended to make the cars more similar to IndyCar Series cars and to enhance the reliability and customer service of the engine rebuilds.

A single shock absorber has been used in the front of the Dallara chassis since the formation of the Indy Pro Series in 2002. The dual shock setup will include a cockpit adjustable front anti-roll bar.

"We want the Indy Pro Series car to be as close in feel as possible to an IndyCar Series car," technical director Butch Meyer said. "As a training ground for future drivers in the IndyCar Series, this new system will allow the driver to make adjustments just as their counterparts in the bigger cars do."

"As we prepare for the growth of the series in conjunction with our new $3 million prize structure, this development will also level the playing field for new teams entering the series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series. "All of the setup data that teams acquired in the past will have to be reassessed."

League officials also are excited about working with Speedway Engines and its owner, Rick Long.

"Rick has been around racing for a long time and is one of the top engine builders out there," Meyer said. "We anticipate a high level of reliability and customer service."

Long and Herb Porter founded the company in August of 1996 and have worked exclusively on IRL engines since. After opening with three employees, the company has grown to 15 employees working on more than 150 engines per year. The company did all of the engine work for IndyCar Series champions Buddy Lazier (2000) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2001 and 2002).

"We're excited about the opportunity to work on the Indy Pro Series engines," Long said. "Our goal is to make as consistent of an engine for the entrants as we can. If we have 40 engines, we want them all to be within five horsepower of each other."

The 420-hp engines used in all Indy Pro Series cars are designed to run 1,600 miles between rebuilds. The rebuilding process includes disassembly, inspection of every part, replacement of worn parts, re-assembly and a performance test on the "dyno."

Speedway Engine also will support the series with a minimum of two people at the racetrack for every event.

4. Penske named Crain's Newsmaker Of The Year: IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske was recently named 2005 Newsmaker of the Year by Crain's Detroit.

According to the business publication, "Penske has transferred the business acumen he uses to run a wide-ranging organization of transportation, automotive sales and service, truck leasing and motor sports businesses into his role as Super Bowl XL Host Committee chairman."

5. Rahal Letterman adds Gehl sponsorship: Gehl Company will be an associate sponsor of Rahal Letterman Racing in selected IndyCar Series events in 2006.

The Wisconsin-based manufacturer of compact equipment for use in construction and agriculture, will be displayed on the team's cars at Indianapolis, St. Petersburg and Milwaukee.

"We pride ourselves at Rahal Letterman Racing on partnering with like-minded companies that are leaders in their respective fields," said Bobby Rahal, co owner of Rahal Letterman Racing. "The Gehl Company motorsports program has been in existence nearly 20 years. They were looking at opportunities to expand their motorsports program, and the opportunity to be involved as an RLR partner at Indianapolis, St. Petersburg and Milwaukee proved to be the right mix."

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152, "XM Extreme" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition also opens on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Bobby Rahal , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Roger Bailey , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing