IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-01-30

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- January 30, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Wheldon joins elite company with Rolex 24 win 2. Roth readies for return 3. Michael Andretti happy with first test 1. Wheldon joins elite company with Rolex 24 win:...

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- January 30, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Wheldon joins elite company with Rolex 24 win
2. Roth readies for return
3. Michael Andretti happy with first test

1. Wheldon joins elite company with Rolex 24 win: Defending IRL IndyCar® Series champion Dan Wheldon joined elite company after teaming with 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and former IRL driver and current NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Casey Mears to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance event.

Wheldon, the first IndyCar Series driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series championship in the same season, became the first driver since Arie Luyendyk to win the Indianapolis 500 and Rolex 24 in a 12-month period.

Wheldon joined previous 500 and 24 hours winners: Mark Donohue (1969 Rolex 24, 1972 Indy 500), Arie Luyendyk (1990, 1997 Indy 500 and 1998 Rolex 24), Al Unser Jr. (1992, 1994 Indy 500 and 1986-1987 Rolex 24), Al Unser Sr. (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987 Indy 500 and 1985 Rolex 24), A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977 Indy 500, 1985 Rolex 24), Mario Andretti (1969 Indy 500, 1971 Rolex 24) and Bobby Rahal (1986 Indy 500, 1981 Rolex 24).

"There are some great names that have won the Rolex 24 At Daytona and some even more impressive ones that go hand-in-hand with Chip Ganassi Racing. To be on both those lists is very special," Wheldon said. "This is simply one of the biggest races around, and to be a part of winning this for Team Target and the whole crew is something I've very proud of for sure. This team prides itself on winning the big races, and now I can say I'm a part of delivering one of those for the whole organization."

Dixon and Wheldon joined Scott Sharp as the only Indy Racing League regulars to capture an overall victory at Daytona.

In all, seven drivers who will compete in the IndyCar Series in 2006 competed in the Rolex 24. In addition to Dixon and Wheldon, Dario Franchitti (8th), Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice (11th), Danica Patrick (50th) and Sharp (52nd) also competed in the event.

2. Roth readies for return: There hasn't been a lot of down time during the racing offseason for Toronto's Marty Roth. Since the end of the 2005 Indy Racing League Indy Pro Series season, Roth has put in thousands of miles -- both in the race car and in the air.

Roth has spent several weeks training to fly his new airplane -- a six-seat Aerostar Super 700, which cruises at 245 knots and is pressurized up to 30,000 feet. He'll use it to fly from race to race in 2006.

He's also logged more than 1,000 miles in his Indy Pro Series car, preparing for his fifth season on the circuit.

"Last year, we just wanted to get to the races and the tracks," said Roth, who drives the No. 4 Roth Racing Dallara. "This year, we've really prepared for it. Between the race at Homestead and the two races at St. Petersburg, you've got a quarter of your season over in the first two weeks. You've really got to be prepared for the first green flag to drop."

The team's preparations for 2006 actually started late last year when Roth hired Mark Weida as engineer and Jason Lucas for data acquisition. The testing has allowed the team to get to know each other before the season starts.

"The team has really gelled together," Roth said. "They've made huge improvements in the car. I'm real happy with these guys. It's a real nice mix."

So far in the offseason, Roth's testing has been exclusively on road courses.

"Last year, we had a good speedway car, but we were lacking on the road courses and the short ovals," said Roth, who had a career-best, second-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in September. "Right now, we have a really good road course car.

"All of our testing has been by ourselves, so I'm really looking forward to the Open Test at Homestead (March 4 & 6) to run with some other guys."

In addition to his preparations for the Indy Pro Series season, Roth is already readying himself and the team for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. This will be his third Indy 500. He finished 24th in 2004 and 31st in 2005.

"I've already been talking with Honda," Roth said. "We're committed for the 500, and we're going to start off from the beginning, with the Open Test in April. Last year, we missed some time at Indianapolis working on our deal, but this year we're going to make sure we're out there every day."

That type of commitment and preparation fuels high hopes for Roth in 2006.

3. Michael Andretti happy with first test: Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti completed his first Indy Racing League IndyCar Series test on Jan. 26 at Phoenix International Raceway in preparation for his return to racing at the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 later this year.

Andretti, who last drove a race car on May 25, 2003, in the 87th Indianapolis 500, will be part of a five-car Andretti Green Racing effort at Indianapolis that will include Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta, and Andretti's son, Marco. Andretti will be behind the wheel of the Jim Beam/Vonage Dallara/Honda/Firestone at Indy.

"The test today went great," Andretti said. "I was so comfortable. We did about a 15-lap run to start the day and I was up to speed right off the bat. I was flat. It was like I had never missed a beat. Bryan (Herta) and (engineer) Martin (Pare) deserve a lot of credit for giving me such a good car. We put their setup on it and the car felt dynamite."

***

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.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Casey Mears , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Mario Andretti , Buddy Rice , Marty Roth , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Mark Donohue , Jim Beam , Danica Patrick