IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-03-13

Today's IRL headlines 1. Sneak Peak 2006: Championship Contenders abound at Andretti Green Racing: 2. Hanson passes Indy Pro Series rookie test 3. Herta struggles at Laguna Seca 1. Sneak Peak 2006: Championship Contenders abound at Andretti...

Today's IRL headlines
1. Sneak Peak 2006: Championship Contenders abound at Andretti Green Racing:
2. Hanson passes Indy Pro Series rookie test
3. Herta struggles at Laguna Seca

1. Sneak Peak 2006: Championship Contenders abound at Andretti Green Racing: Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta watched and supported teammates Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon as they won the last two IRL IndyCar® Series titles. Now they are hoping for success of their own.

Both drivers return to race teams that had very little turnover during the offseason. That consistency has both drivers confident in their 2006 outlook.

"Andretti Green Racing has proven to be one of the very best auto racing teams in the world, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of the team," Herta said. "I'm very glad to have the continuity of having XM Satellite Radio return as a sponsor and essentially the same group of engineers and mechanics working with me. This will be our third year with XM Satellite Radio. I think we made great strides last year and we hope to build on that."

Herta won three poles and scored his second career victory with a dominating performance at Michigan International Speedway in late July. He hopes to build upon those results this season.

"My expectations are the highest they have ever been as we head into the 2006 season," he said. "Right now, my focus is on winning races, and I really want to win the Indianapolis 500 this year. If I can accomplish the first two goals, then I think we will be in a great position to challenge for the championship.

Franchitti and his crew will sport new sponsors -- Klein Tools and Jim Beam -- in 2006, while veteran team manager John Anderson, who oversaw Wheldon's 2005 season, moves over to call his races.

"I'm very excited to be driving the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car in 2006; a car that has won the IndyCar Series championship," Franchitti said. "Both Klein Tools and Jim Beam have been a part of Andretti Green since the beginning and have shown tremendous dedication to our program. I'm looking forward to working with my new and old teammates, challenging them for the championship and putting Klein Tools and Jim Beam back into victory lane several times in 2006."

Like Herta, Franchitti is also aiming for success on the IndyCar Series' biggest stage and aiming for his first victory on a road and street course.

"I'm looking forward to Indianapolis because it is such a large part of our season, but I'm also looking forward to St. Petersburg," he said. " I enjoy the challenge of street courses and it was such an amazing event last year. We had a very fast car and I was driving well there last year, but we had a mistake with the fuel tank, which I believe cost us the win."

ANDRETTI GREEN RACING
Car numbers: 7 (Herta), 27 (Franchitti)
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone
Drivers: Bryan Herta, 35, of Valencia, Calif. and Dario Franchitti, 32, of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Race engineers: Martin Pare (Herta), Allen McDonald (Franchitti)
Chief mechanic: Jeff Grahn (Herta), Dave Popielarz (Franchitti)
Team managers: George Klotz and John Anderson

CO-OWNERS' OUTLOOK FOR 2006:

Kim Green on Dario Franchitti

"I expect Dario to be a championship contender; that's why he's here. He's going to have a slight change in color scheme this year and I know he's looking forward to spending more time with the guys from Klein Tools and the guys from Jim Beam.

"When you look back on 2005, Dario drove very, very well and could have easily had three race wins coming out of Indy. He was very strong but the combination of Dario and the team didn't maximize our opportunities when we had very good race cars.

"Certainly Dario is as motivated as ever. I think his other three teammates are going to make it hard on him and I think his teammates will also be championship contenders. There is no doubt that there will be some very strong opposition in the IndyCar Series that I think will make it the most competitive season since its inception."

Kevin Savoree on Bryan Herta

"Entering the 2005 season for the XM program, we had a goal to improve on what we accomplished in 2004. We wanted to run up front, win some races and collect some poles. Looking back, Bryan certainly accomplished those goals. For the 2006 season, we want to continue to push ourselves to achieve more and I expect Bryan and the XM Satellite Radio team to challenge for the championship.

2. Hanson passes Indy Pro Series rookie test: Troy Hanson passed his Indy Racing League Indy Pro Series rookie test March 10 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Hanson, a Hollywood, Calif. resident, participated in the recent Open Test on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway before completing more than 100 miles at Nashville.

"Nashville is a tricky place to make an oval debut, but Troy took it in stride," said Indy Pro Series team owner Michael Crawford. "Troy proved to be smooth and consistent as he acclimated to the 1.33-mile concrete oval. He turned some very quick laps as he put the Hollywood Poker/Dallara through its paces."

Hanson has competed in the Grand American Cup Series and in the Rolex Sports Car Series. He also has hosted motorsports and celebrity segments on SPIKE-TV's "Super 2NRtv."

"I want to thank Hollywood Poker, Michael Crawford and the team, as well as (Indy Pro Series technical director) Butch Meyer for making all this come together." Hanson said. "I am really looking forward to racing in the Indy Pro Series this year, and I think we have everything it takes to put forth a competitive effort."

3. Herta struggles at Laguna Seca: Andretti Green Racing driver Bryan Herta endured a long day at the office aboard the Team USA car over the weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where the A1 Grand Prix series held its maiden race in the United States.

Herta was off to a promising start March 10 as he paced practice in damp conditions at the northern California circuit. From then on, however, the team struggled to make progress with the car's setup and Herta was limited to the 17th spot in the 22-car grid in qualifying.

A1's weekend format boasts a "sprint" and a "feature" event, the grid for the latter being determined by the finishing order of the former. In the rainy sprint, Herta drove a smart race to climb to ninth at the end. In the feature, a drying track and a bad pit stop call dropped the American to 14th. Again Herta climbed all the way back to ninth, but with just three minutes to go - the race finished in the one-hour time limit - he ran into the back of Ralph Firman's Irish entry and retired.

"The whole weekend just went horribly wrong," Herta said. "We lost the car's handling on Saturday and dug ourselves into a big hole in qualifying. We recovered some positions in the sprint but the car never worked right.

"I'm really disappointed for the people who supported me here; I wish I could have given them a better result."

Team Mexico's Salvador Duran won both races.

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 at 3:30 p.m. (EST) 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 and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition opens with the Miami 100 at 12:30 p.m. on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 1 p.m. on March 31 by ESPN2.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Kim Green , Ralph Firman , Troy Hanson , Salvador Duran , John Anderson , Jim Beam