IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-03-14

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 14, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Sneak Peak 2006: Kanaan chases series title; Andretti learning on the job: 2. ABC Sports, ESPN Add Sportvision Technology To IndyCar Series coverage 3. Howard lands...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 14, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Sneak Peak 2006: Kanaan chases series title; Andretti learning on the job:
2. ABC Sports, ESPN Add Sportvision Technology To IndyCar Series coverage
3. Howard lands Indy Pro Series ride with Sam Schmidt Motorsports
4. Kansas Lottery To Sponsor IndyCar Series race at Kansas Speedway:
5. Wheldon relaunches website

1. Sneak Peak 2006: Kanaan chases series title; Andretti learning on the job: Marco Andretti enters his rookie season in the IRL IndyCar® Series with three teammates capable of winning the series title. He plans to join them soon.

Andretti, the third generation driver from one of racing's most storied families, steps into seat vacated by 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon, and he will be supported by essentially the same crew which backed the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam car in its 2005 championship run.

Andretti has limited experience in IndyCar Series cars, but showed his potential in six starts in the Indy Pro Series in 2005. He won three times and finished in the top three five times.

"Everyone asks what my goals are for my rookie season in the IndyCar Series," Andretti said. "One of my goals for this season is to win a race, and I think that's a realistic goal, to be honest. For the first couple of races, I want to be in the top 10, but I don't want to be knocking on the door of the top-10 and every so often be there. I want to be up with those guys week in and week out, knowing that if they slip, I can move past and get closer to the front."

While Andretti is just learning the ropes, Tony Kanaan enters 2006 with a goal of reclaiming his championship. Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion, has never finished worse than fourth in the IndyCar Series point standings and doesn't plan to fall out of championship contention in 2006.

"Last year, I was the defending IndyCar Series champion, and overall, it was a good year," he said. "I knew that the string of good luck that had been with us in 2004 wouldn't last forever, but we still had what many would consider to have been a very good season. But last year was a wake-up call, so to speak. The competition was much tougher than it had ever been, and the racing was as close as ever. Now, I'm not the champion anymore, and I want to be back on top."

Kanaan won two races in 2005 and captured the MBNA Pole Award for the Indianapolis 500. He recorded 12 top-five finishes en route to his runner-up finish in the point standings. He said finishing up front will be key winning the title.

"My focus has always been on winning races and maximizing points," Kanaan said. "That's the way you earn a championship and that's what I'm looking to do this season. The IndyCar Series has been very competitive, year after year. And with Honda as the sole engine supplier, it's becoming even more so. But that's what it's all about--beating people when they are at their best. That's what I'm looking forward to doing this year."

CO-OWNERS' OUTLOOK FOR 2006:
Kim Green on Tony Kanaan: "Andretti Green Racing's goals are to put teams together that are capable of winning, and provide all those teams with the tools necessary to win races. Team 7-Eleven won the IndyCar Series championship in 2004 and were a close second in 2005 while another of our AGR teams won that year's championship. I would expect to be in a same position in 2006. I don't underestimate how competitive the year will be, but I have total confidence in our team that we can defend our IndyCar Series title in 2006."

Kim Green on Marco Andretti: "It is exciting to see another Andretti in the IndyCar Series. Marco brings an unbelievable family legacy with him. Thus far in pre-season testing, he has handled the pressure of the situation very, very well. He couldn't ask for better introduction into the IndyCar Series racing than he has, not only with the crew and engineers he's working with, but also his three teammates who have been very open with information, all of whom want to help Marco transition into IndyCar racing successfully. For a young driver, the absolute ultimate is the opportunity to race with and against his dad. That should provide for a very exciting Month of May and overall, a very exciting season.

***

2. ABC Sports, ESPN Add Sportvision Technology To IndyCar Series coverage: ABC and ESPN's coverage of the IndyCar Series will include technology that will enhance the viewing experience for the first time in 2006.

Beginning with ABC Sports' coverage of Toyota Indy 300 from Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 26, the IndyCar Series broadcast partners will utilize Sportvision's most advanced tracking system. The technology will be used during all IndyCar Series races on ESPN and ABC Sports, including the Indianapolis 500.

"This Sportvision technology will have a profound impact on viewers of the IndyCar Series on ESPN and ABC Sports," said Rich Feinberg, Senior Coordinating Producer for ESPN and ABC Sports. "From now on, fans will be able to better identify the drivers and will have vital information- the same information that the drivers and their crews have."

The technology, called the RACEf/x system, has revolutionized motorsports broadcasting by providing viewers with graphic effects and relevant data, enabling them to better follow the action. The patented techology and global positioning system (GPS) will track every car while delivering a broad array of visual effects, thereby making it a lot easier for viewers to easily identify each driver. The most prominent graphic of the system is the "pointer," which will identify the cars and track them as they race at speeds up to 220 mph.

The on-board GPS system also captures all telemetry and positioning including speed, acceleration/deceleration, time behind the leader, exact car position and RPMs. The system will incorporate several data elements that will be unique to IRL coverage, including "G-force" which will indicate the force exerted on the driver.

Viewers can also customize their experience by tracking real-time data of any car competing in the race when following the race live on ESPN.com beginning with the Indianapolis 500.

"We welcome the addition of Sportvision to the telecast in 2006 so that viewers will have a constant visual connection to the racing action and the drivers they root for and against," said Brian Barnhart, president and chief operating officer, Indy Racing League. "The storytelling of not only the race but the racers, participants and teams will be vastly improved as television makes each race more compelling and not to be missed by the casual and diehard fans alike, as well as the new fans we'll be attracting."

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3. Howard lands Indy Pro Series ride with Sam Schmidt Motorsports: As a former Formula Ford national champion himself, Sam Schmidt knows firsthand how valuable driving those cars can be in developing the talent to move to the next level. In 2006, Schmidt will turn to Jay Howard, a two-time Formula Ford champion, to drive for him in the Indy Racing League Indy Pro Series^Ù.

Howard, a 25-year-old from Basildon, England, will drive the No. 7 Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry beginning with the Miami 100 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 26.

"I've been working with Jay pretty closely for about a year and a half," said Schmidt, whose team won the Indy Pro Series championship in 2004. "Toward the end of last season, we helped him get a deal in Formula Mazda to race at Mosport. The results were really good against what I would call stiff competition. He qualified third, and he won the race going away. That was a real indication that he has lots of talent, and with our series going to 50 percent road courses, we will need that type of background to compete for the championship in 2006."

Howard has groomed himself for this opportunity since he started karting at age 7. After winning seven British karting championships, the outspoken driver claimed the United Kingdom Formula Ford Zetec Championship in 2003. Last year, he moved to the United States and won the Cooper Tires Formula Ford Zetec Championship on the strength of nine victories.

"He's new to the series, but he has a lot of experience," said Schmidt, who won the Formula Ford in 1993. "Last year, he broke a lot of records in the (Cooper Tires Formula Ford Zetec Series) that had been set by Dan Wheldon. That's impressive, and obviously his results at the first Open Test reconfirmed everything. We're excited about having him drive for us this year."

Howard led 17 Indy Pro Series drivers in an Open Test on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 6. His past success, testing results and confidence lead him to believe another championship is within reach.

"I believe I have the ability to qualify on pole and win every race I enter," said Howard, who now resides in St. Petersburg, Fla. "This is what I have trained for all of my life and, looking at my accomplishments in other competitive professional series, I won't be pleased with anything short of a championship. The Sam Schmidt Motorsports team has gained 19 poles and 11 wins in the past two seasons, so I couldn't be with a better team."

The Indy Pro Series is the premier ladder series for drivers, teams and sponsors striving to compete in the IndyCar® Series and the Indianapolis 500. The 12-race schedule in 2006 features six races on ovals and six races on road courses, including competing on both circuits at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams compete for $3 million in prize money in cars that generate 420 horsepower and speeds in excess of 190 mph. The races are telecast to more than 88 million homes in the United States on ESPN2.

***

4. Kansas Lottery To Sponsor IndyCar Series race at Kansas Speedway: Kansas Speedway and Kansas Lottery officials announced the expansion of a unique partnership that should further bolster tourism and economic development in the state.

The Kansas Lottery Indy 300, scheduled for Kansas Speedway on July 2, promises to be one of the most exciting races on the IRL IndyCar® Series schedule in 2006, and has become synonymous with close finishes and non-stop thrills over the past five years.

"The Kansas Lottery has been an exceptional partner since day one," Kansas Speedway President Jeff Boerger said. "Together, we've enjoyed a growing partnership that has created tremendous economic impact and excitement."

This is the third year the Kansas Lottery has sponsored a race at Kansas Speedway. The lottery also hosts the ARCA RE/MAX Series Kansas Lottery $200 Grand on July 1. The lottery is currently selling a special "Kansas Lottery $200 Grand" instant scratch ticket which offers players a chance to win up to $10,000 instantly, as well as a chance to win one of 45 grand prize packages for the July 1-2 races. During the Kansas Lottery $200 Grand, two of the 45 players will get a chance to win $200,000 if they correctly pick the finishing order of the top three drivers.

The move to sponsor the IndyCar Series event at Kansas Speedway will enhance the Kansas Lottery's promotional efforts, lottery and state officials say.

"We are always looking for new ways to market our products and the State of Kansas. This will be the third year the Lottery has sponsored the ARCA race, which we have found to be a wonderful promotional tool," said Kansas Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten. "When we were given the opportunity to also sponsor the Indy race, we jumped at the chance."

***

5. Wheldon relaunches website: Dan Wheldon, the reigning Indianapolis 500 and IRL IndyCar Series Champion, has relaunched his website today at www.danwheldon.com.

The updated website contains the latest photos and information of Wheldon and his new racing team, Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

***

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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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS