INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 20, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Sneak Peak 2006: Target Chip Ganassi Racing pairs champions for championship chase 2. IndyCar Series Rides Growth And Momentum Into 2006 3. Indy Pro Series adds...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 20, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Sneak Peak 2006: Target Chip Ganassi Racing pairs champions for championship chase
2. IndyCar Series Rides Growth And Momentum Into 2006
3. Indy Pro Series adds sponsors, awards
1. Target Chip Ganassi Racing pairs champions for championship chase: Chip Ganassi said passing on Dan Wheldon prior to the 2003 season might have been one of the biggest mistakes he'd ever made.
He wasn't about to make the same mistake again. The veteran team owner pulled the biggest coup of the offseason, signing the reigning Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series champion to partner with 2003 IndyCar Series champ Scott Dixon.
"Obviously, we're happy to have Dan Wheldon joining Target Chip Ganassi Racing for the foreseeable future," Ganassi said. "We couldn't be happier with what Dan brings to the team, not only in terms of his ability, but his tendency to run at the front of a very difficult and competitive series. He is a proven champion, and his teaming up with another champion in Scott Dixon is a perfect fit for our IndyCar driver lineup. We think the addition of Dan ensures Target Chip Ganassi Racing's position as a formidable competitor in the IndyCar Series moving forward."
The addition of Wheldon is one of many changes for the team, which has also added Honda engines and will use Dallara chassis for the 11 oval events this season.
Wheldon, who won a record six races in 2005 and became the first driver to win the IndyCar Series title and Indianapolis 500 in the same year, said moving from Andretti Green Racing to Ganassi's team provided the challenge he was looking at this point in his career.
"Throughout my career, I've always looked favorably on Chip's team and the things they've been able to accomplish in motor racing," Wheldon said. "I'm obviously very excited about joining Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and having the opportunity to team up with another IndyCar champion in Scott Dixon. Looking forward to 2006, a few of my goals include sustaining the momentum I have coming off last season, and returning the Target team to where they're accustomed to running -- up front."
Already, the pairing seems to paying dividends. Dixon, Wheldon and NASCAR driver Casey Mears won the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, and both were among the leading drivers during preseason testing.
"The Target team and Chip Ganassi have always tried to give us the tools, effort and support to get our jobs as drivers done on the track, and with all the announcementsm it shows everyone how committed we are to winning," Dixon said. "Dan Wheldon is a good addition to the team and I look forward to working with him. His knowledge of both the Honda engine and Dallara chassis package will also be a good contribution. There certainly is a lot to look forward to this season."
TARGET CHIP GANASSI RACING
Car numbers: 9 (Dixon), 10 (Wheldon)
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone (ovals) and Panoz/Honda/Firestone (road/street courses)
Drivers: Scott Dixon, 25, of Auckland, New Zealand, and Dan Wheldon, 27, of Emberton, England.
Race engineers: Eric Bretzman (Dixon), Andy Brown (Wheldon)
Chief mechanics: Ricky Davis (Dixon), Dave Higuera (Wheldon)
Managing director: Mike Hull
Team managers: Scott Harner and Barry Wanser
TEAM PRINCIPAL'S OUTLOOK
Mike Hull, managing director: "We truly believe that the combination of these two talented championship drivers, along with the addition of Honda and Dallara gives us a very competitive package for 2006 and beyond. We're always looking to the future with the goal of improving the performance of the team and winning the big races. What Wheldon and the Andretti Green Team have done together is remarkable. The experience of winning the Indianapolis 500 and the Series championships is something both he and the Target team share, and we look forward to continuing that success together once again."
2. IndyCar Series Rides Growth And Momentum Into 2006:The Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series begins its 11th season on March 26 with the Toyota Indy 300 presented by XM Satellite Radio at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On the track, the IndyCar Series has continued the tradition and excitement of the Indianapolis 500 through its pure speed and drama. The IRL also has enjoyed unprecedented off-track accomplishments in the last year.
Key areas such as television, sponsor exposure, Internet, radio, attendance and licensed product sales have shown significant growth from the same time last year.
"The last few years have laid the groundwork for a strong business platform for the IndyCar Series," said Brian Barnhart, president and COO for the Indy Racing League. "The IndyCar Series has long been recognized in motorsports circles for its speed, drama and incredibly close competition, and last year, we have clearly succeeded in expanding our reach to the mainstream. The foundation has been laid and we are well positioned for continued growth on and off the race track."
A look at key areas of growth for the league follows:
* Television: In 2005, the IndyCar Series showed in increase in viewership across all three networks that telecast events according to Nielsen Media Research. ABC's ratings grew 53 percent. ESPN's ratings grew 33 percent and ESPN2's ratings were up 50 percent in 2005.
* Sponsor Exposure: According to the Joyce Julius and Associates IndyCar Series Sponsors Report, 849 sponsors received visual and/or verbal recognition on the league's ABC Sports, ESPN and ESPN2 broadcasts. Collectively, the sponsors amassed 86 hours, 7 minutes, 23 seconds (86:07:23) of clear, in-focus exposure time. IndyCar Series sponsors saw a 57 percent increase in the comparable value of their sponsorships during the 2005 IndyCar Series season,
* indycar.com: The league's website recorded triple-digit growth for the second consecutive year. In 2005, the Web site showed a 162 percent increase in traffic.
* IMS Radio Network: The home of the IndyCar Series radio broadcasts throughout the season increased its total households reached by more than 1.2 million and the number of stations carrying Indy Racing Weekly has increased by 76 percent from 2004.
* Attendance: According to media estimates, the league has calculated a 9 percent increase in attendance compared to 2004.
* Licensed Product Sales: The League's at-track licensed product sales saw a 75 percent increase from the same time in the 2004 season.
The IndyCar Series also enjoyed unprecedented media exposure in 2005, including a Sports Illustrated cover story in the June 6 issue, the first cover for the series in its history and first Indianapolis 500 cover since 1985. IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick also was featured on the cover of TV Guide and ESPN: The Magazine. Additionally, such non-traditional outlets such as CNN, Time, Newsweek, TV Guide, MAXIM, People, US Weekly, Esquire and FHM have covered the action around the IndyCar Series.
On the day following the Indianapolis 500, 44 of the top 50 newspapers around the country featured "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on its cover. And for the year, the league saw a 30 percent increase in national coverage. The league also has witnessed an increase in coverage in major markets as well as an increase in credentialed media at all of its events.
3. Indy Pro Series adds sponsors, awards: Lucas Oil and Mo's Gold will provide $5,000 year-end awards to participants in the Indy Pro Series^Ù in 2006. The two manufacturers also join Sunoco in providing free product.
"We have a strong group of sponsors and suppliers supporting the Indy Pro Series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series. "We're honored to have Lucas Oil and Mo's Gold provide these year-end awards. The awards are a nice bonus that can be earned on top of our $3 million purse."
Lucas Oil, which recently signed a $122 million, 20-year deal for naming rights to the Indianapolis Colts' new stadium, will supply all Indy Pro Series teams with oil and will award the highest-finishing rookie with a $5,000 prize.
"This is an important relationship for us," said Forrest Lucas, president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. "The Indy Pro Series is growing and we certainly want to touch a little bit of everything we can in racing. There's some champion talent there.
"It's also a big deal for us to have our oil in all of the cars. We've developed a total line of motor oil for race cars. When engineers can test it and compare it, that's huge for us."
Mo's Gold will award a $5,000 prize to the chief mechanic of the highest-finishing entrant. They also will supply each team with a case of its automotive cleaner and polisher.
"It's an honor for my wife and I to be a part of this," said Joe Mobley, president of Mo's Gold. "It's not just the driver that's important in winning a championship. Without the chief mechanic, the driver wouldn't be at the top."
Mobley, a long-time friend of Indy Pro Series team owner Brian Stewart and the team's chief mechanic, Mo Larsen, developed Mo's Gold just in time for the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.
Sunoco returns to the Indy Pro Series as the official fuel supplier. Indy Pro Series cars run on Sunoco's 114-octane racing gasoline.
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.