INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 4, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Simmons takes Fast Track to IndyCar Series 2. IndyCar Series back on track at Indianapolis 3. World of Outlaws to back Dodge's Indy Pro Series effort 1. Simmons takes...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 4, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Simmons takes Fast Track to IndyCar Series
2. IndyCar Series back on track at Indianapolis
3. World of Outlaws to back Dodge's Indy Pro Series effort
1. Simmons takes Fast Track to IndyCar Series: Jeff Simmons knows there is a lot of pressure on any rookie in the IRL IndyCar® Series, but the most recent graduate of the Indy Pro Series knows there are extra pressures on him.
"I must be the envy of every guy age 12 to 200, because I'm Danica Patrick's teammate" Simmons said. "Obviously, there are not a whole lot of opportunities out there, and the way this all came about isn't the best way to get a job. I just want to make the most of it because Paul (Dana) paid the ultimate price for me to have it."
Simmons was named as the replacement for the late Paul Dana on April 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His goals are to be just as competitive with Rahal Letterman Racing as he was in the Indy Pro Series with Kenn Hardley Racing, where he won five of his last 10 starts.
"A lot of people are counting on me doing well in this position," he said. "Hopefully, it will help the Indy Pro Series and start to show that it is a place where you can look for drivers that have talent and can get the job done."
Like the driver he replaces, Simmons has worked his way up to a top level team.
After winning two Barber Dodge Pro Series titles and excelling in Indy Lights, he found himself without a drive for two years. He debuted in the Indy Pro Series with Keith Duesenberg Racing in 2003 and finished second to Mark Taylor. The following season, he had a second-place finish in the Freedom 100 driving for A.J. Foyt Racing which helped him earn a seat with Mo Nunn Racing for the Indianapolis 500.
Simmons said that experience, coupled with his more recent success with Kenn Hardley Racing helped keep the attention of the IndyCar Series teams on him.
"I think without the Indy Pro Series and without Kenn Hardley and the people at Kenn Hardley Racing, this wouldn't have come about," he said. "Obviously, I've shown I can win races there and been competitive. It's something Bobby (Rahal) has obviously watched, and he has the faith in me that I will be as competitive in IndyCars."
But it was Simmons' faith in himself that kept him in racing even as opportunities failed to materialize. Simmons said he spent his two years hunting for sponsors in New York, when others around him were telling him to move on.
"There really wasn't anything that I wanted to do," the Boston College graduate said. "I just started working harder looking for sponsors and racing seats. Obviously, Kenn Hardley gave me a great opportunity for the past year and a half to showcase my talents and keep me out there in front of all the IndyCar owners. At the same time, I was keeping myself in shape and trying to put together a program to get back in an IndyCar."
And though he has less than 1,000 miles of driving in an IndyCar Series machine, Simmons said the jump from the Indy Pro Series to the IndyCar Series won't be as big as perceived.
"The Indy Pro Series is a great training ground," he said. "We have weight jackers and front and rear adjustable roll bars. We have all the same adjustments. We don't have fuel levels or things like the Indy Cars have, so there will be some adapting. I think (at the test) we'll work on hitting the marks and being safe around the guys in the pits. It's something that will take some time.
"At the same time, this is Rahal Letterman Racing. You've seen how they've done over the last few years. There's no better place that I could be. I couldn't ask for a better chance than this. You have to buckle down and work 10 times as hard so you can make the most out of what you've been given. They expect me to contribute to the team and be a team player and be competitive. Obviously, we've missed the first two races of the year, but we want to be rookie of the year."
2. IndyCar Series back on track at Indianapolis: Eighteen IndyCar Series cars will test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 5 in preparation for the 90th Indianapolis 500.
Among the drivers and teams that will participate in the test are: Andretti Green Racing (Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti), Vision Racing (Tomas Scheckter and Ed Carpenter), Panther Racing (Vitor Meira), Marlboro Team Penske (Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr.), Delphi Fernandez Racing (Scott Sharp), Target Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon), Rahal Letterman Racing (Danica Patrick, Buddy Rice and Jeff Simmons), Roth Racing (Marty Roth), Cheever Racing (Eddie Cheever) and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing (Kosuke Matsuura).
Veteran drivers Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr. and rookies Marco Andretti and P.J. Chesson will not participate in the Open Test. They will all practice at the track during Rookie Orientation on May 7.
3. World of Outlaws to back Dodge's Indy Pro Series effort: The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series will co-sponsor Geoff Dodge's No. 33 Knoxville Fast Track to Indy car for the 2006 Indy Pro Series season. Dodge, the 2005 Knoxville Nationals Fast Track to Indy Rookie of the Year, earned a ride with the reigning Indy Pro Series championship team, Brian Stewart Racing, for all six of the oval track races in 2006.
The World of Outlaws is in its 29th season presenting championship-caliber winged sprint car events with 900-horsepower machines around the United States.
"We look forward to being a part of the continued connection between open-wheel racing on dirt and the Indy 500," said Shane Carson, Vice President of Race Operations for DIRT MotorSports, which owns and operates the World of Outlaws. "During the 29 years, a number of World of Outlaws racers have made it to Indy for the Indy Pro Series and the Indy 500, including Steve Kinser, Craig Dollansky and P.J. Chesson. At the same time, we have recognized the annual Knoxville Nationals as the premier sprint car race in the world."
Dodge, a 22-year-old Colorado Springs, Colo. native, finished seventh March 26 in his Indy Pro Series debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished 11th and 13th on April 1 and 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, taking over for his ill teammate, Wade Cunningham.
Dodge's next Indy Pro Series event will take him to the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The series will test at the facility on April 27. The Freedom 100 will be contested May 26 -- two days before the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Ticket Director also is co-sponsoring Dodge's car.