IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-04-10

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 10, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Organization makes all the difference when moving halfway around world 2. Hardly an easy time for Hardley 3. Castroneves, Camara take Ferrari for spin 1. Organization...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 10, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Organization makes all the difference when moving halfway around world
2. Hardly an easy time for Hardley
3. Castroneves, Camara take Ferrari for spin

1. Organization makes all the difference when moving halfway around world: Getting from point A to B doesn't overly concern Chad Head. It's the details of getting to point A that currently occupy the time of the Indy Racing League's senior manager of operations.

Attention to details is crucial as the IndyCar Series moves to Japan for the Indy Japan 300 on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi for the fourth consecutive year. The logistics and paperwork of a 13,500-mile roundtrip move of more than 425,000 pounds of equipment -- everything from race cars to the sanctioning body's technical inspection station -- is mind-boggling.

Manifests, customs clearances and even the time difference (13 hours) aren't lost on Head.

"I'm just trying to juggle the teams' equipment and our equipment, and trying to answer last-minute questions," he said. "Manifests for customs in Motegi have to be very precise, so we have to make sure the Is are dotted and Ts crossed."

Amid the honking forklifts and rolls of shrink wrap, IndyCar Series teams have appointed times to deliver their pre-packed containers for inspection at Indianapolis International Airport. Cars are loaded two-high onto specially built 18- and 10-foot pallets. All containers are verified for weight and checked against the team's manifest.

Two chartered Nippon Cargo Airlines 747s will be loaded for the trip to New Tokyo (Narita) Airport. The freighters have a maintenance stop in Anchorage, Alaska, before heading across the Pacific Ocean. After cargo is unloaded and trucked three hours north to Twin Ring Motegi, it will clear customs and be available for teams to unpack.

"We're in a bonded area at the racetrack, so you clear customs when you leave the U.S. and you clear Japan customs at the track," said Indy Racing League vice president of league development John Lewis, who handed off the transcontinental move to Head this year. "Everything goes back to Japan customs in that same configuration to come back and clear customs here. Everything that came must go; it will come out the same way it came in."

Constricting the schedule somewhat was last week's Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, preceded by two consecutive weekends of racing in Florida. Fortunately, this year is a break between U.S. customs clearance and the opening of practice for the 90th Indianapolis 500 (May 7 for Rookie Orientation Program and May 9 for all cars on track).

"We hopefully get a weekend off and a week to prepare for the Speedway," Head said. "Last year, I was really impressed watching how smoothly this operation went at both places, and how organized the teams and IRL were."

2. Hardly an easy time for Hardley: What do you do when the series points leader won't be back to finish the season in your car? Indy Pro Series^Ù team owner Kenn Hardley has that and a lot more on his mind.

Hardley is dealing with the loss of driver Jeff Simmons to the IndyCar® Series as well as the loss of friend Paul Dana, who died March 26 after a crash during IndyCar Series practice.

"Paul Dana was the first driver I hired," said Hardley, a successful businessman who formed Kenn Hardley Racing to compete in the Indy Pro Series in 2003. "We maintained a friendship over the years. This situation is still tough for me."

Dana had just put together his ethanol sponsorship in 2003 when Hardley hired him for the first six races of the season. Dana recorded four top-10 finishes during the stint.

Dana moved on to Hemelgarn 91 Johnson Motorsports in 2004 and finished as the series runner-up. Midway through that campaign, Hardley brought in Simmons, the 2003 series runner-up, to drive the No. 24 Team ISI car.

Simmons won the team's first pole position in his debut with the team at Pikes Peak. At the very next race, Chicagoland, Simmons' second-place finish was the team's best at the time.

The 2005 season started with a series of mechanical problems, but Hardley and Simmons rebounded with eight consecutive top-five finishes, including four victories, as they made an improbable run for the Indy Pro Series championship. They finished second.

The team started the 2006 season with Simmons making a return to Victory Circle in the Miami 100 on the same fateful day as Dana's accident. After second- and fourth-place finishes at St. Petersburg stretched Simmons' streak to a record-tying 11 consecutive top-fives, Simmons' run with Kenn Hardley Racing came to an end. On April 4, the 29-year-old driver was named to take over the seat of the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing IndyCar Series machine beginning with the Indy Japan 300 on April 22.

"I'm excited for him," Hardley said. "For the last three years, I've been promoting Jeff Simmons as much as I could. Being around him, watching him -- even when he was with Keith Duesenberg Racing in 2003, I could see that he has lots of talent. He's great with kids. I've never seen him turn away from signing an autograph. He's got an engineering mentality. He spends countless hours with the engineer and knows everything there is to know about the car. And, he's got a heavy foot, too, and a lot of skill."

Now, Hardley turns his attention to filling the seat vacated by the series point leader.

"We're still going to have Tom Wood come in and drive on the ovals, so we're looking for someone for the second car for the Freedom 100 and for the road races," Hardley said about the team's plans. "I've had a lot of calls and inquiries."

"It's going to be difficult for anyone we bring in to win the driver's championship. We still have a possibility to win the entrant's championship, and that's still my goal."

3. Castroneves, Camara take Ferrari for spin: Put IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves behind the wheel of a Ferrari and he might not return it exactly at the agreed upon time.

But organizers of last weekend's 14th annual North American Ferrari Challenge Series had one thing in their favor when the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion sat in the Ferrari F2002 driven in 2002 by World Champion Michael Schumacher: it was on a closed course.

Castroneves, who won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 2 and is the IndyCar Series points leader, took the car that carried Schumacher to 11 victories and 17 podium finishes for a spin (no pun intended) on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.

"This is an incredible opportunity to drive a Formula One car," he said earlier in the day while serving a steady stream of autograph-seekers. "It's going to be interesting when they tell me to come in -- I might not want to stop driving it."

Indy Pro Series driver Jaime Camara also had the opportunity to turn 63 laps on the 2.21-mile road course in the Ferrari F2002. He wished they would have released lap times.

"It was a dream com true," said Camara, driver of the No. 11 Andretti Green Racing car in the Indy Pro Series. "I couldn't believe when the day was over because I wanted to drive more. The car is amazing, so much power. It's amazing to be on it on the back straight of Homestead and shifting up at 18,000 rpms.

"The brakes are insane. You step on it the car stops so fast that you think you can brake inside the corner; I mean on the same time you start to turn in."

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Indy Japan 300 at midnight (EDT) on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi. ESPN2 will telecast the race at Noon (EDT) on April 22. The race will be broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network beginning at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 21. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 Friday, May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's Carb Day coverage on May 26.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Helio Castroneves , Tom Wood , Jeff Simmons , Paul Dana , Jaime Camara , John Lewis , Chad Head