IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League news and notes 2006-06-12

Today's IRL headlines 1. Third victory only gives Castroneves 22-point cushion in standings 2. Drivers reap post-race rewards 3. Testing in Kansas and Milwaukee 1. Third victory only gives Castroneves 22-point cushion in standings: Helio ...

Today's IRL headlines
1. Third victory only gives Castroneves 22-point cushion in standings
2. Drivers reap post-race rewards
3. Testing in Kansas and Milwaukee

1. Third victory only gives Castroneves 22-point cushion in standings: Helio Castroneves says it's too early to think about winning his first IRL IndyCar® Series championship.

His closest competitors agree.

The Marlboro Team Penske driver has won three of the season's six races to take a 22-point lead over consistent Scott Dixon as the season closes in on the halfway point June 24 with the SunTrust Indy Challenge presented by XM Satellite Radio.

Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and reigning series champion, Dan Wheldon, is third (195). Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish Jr., seeking his third IndyCar Series title, is one point behind and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan is fifth (164).

The sixth- through 13-place drivers are separated by 38 points, so Castroneves is wise not to be over-confident. On June 10, he benefited from a couple of pit stop miscues late in the Bombardier Learjet 500k and beat Dixon to the illuminated finish line by 0.2402 of a second.

"It is too early to think about championship," said Castroneves, who scored his 11th IndyCar Series victory and second at Texas Motor Speedway. "I don't think it's even half time of the championship. Not only that, I don't think the gap is large enough. Scott and Wheldon and Sam, they are still pretty much right there. Right now, we just need to keep finishing ahead of those guys."

Dixon (Watkins Glen International), Wheldon (season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway) and Hornish have won the other races. Both Wheldon, who led a race-high 171 laps, and Hornish, the pole sitter, appeared to be poised to contend for the victory at Texas Motor Speedway on the final laps. But both experienced miscues on their final fuel stops, which cost them track position on the 1.5-mile oval.

"This is not an individual sport; it's about team effort," said Castroneves, who has led in every race this season. "Without a good car, you can't win a race. Without a good driver, you can't win a race. Having key moments like today, you're not going to be able to win championships.

"It's unfortunate for whatever happened to those guys, but it is just proof that this series is getting tight and tight as the competition goes by. People making fewer mistakes, definitely the guy is going to benefit from that.

"Today, we benefited from it."

2. Drivers reap post-race rewards: Helio Castroneves again reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.

As the Bombardier Learjet 500 race winner, Castroneves was presented with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT Camera and an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.

The Aquaracer concept is founded on providing the accuracy that all water sports demand. Based on the design and features of the timeless 2000 series, launched in 1982, TAG Heuer's watchmakers and designers have created an original, prestigious sports watch that is water-resistant to 300 meters.

Castroneves also received the round-trip use of a Bombardier jet to fly from his home in Miami to Richmond International Raceway later this month.

Dan Wheldon collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 126 of the race, while Scott Sharp won the K&N Award and its $2,000 prize for being the highest-placed eligible finisher. Sam Hornish Jr. claimed the Marlboro Pole Award and its $10,000 prize.

3. Testing in Kansas and Milwaukee: IndyCar Series teams will conduct an Open Test at Kansas Speedway on June 13. Most full-time teams, with the exception of Delphi Fernandez Racing and driver Scott Sharp, are expected to participate in the test, which will be the only IndyCar Series activity before the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 on July 2.

Sharp, who tested privately for Firestone at the 1.5-mile oval, and Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon turned laps for Firestone, while Eddie Cheever took to the track to shake down a car for Indy Pro Series driver Chris Festa.

Festa tested at Kansas on June 12 as part of IndyCar Series rookie testing with Cheever Racing under the supervision of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford.

It's not the only testing Festa will do this week. He'll join 12 other Indy Pro Series drivers for an Open Test at The Milwaukee Mile on June 14.

For most of the nine rookies in the group it will be their first time on a short oval in an Indy Pro Series machine.

"I've never been on a short oval in one of these cars before, and I hear Milwaukee is one of the toughest," said Bobby Wilson, driver of the No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing entry who won the series' most recent race at Watkins Glen International and ranks second in points. "I just want to get comfortable in the car, get a feel for what it's doing there. I also want to work well with my engineer to make sure it's a good car for the race."

The visit to The Mile will also be a homecoming for Wilson, an Oconomowoc, Wis., native whose parents and sister still live in the area.

"It will nice to be home for a couple of days," Wilson said. "I haven't been back since Christmas. Coming off a win, my family and friends are pretty pumped up about it."

Previously this season, the Indy Pro Series has competed on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami, the 2.5-mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the street/road courses at St. Petersburg, Fla., and Watkins Glen.

The third Milwaukee 100 will be July 22.

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the SunTrust Indy Challenge at 8 p.m. (EDT) on June 24 at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be televised live by ESPN2 and the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. 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 Liberty Challenge on July 1 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Chris Festa , Bobby Wilson , Sam Hornish Jr. , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing