IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-07-11

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 11, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Dickson learning ropes, chasing dreams with Rahal Letterman Racing 2. Klein relishes time in IndyCar Series machine 3. Six in Indy Pro Series title chase at season's ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 11, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Dickson learning ropes, chasing dreams with Rahal Letterman Racing
2. Klein relishes time in IndyCar Series machine
3. Six in Indy Pro Series title chase at season's midpoint

1. Dickson learning ropes, chasing dreams with Rahal Letterman Racing: (One of a series) When IndyCar Series teams arrive at the track for a race weekend, one of the first duties on the list is to set up their respective pit areas.

Each team has a crew member responsible for such a task. In the case of Rahal Letterman Racing that crew member is Brandon Dickson.

"Mainly, I make sure that the pits are stocked and everything is ready to go," Dickson said. "I set up all of the pit equipment. This includes the timing stand, where our engineers and the Honda engineers will have all of their data available to them. I also set up the fuel rig. I set up all of the nitrogen bottles, which enable us to change the tires with the air gun and also provides the ability to use the air jack on the car. I make sure that the tires are ready to go for when the team wants to practice as well."

The 24 year-old native of Hilliard, Ohio is cut from some very unique racing cloth.

His uncle, Larry Dickson, raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and his father, Steve Dickson, is the the team manager for Rahal-Letterman Racing.

"(Racing) has been in my family for generation after generation," Brandon Dickson said. "I just kind of grew up going to dirt tracks and watching sprint cars. Along the way, you meet the right people and kind of fall into this business."

Dickson has been with Rahal Letterman Racing team for four years. In that time, he's taken on many duties, including stints in hospitality, the composite shop, and most recently, the transporter driver for the No. 17 Team Ethanol-sponsored, Honda-powered Dallara of rookie Jeff Simmons.

This season, has also brought an added role. Dickson was named as a tire changer for Danica Patrick's No. 16 Team Argent car, a new role that Dickson cherishes.

"It's always been a dream of mine to change tires on an IndyCar (Series car)," Dickson said. "To be able to do that with Danica Patrick is really neat. With all of the media frenzy that follows her, it's really a cool thing to get to do."

Looking forward, Dickson hopes to move into a management role someday with an IndyCar Series team. He knows that in order to make it to the next level however, he'll continue to face challenges along the way.

"Year to year you have so many different hats that get thrown on your head," he said. "Last year, I worked in marketing and hospitality and dealt with all of the sponsors. This year, I'm going totally opposite of that, so it's just learning new things and trying to keep up with the pace. You just have to stay on everyone's heels and get things done when people need them."

***

2. Klein relishes time in IndyCar Series machine: Indy Pro Series driver Jonathan Klein successfully completed his first test in an IndyCar Series car on July 10 at The Milwaukee Mile.

The 19-year-old native of Long Grove, Ill., completed 95 laps of testing on the 1-mile oval in an Andretti Green Racing IndyCar Series car he shared with IndyCar Series veteran Dario Franchitti.

"We had a great day," Klein said. "By the end of my time in the car, I was starting to feel comfortable, and we started working on setup changes. We found a few things that were beneficial to the feel of the car. As a whole, the team did a great job giving me a car that I felt confident in."

Klein, who ranks third in the Indy Pro Series point standings, received the opportunity to test as part of the Indy Racing League's bonus testing program, which Indy Pro Series drivers to receive IndyCar Series testing time. For every four Indy Pro Series races that an IndyCar Series team participates in, the team receives a bonus test day.

"I'm just very happy," Klein said. "It felt good, and I can't wait to go at it again."

***

3. Six in Indy Pro Series title chase at season's midpoint: Halfway through the season and it's anyone's guess who will become the fifth Indy Pro Series champion. Off-season changes, which included the tripling of prize money to $3 million, have led to larger starting fields and tighter competition.

"Definitely the quantity and the quality of the type of racers that we've been able to attract to the Indy Pro Series have improved," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series. "We're seeing a lot of young guys come into the series, 18, 19, 20 years old, and they are very competitive."

The six races in 2006 have averaged 16.7 starters, with a high of 19 at the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. On average, 9.3 drivers have been rookies, including four of the top six in the standings.

With six races remaining, the series already has five race winners and five pole winners -- just one shy of the series record in each category. The top six drivers are separated by 45 points. Rookie Jay Howard, 25, leads the points chase although he has yet to win a race.

"Unfortunately, we have not had what I would call a good season," said Howard, who drives the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon entry for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. "Although everyone keeps telling me it's fantastic that you're leading the championship, I want to win races and I haven't won a race yet. Not really happy about that."

Howard won the pole in his series debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished third there and in the first race at St. Petersburg. He recorded back-to-back seconds in the second race at St. Pete and in the Freedom 100 on the oval at Indianapolis. The Englishman followed with a sixth place at Watkins Glen International. Contact in the first turn of the Liberty Challenge in early July on the road course at Indianapolis sent him to 18th.

"We know what we're capable of doing, and hopefully everything falls together and the wins will start coming for sure," said Howard, who leads all drivers with $105,681 in prize earnings.

The five race winners this year have been Jeff Simmons (Homestead), Raphael Matos (St. Petersburg 1 and 2), Wade Cunningham (Indianapolis oval), Bobby Wilson (Watkins Glen) and Alex Lloyd (Indianapolis road course).

Simmons graduated to the IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman Racing after three races.

Wilson, 24, is second in points -- 12 points behind Howard. The Oconomowoc, Wis., native started the year with three top-10 finishes with Michael Crawford Motorsports before moving to Kenn Hardley Racing to fill the seat vacated by Simmons.

Wilson finished seventh in the Freedom 100 before earning his first career victory on the Watkins Glen International road course.

"The first half of the season has been up and down," said Wilson, who now lives in Ocala, Fla. "I've had consistent finishes but not always where I feel I should be. The win at Watkins Glen was big. Unfortunately, I got involved in some unfortunate incidents (in the Liberty Challenge) at Indy. I'm looking forward to the second half of the season, getting some good points and being in front of the field."

A third rookie, Jonathan Klein, is third in points -- 25 points out of the lead. The Long Grove, Ill., native turned 19 on June 23 and earned his first podium finish of the season in the Liberty Challenge.

"We're third in points right now, which is good in the big picture, and we've just gotten our first podium finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," said Klein, who also has three fifth-place finishes. "The goal for the year was to make sure and finish as much as possible, gain experience, and learn as much as I can for next year. As long as we keep doing what we're doing, the Klein Tools/Turn-Key Forging and Design car will be right up at the top in the final season point standings."

Nick Bussell, who finished fourth in points as a rookie last season, is fourth again. The Ionia, Mich., native opened the season with a second at Homestead and a fourth at St. Petersburg. Following three lower finishes, including his only DNF in 20 races, Bussell returned the No. 52 Cheever Racing car to the top five at the Liberty Challenge.

Road-course specialist Raphael Matos is fifth in points, driving for Guthrie Racing. He swept the doubleheader at St. Petersburg, moving up from a sixth-place start in the second race.

Alex Lloyd rounds out the top six drivers in the standings. The Englishman joined the Indy Pro Series in St. Petersburg, earning a podium finish -- the first for AFS Racing -- in the second race. He followed with a fifth in the Freedom 100 -- his first career race on an oval -- and he won the Liberty Challenge.

Also not to be counted out of the championship race is 2005 series champion Wade Cunningham. The 21-year-old missed the two races in St. Petersburg, one-sixth of the season, because of an emergency appendectomy. After dropping to 17th in points, he returned to win the Freedom 100 and finish second at Watkins Glen. Cunningham is tied for eighth, 64 points behind Howard.

"We had a tight point battle all the way to the season finale last year," Bailey said. "I think it will be just as good, if not better, this year."

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Firestone Indy 200 at 9 p.m. on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by 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 Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. on July 20.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Sam Schmidt , Jeff Simmons , Alex Lloyd , Roger Bailey , Nick Bussell , Wade Cunningham , Bobby Wilson , Jay Howard , Jonathan Klein , Danica Patrick