IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-08-03

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 3, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Fisher to return to IndyCar Series 2. Bussell passes IndyCar Series rookie test: 3. IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series drivers help Race for Riley 4. Larry Foyt to take on...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 3, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Fisher to return to IndyCar Series
2. Bussell passes IndyCar Series rookie test:
3. IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series drivers help Race for Riley
4. Larry Foyt to take on expanded role with father's team

1. Fisher to return to IndyCar Series: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced Aug. 3 that IndyCar Series veteran Sarah Fisher will drive the No. 5 Honda-powered Dallara in the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 13.

"It's very exciting to have Sarah back in the car at Kentucky Speedway," said team co-owner Dennis Reinbold. "We believe that it is a very good track for her, and with the momentum our team has been building, a good result is what we are looking forward to. It's always a pleasure working with Sarah, and this time will be no different."

Fisher will be reuniting with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, for whom she drove in 2002 and 2003. She debuted with a fourth-place finish at Nazareth Speedway substituting for the injured Robbie Buhl in April 2002 and later that year, became the first female to start on the pole (at Kentucky Speedway).

She will be the second woman in the field for the 200-lap race at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on ABC. Danica Patrick, who started from the pole last year at Kentucky Speedway, drives the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

In 48 starts, Fisher has seven top-10 finishes and has been running at the finish in 27 races. Her highest finishes are second at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2001 with Walker Racing and third at Kentucky Speedway in 2000 -- the highest for a female driver in the series.

The Commercial Point, Ohio, native fueled national headlines when she emerged in the IndyCar Series at 19 years old. The determined racer became a household name and was coined as the "girl next door" chasing her dream of winning the Indianapolis 500.

"I am really looking forward to the opportunity to get back into an IndyCar," said Fisher, who last competed in the IndyCar Series in 2004 in the Indianapolis 500 with a Kelley Racing-prepared car. "It has been some time and there is a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully, it will be like riding a bike, but I am sure that there will be challenges we will have to figure out how to hurdle. This weekend is all about getting back on the bike. It's a personal goal of mine to at least run in the top 10. I want to be there at the end and racing as hard as I did before, and that in itself will achieve results."

In 2000, Fisher became the youngest female and third-youngest driver ever to compete in the Indianapolis 500. It was the first time two women had raced in the same event.

"I'm here to race against everyone," said Fisher, who was attending the Lyn St. James Women in Winner's Circle event in Indianapolis when the team made the announcement. "I'm here to do the best that I can and ultimately get back to the level of IndyCars that put me up front.

"Every driver out there has the same goal and drive that I have and that is to win. Danica and I are two individuals out there competing in a man's world, whether it is in stock cars or IndyCars. I don't look at her any differently than all the other drivers. We are different people who want to achieve the same result."

Fisher calls the Kentucky Speedway her home track. She still holds the track qualifying record (221.390 mph).

"Kentucky has amazing memories for me," Fisher said. "Not only the track record, the pole, the podium, but the people. There are some special people in that area of the country. Friends, family, they all enjoy being at Kentucky. From what I remember, Kentucky is a very bumpy track. But, the line there shouldn't have changed much from before. We'll just have to see and hopefully we get over those issues early."

Fisher, 25, attends Ellis College on a part-time basis pursuing a business undergraduate degree and is engaged. She is the fourth driver to take to the wheel for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing this season. Buddy Lazier drove in eight events, Al Unser Jr. drove a second entry for the team at the 90th Indianapolis 500 alongside Lazier, and Ryan Briscoe is competing in four events for the team, including the final road course of the season at Infineon Raceway on Aug. 27.

"I miss my fans so much -- you have no idea," Fisher said. "I think I appreciate them more than I ever did. Two years later and I still have people that remember more than I do about my past experiences. It is a life-changing experience to realize that you impact people and how much responsibility that is and what a good person you need to be for these people to look up to."

***

2. Bussell passes IndyCar Series rookie test: Indy Pro Series veteran Nick Bussell passed his IndyCar® Series rookie test at Kentucky Speedway on July 31.

The 23-year-old from Ionia, Mich., shared a test day at the 1.5-mile oval with Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter. The test resulted from the Indy Racing League's bonus test program that rewards IndyCar Series teams that also field teams in the Indy Pro Series. Vision Racing, which fielded two Indy Pro Series entries under its own banner in 2005, partnered with Cheever Racing to field Bussell in the Indy Pro Series in 2006.

The test was Bussell's first opportunity to make the transition from the 420-horsepower Indy Pro Series car to the 670-horsepower IndyCar Series machine.

"It's a huge benefit for any of us Indy Pro Series drivers to go out and get that experience," Bussell said. "I grew up wanting to drive an IndyCar, and now I've had that opportunity. I don't think it's quite sunk in yet.

"Everything was really smooth. The car felt good. I think it shows how good a job Vision Racing has done. The car was really good, it was almost effortless."

Bussell, who has 15 top-five finishes in 22 career Indy Pro Series starts, completed more than 100 laps with a top speed of 211.8 mph.

"He had a great day and passed with flying colors," IndyCar Series technical manager Kevin Blanch said. "There were no glitches. He tried the short line, the high line, moved the car around and understood the car well. He had no problems understanding what the car was telling him.

"He practiced a lot of things that he'll need to have experience with in the IndyCar Series including a couple pit stops and going out on cold tires and getting back up to speed. They had push built into the car and he picked up on that right away. They made a few changes to improve grip, and he noticed that."

Bussell split his 2005 rookie season between J.L. West Motorsports and Vision Racing, finishing fourth in the point standings. This year, he ranks fifth, 54 points behind leader Jay Howard with four races remaining.

"I can sleep a lot easier at night knowing what it's like," Bussell said. "I'm sure the next time will be another step harder."

The next Indy Pro Series event is the Kentucky 100 at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 13.

***

3. IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series drivers help Race for Riley: What started in 1997 as a match race between former IndyCar competitor John Andretti and WIBC radio producer Matt Hibbelen to raise money for Riley Hospital for Children has now flourished into one of hospital's most celebrated fundraisers.

The Kroger Race for Riley presented by Cheerios celebrated its 10th Anniversary on Aug. 2 at New Castle Motorsports Park. The annual event has raised more than $720,000 since its inception, bringing in more than $120,000 in 2005. The goal for this year's event is $150,000. The official total will be announced later this week.

"This event is all about helping the kids at Riley Children's Hospital," said Jason Mueller, Assistant Manager of Corporate Giving for Riley Children's Hospital. "We started out as a little-known event raising $3,600. Today we raise well over $100,000 and have great corporate support from companies like Kroger, Cheerios, Rolls Royce and Freedom Road. The event has grown considerably in its 10 year existence."

Among the drivers appearing at the event were 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever, Panther Racing's Vitor Meira, and Cheever Racing's Indy Pro Series driver Nick Bussell. Cheever took the opportunity to turn some laps around the facility while sharing track time with his son, Eddie III. Meira and Bussell were part of an autograph session that was held for the fans that came out to support the Race for Riley.

"The main reason we're out here is for the children that need special attention and help," Meira said. "We want to help raise money for the kids, and when you can also sign some autographs and talk with the fans it makes it all worth while. It's something everyone should do."

For New Castle Motorsports Park owner Mark Dismore, the work that Riley Hospital for Children hits close to home. One of the former IndyCar Series competitor's employees, Rob Smith, has a 10-week old child who is receiving chemotherapy treatments twice a week because his body does not naturally produce enough white blood cells.

"I hope that the Race for Riley can be held here for many years to come," Dismore said. "We built this facility to bring karting to a higher level, and I hope it is serving its purpose well for the people at Riley and all of the great people that come to support this cause every year."

***

4. Larry Foyt to take on expanded role with father's team: To compete with the best teams in the IndyCar Series, A.J. Foyt says his team "needs to get younger." To that end, his son, Larry, will become more involved in operations of A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt said he will remain involved with the team, which won IndyCar Series titles in 1996 and '98.

"We're working hard at it," said Foyt during a weekend news conference to announce Investment Properties of America will be an associate marketing partner for the remainder of the season. "I worry about my reputation a bit; people know I'm not in this game to get beat. We will rebound, and that's one of the things that drives me."

Foyt, who had left knee replacement surgery less than a month ago, has been a passenger on a golf cart at the last two IndyCar Series events. He said racing injuries through his illustrious career have taken their toll, but haven't prompted him to completely retire.

"I know through the years when I was hurt two or three times, people would say, 'You won't make it back.' I was out to prove a point to everybody. I haven't lost that drive," he said.

Larry Foyt, who has competed in the past three Indianapolis 500-Mile Races, helped run the team in his father's two-race absence after surgery. He has been at most race weekends through the season. Larry, who directed the A.J. Foyt Enterprises NASCAR Cup and Busch Series teams, said his duties are "a little vague at the moment."

"(A.J.) knew I didn't want to quit driving, so that's hard," Larry said. "But, realistically, am I going to get a good ride? Probably not. At first it was tough for me to swallow, because I didn't want to quit driving. But in the long run it will be a good opportunity.

"I'm just learning right now, hanging out. I certainly don't want to be the boss' son coming in here trying to run things. I'm just watching how A.J. wants things done, watch our people and other teams.

"We just have to start taking our operation to the next level. We've gotten behind the last few years and we have to catch back up to these big teams. I'll be doing a lot of work probably with marketing to get more funding to go along with ABC (Supply Co.) and Investment Properties (of America) to take us to that level of some of the bigger teams."

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC Sports 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 Kentucky 100 on August 13 at Kentucky Speedway.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers John Andretti , Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Mark Dismore , Larry Foyt , Lyn St. James , Ryan Briscoe , Nick Bussell , Jay Howard , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira , Rob Smith
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing