IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-09-12

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Nashville Superspeedway Returns To 2007 IndyCar Series Schedule 2. Motorola to back Patrick in 2007 3. Carpenter ready for more racing 4. Hornish tops $13 million in earnings 5. Drivers...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Nashville Superspeedway Returns To 2007 IndyCar Series Schedule
2. Motorola to back Patrick in 2007
3. Carpenter ready for more racing
4. Hornish tops $13 million in earnings
5. Drivers reap post-race rewards
6. IRL community golfs for charity

1. Nashville Superspeedway Returns To 2007 IndyCar Series Schedule: The IndyCar® Series will return to Nashville Superspeedway in 2007, bringing the confirmed number of races to seven.

The IndyCar Series' annual stop at Nashville will be held on Saturday, July 14. A 100-mile Indy Pro Series race at the track will be held in conjunction with the IndyCar Series event.

"We are pleased to be returning to Nashville Speedway and bringing the IndyCar Series to Firestone's home city," said Brian Barnhart, president and COO of the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series. "The concrete pavement at Nashville brings an exciting element to our diverse schedule of super speedways, short ovals, road and street events."

The 1.33-mile concrete oval located near Gladeville, Tenn., has hosted IndyCar Series racing since 2001 and the Indy Pro Series since 2002. The track is the only concrete venue on the schedule and has produced one of the most competitive events in IndyCar Series history with six race winners in as many events.

The track's hand-painted Gibson guitar trophy is one of the series' most-sought after prizes.

"The IndyCar Series continues to be a fan favorite, and we are thrilled to have the series back in 2007," Nashville Superspeedway Vice President & General Manager Cliff Hawks said.

The remainder of the 2007 IndyCar Series schedule will be announced at a later date.

2. Motorola to back Patrick in 2007: Two days after completing her five-year association with Rahal Letterman Racing, IndyCar Series star Danica Patrick opened a new chapter with Andretti Green Racing.

With the announcement of her team's Motorola title sponsorship package and the unveiling of her 2007 black and blue Honda-powered Dallara, the 2005 Bombardier Rookie of the Year said she's looking forward to the next step in her IndyCar Series career. Argent Mortgage, XM Satellite Radio, GoDaddy.com and AirTran Airways are associate sponsors.

"Someone referred to (the car's colors) as the Batmobile, which was fast," said Patrick, who drove a street-legal replica of the car on Chicago's Michigan Avenue before the announcement in an art gallery. "It's black with that little bit of blue. It's a hot car and will pop on the track like no other. It will look good in first place."

Patrick completed her second IndyCar Series season with a 12th place in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean on Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway. While she said the day was bittersweet, she's looking forward to new challenges.

"It's something new, and change is good," she said. "But I'm going to miss not being able to see some of the guys as much as I do driving for (Rahal Letterman Racing). I'll always be grateful for the things Bobby and everybody at the team has done to help me and my career, and give me the best car possible.

She will join a team that produced two of the past three series champions (Dan Wheldon in 2005 and Tony Kanaan in 2004). Wheldon left last November to join Target Chip Ganassi Racing for this season, and Patrick will join Kanaan and Marco Andretti, this season's Bombardier Rookie of the Year, as drivers confirmed for '07.

"It's a huge step for me to be joining such a successful team whose only goal is to win races," Patrick said. "I'm greatly honored."

Patrick caught the attention of veteran open-wheel driver and team co-owner Michael Andretti with her four-lap qualifying run that resulted in a second-row starting position in her inaugural '500.' She backed up the effort with a scintillating run, becoming the first female to lead a lap in "the Greatest Spectacle in Racing," and finished fourth.

"I really like her attitude," said Andretti, who finished third in the 90th 500-Mile Race in May. "I thought, 'Man, I'd like to have her on my team one day.' I really didn't believe that it would happen. I was really surprised Bobby didn't sign her after the Indy 500 that year."

When the opportunity arose, AGR principals sprung into action.

"When she came to us and said she was available, we said, 'Well, we'd love to have you drive with us. Really, we got the deal done pretty quickly because both sides really wanted it to happen."

Andretti said the combination of experience and communication will go a long way in returning the team to prominence. Kanaan (Milwaukee) and Marco Andretti (Infineon) recorded the only victories for AGR.

"What's going to put all of them in Victory Lane next year is working together," Andretti said. "I stressed that to Danica, and I think she realizes it. With them and the fourth guy we're going to have in a car, it's going to be a really good, tight team.

"But we have a lot of work to do over the winter. We're going to maximize our time to try to catch up to the (Marlboro Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing) red cars. We have a lot of ideas on how to do it; we just needed time. To do it in the middle of the season you can't. But now that we have time when we're putting a lot of programs together, hopefully we'll have it figured out by the time we get to Homestead next year."

3. Carpenter ready for more racing: It wasn't that Ed Carpenter was dissatisfied with a career-high fifth in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean. He just wanted more.

Starting 12th on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway oval where he made his IndyCar Series debut in 2003, Carpenter ran as high as fourth by Lap 67 of the 200-lap race. He fell to the middle of the pack because of green flag pit stops, but was able to move from 11th on a Lap 156 restart to fifth.

"We started racing this weekend, I expected to come out of the last race with a top-five finish," said the driver of the No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone for the second-year team. "We've had cars that are capable of doing that all year, especially on the speedways. There were a couple of times where I made mistakes and that cost us, so I knew I had to come to Chicago and not make mistakes.

"The team gave me an awesome car and thanks to that last yellow flag we had a good pit stop, the cars got bunched back up and I was able to have a great restart and drive back up to fifth. It was a lot of fun today. We ended the season on a high note. The whole team should really be proud of themselves for what they accomplished this year. I'm really proud of them."

Tomas Scheckter finished 10th for the fifth event in which both Vision Racing entries finished in the top 10.

Carpenter's previous best finish was sixth at Watkins Glen International in June.

"It wasn't a long enough season for me, especially since I missed the first two races," said Carpenter, who was not cleared to drive at Homestead-Miami Speedway and St. Petersburg, Fla., because of an injury. "So, really, it was only a 12-race season for me."

4. Hornish tops $13 million in earnings: Sam Hornish's 2006 season paid off in a big way. In addition to becoming the second IndyCar Series driver to win the season championship and Indianapolis 500 in the same season, Hornish earned more than $3.7 million in race winnings and bonus money, becoming the first IndyCar Series driver to earn more than $13 million over his career.

5. Drivers reap post-race rewards: Dan Wheldon again reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.

As the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 Presented by Mr. Clean race winner, Wheldon 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.

Wheldon also collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 134 of the race, while A.J. Foyt IV claimed the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back. Ed Carpenter 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.

6. IRL community golfs for charity: More than 180 golfers representing Indy Racing League officials, sponsors and teams gathered at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course in Indianapolis for the 16th Phil Casey Charity Golf Tournament on Sept. 12.

The tournament was played despite soggy conditions due to persistent rain.

"It's a bum day because of how the weather went, but all the players showed up to play," said Casey, the IndyCar Series' senior technical director. "Everyone was having a good time until we had to stop playing because of weather. All and all, we're going to raise a lot funds for the charities, so it's a great day."

Proceeds from the tournament along with a silent auction held at the event, benefit Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno, Calif., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and The Smile Train. Tournament organizers expect to beat last year's record total of $40,000.

Casey organized his first charity tournament for a very personal reason. His granddaughter, Jennifer Burkhart, was diagnosed with pediatric diabetes at age 3. She was treated by doctors at Valley Children's Hospital.

Tournament co-host Rusty Wallace selected St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and The Smile Train to receive his half of the funds from the 2006 tournament.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. The Smile Train is an international organization dedicated to helping the millions of children around the world suffering from cleft lip and palate.

Among the participants who played were George, Wallace, Indy Racing League President and COO Brian Barnhart, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and COO Joie Chitwood III, IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher, Indy Pro Series team owner Brian Stewart and ABC Sports/ESPN broadcasters Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear.

***

Coverage of the Indy Racing League Championship Ceremony will air at 3 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 14 as ESPN2 will dedicate an afternoon of programming to the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series. In addition to the award's program, the Chicagoland 100 Indy Pro Series event (2 p.m. ET) and the finale of Andretti 3, the reality program chronicling the rookie season of third-generation driver Marco Andretti, (2:30 p.m.) will air on Sept. 14.

-credit: irl

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS