IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-10-17

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Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Drivers return to roots at karting event 2. Patrick appears in Jay-Z video 3. Rahal Letterman hires new technical director 4. Hornish cheers on Tigers 5. In Review: Bobby Wilson 1....

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Drivers return to roots at karting event
2. Patrick appears in Jay-Z video
3. Rahal Letterman hires new technical director
4. Hornish cheers on Tigers
5. In Review: Bobby Wilson

1. Drivers return to roots at karting event: When the inaugural endurance karting event at New Castle Motorsports Park took place in 2004, track owner Mark Dismore never envisioned how large it would become. That year, 30 entries took the green flag for the race.

This year's edition saw 80 entries and a 56-kart starting field for the 200-lap contest on Oct. 15.

"I guess word traveled from year to year that people were having a good time," said Dismore, a former IndyCar Series driver. "The 56 cars that were on track had some great drivers. Hopefully, next year we'll have an even bigger and better event."

Eight representatives from the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series were on hand to take part in the event, including last year's winner Dan Wheldon. The 2005 IndyCar Series champion was again paired with Mark Dismore Jr.

Their thoughts of being back-to-back winners were foiled in the early going when their Comet Kart Sales-sponsored machine experienced brake problems, putting them several laps behind.

Despite the mechanical troubles, Wheldon was delighted to return to his racing roots.

"It's always good to come out and do things like this," the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver said. "This is how I started my racing career, so it's good to be out here with people who aspire to be in the IndyCar Series. You can even learn a thing or two by being out here and running against these guys because a lot of them do this all the time. The Dismores are great people, and they were actually the ones that took me to my first Indianapolis 500."

Reigning Indy Pro Series champion Jay Howard and his No. 0 Screaming Talent team finished 13th -- the highest of IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series drivers. Like Wheldon's, Howard's kart was strong in the beginning, but a miscue in the pits cost the team a shot at the victory.

"We were leading in the first stint and came in for a pit and were docked a position for a fueling infraction," Howard said. "We went back out and during my second stint the exhaust broke, so I had to come back to the pits. It was really fast out there though and it was a lot fun and a great workout."

IndyCar Series veteran Sarah Fisher was also on hand, teaming with Katherine Legge for this year's event. They finished 22nd after a chain came loose from the kart, forcing a string of unscheduled pit stops. For Fisher, it marked the beginning of what is shaping up to be a hectic off-season.

"I'm going to do some Skip Barber off-season training to prepare for road course racing," Fisher said. "I have been helping Kyle O'Gara with some karting races as well. We're going to go run an endurance race in Norway, which I'm looking forward to. On top of all this, I'm also going to school so all of this is keeping me plenty busy."

Also participating were the IndyCar Series' Tomas Scheckter, Jeff Simmons and Scott Dixon as well as Indy Pro Series drivers Veronica McCann and Arie Luyendyk Jr.

"It's good to be out here," Scheckter said. "With everyone like Dan (Wheldon) and Scott (Dixon), plus all of the kids that race this event, it makes it very special. We all grew up doing this, and we're all still very competitive. Sometimes we don't like getting beat by a 15-year-old kid, but that happens. We've made about 10 unscheduled pit stops, but this a great event, and I have to thank the entire Dismore family for putting this on."

The RH Racing entry of Ricky Rudd and Paulie Harraka won the race, which was taped for broadcast on Speed.

"We have a former Brickyard 400 winner that won here today and last year we had an Indy 500 winner (Wheldon)," Mark Dismore said. "We are going to put a trophy on permanent display in the lobby, which will list all of the previous winners of this event."

2. Patrick appears in Jay-Z video: Was that Danica Patrick driving a sports car at breakneck speed on the treacherous roads above Monaco?

The IndyCar Series driver makes an appearance in a video for the new Jay-Z single "Show Me What You Got." The opening scene of the four-minute James Bond-inspired video shows Patrick racing against Jay-Z. The video, directed by F. Gary Gray, premiered Oct. 16 on MTV and is also featured in a new ad campaign for Budweiser Select.

"Show Me What You Got" marks Jay-Z's first single from "Kingdom Come," his comeback CD scheduled to be available Nov. 23.

"Getting a chance to appear in the new Jay-Z video was a pretty cool opportunity," Patrick said. "I have been a big Jay-Z fan for a long time and to be part of his comeback video is a thrill."

3. Rahal Letterman hires new technical director joins: Jay O'Connell has joined Rahal Letterman Racing as Technical Director. O'Connell will oversee all aspects of RLR's engineering department and programs.

"Jay is someone I have known and respected for a longtime," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "His track record of success is well documented, and I felt a chance to bring someone of his experience and stature into our team was an opportunity to significantly strengthen our operation. I think the addition of Jay to our engineering staff will prove to be one of our most beneficial moves of the off season."

O'Connell brings a wealth of engineering experience in and out of motorsports to the team. He has worked on multiple projects with the Ford Motor Company, most recently as a SVT Chief Vehicle Engineer where he oversaw 25 engineers working on the 2007 Shelby GT500 and the 2006 Ford GT.

"I am really excited to work with Bobby again and leverage my background in open wheel and sports car racing," O'Connell said. "I am looking forward to leading the talented group of engineers at Rahal Letterman Racing to become an even more engineering driven organization."

O'Connell has previously worked with Jaguar Racing Formula 1 as Research and Development Department Manager and was the Ford Racing CART Program Manager from 1998-2001. He has significant sports car experience most recently having redesigned the Panoz LMGT2 chassis, which won the 12 Hours of Sebring.

"The level of competition in the IndyCar Series has been raised to a high level," said Scott Roembke, chief operating officer of Rahal Letterman Racing. "Our foremost priority in this off season is to increase our competitiveness. The addition of Jay to our current engineering staff is a big step towards meeting our goals."

4. Hornish cheers on Tigers: IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. threw out the ceremonial first pitch before New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds games this year. But the Napoleon, Ohio, resident is a Detroit Tigers fan.

So the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion is pumped about the Tigers reaching the World Series for the first time since 1984 -- when Hornish was 5 years old and Kirk Gibson was the hobbled hero of Detroit's championship run.

Hornish and his wife Crystal watched from a Penske Corp. suite at Comerica Park as the Tigers clinch the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees.

"It was really exciting to watch the Tigers clinch the series," he said. "I've never seen a crowd cheer so much during every single pitch. Every strike was like they won the game and every ball was like they lost. It was an electric atmosphere at Comerica Park."

Hornish isn't the only Penske driver rooting on the Tigers. Helio Castroneves is close friends with Tiger catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who makes his offseason home in Miami.

5. In Review: Bobby Wilson: (Note: This is part of a series reviewing the season of the top drivers in the Indy Pro Series in 2006.) Bobby Wilson, No. 24 Ocala Gran Prix/Kenn Hardley Racing

Noteworthy: One of four drivers who was eligible for the championship entering the season's final race. Finished the season as one of three drivers with 11 top-10 finishes and 11 races running at the finish. Competed with Michael Crawford Motorsports in the first three races before joining Kenn Hardley Racing.

In his own words

Season overall: "I am very happy to be a part of Kenn Hardley Racing. I feel I worked very hard during the season, being very consistent in the top 10 and gaining respect from my team and my competitors. It was a goal of mine to finish every race, and bring the car home without a scratch, and I was very close to accomplishing that. I had finished every race up until Chicago, so that was a huge disappointment, since I was taken out there. Overall, I am very fortunate to be a part of this series with my sponsor Ocala Gran Prix and Kenn Hardley Racing behind me. I can only hope for better results in the future. I know I am dedicated to winning the championship, and the team has the same goal. I can't wait for next season, and to hopefully make the step to the IndyCar Series."

Season highlights: "The highlight has to be Watkins Glen. We got all the possible points that we could, and I was excited to be in the chase for the championship. I love racing in the rain, it suits my driving style well. We were really clicking as a team in only our second race together. I was very happy to get my first pole/win, and I can't wait for more to come."

Season lowlights: "The lowlight of the season has to start at Nashville. We had just changed engines, and we weren't as fast as we had been in any test. I struggled with that for five races."

-credit: irl

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS