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

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Panther Partners with Super Aguri to Run Matsuura in 2007 2. Penske teammates confirmed for Rolex 24 3. Cunningham joins A1 Team New Zealand 4. Texas tickets on sale this week 1. Panther ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Panther Partners with Super Aguri to Run Matsuura in 2007
2. Penske teammates confirmed for Rolex 24
3. Cunningham joins A1 Team New Zealand
4. Texas tickets on sale this week

1. Panther Partners with Super Aguri to Run Matsuura in 2007: Two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced a partnership with Aguri Suzuki to field an entry for 2004 IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year Kosuke Matsuura in 2007.

Super Aguri Panther Racing, as the partnership will be known, will field Matsuura in his familiar No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Honda-powered Dallara alongside Vitor Meira, who finished fifth in the championship standings for Panther Racing in 2006.

Matsuura, who earned both the Indianapolis 500 Chase Rookie of the Year and Bombardier Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, has collected 17 top-10 finishes in his IndyCar Series career, highlighted by a personal-best finish of fourth place at Kentucky Speedway during his rookie season.

"We are absolutely thrilled with this partnership with Super Aguri and the opportunity to run Kosuke Matsuura in the IndyCar Series next season," Panther CEO and co-owner John Barnes said. "Kosuke is a great talent, and we feel like we have the people to teach him how to finish what he does in his races. I'm excited to get him into the Panther way of life and watch him grow into the great race car driver we know he is going to become. This is a great time for us. Everybody here knows Super Aguri, Panasonic and Kosuke just made Panther Racing a much better team."

The 27-year-old Matsuura is originally from Aichi, Japan and entered the IndyCar Series after successful stints in the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup Championship and German Formula 3 Championship. Last season, he finished 13th in the IndyCar Series standings, with six top-10 finishes and a best result of sixth at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I am very happy to have an opportunity to race in my fourth season in the IndyCar Series and realize that it is a big responsibility," Matsuura said. "Panther Racing has won a series championship in 2001 and 2002, so I am very thrilled to be able to join the champion team in this new partnership. I will do my very best and aim to win."

The announcement marks Panther Racing's return to a two-car operation after spending 2006 as a single-car effort. Panther previously fielded two cars during the 2004 season and as many as three entries during parts of the 2005 campaign. The team earned back-to-back series championships with Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001 and 2002 and has collected 15 race victories in its nine-year history.

With the formation of Super Aguri Panther Racing, the team welcomes former Formula One driver Suzuki to the team. Suzuki, who became involved in the IndyCar Series in 2002, is one of Japan's most successful Formula 1 drivers and has been helping promote young Japanese drivers through the ARTA (Autobacs Racing Team Aguri) Project.

"I am very happy and excited to be able to make a new entry in the IndyCar Series with Panther Racing as Super Aguri Panther Racing," Suzuki said. "Though it will be the fourth season for Kosuke Matsuura, he has so much to learn from Panther Racing. I believe Matsuura will show positive and dramatic change next season."

2. Penske teammates confirmed for Rolex 24: Defending IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. and his Penske Racing teammate, two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, will join Michael Shank Racing for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

"I'm extremely happy that I will be with this team for the 24-hour race," Castroneves said. "I've been trying to do this race for a few years now and to be able to compete on the same team as my good friend (Oswaldo Negri), and for such a good team owner in Mike, it's unique. It will be the first time that I won't try to beat Sam in a race. Actually, it will be the first time I'll be rooting for him."

Castroneves will make his first appearance in the race, while Hornish raced in the 1999 Rolex 24 with Intersport Racing. The IndyCar Series drivers will join the team's regular drivers Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Riley-Lexus for the Jan. 27-28 race. Negri and Patterson finished second in last year's around-the-clock endurance race.

"Being able to get a set of teammates for this race is huge," said Shank, who was Hornish's car owner in 1999. "They are familiar with each other and constantly push each other to get better. Both of these drivers are super-fast, and I can't wait to get back here for the race. This is a great day for us."

"The Daytona 24-hour race is known all over the world," said Castroneves. "It has the best drivers together in one race and I wanted to be a part of it. I watched the race from home last year when these guys almost won, so hopefully this year, we can get one place higher. So many things can happen over such a long race, and I know this team will work hard. I'm honored to be here."

3. Cunningham joins A1 Team New Zealand: 2005 Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham joins New Zealand's A1GP World Cup of Motorsport team in China this week to fill the recently created Friday test role in the lead-up to the third round in Beijing Nov. 10-12.

Under an initiative introduced to encourage franchises to give promising young drivers A1GP experience, drivers under the age of 25 can test with their national team on the Friday before an event up to three times.

Cunningham, a 22-year-old Auckland, New Zealand native who won the World Karting Championship in Italy in 2003 and the Indy Pro Series championship in 2005, was invited to join A1 Team New Zealand at the pre-season test at Silverstone in the United Kingdom in late August, and with his experience on ovals and temporary courses in the United States was considered the ideal candidate for the Friday test role on the temporary Beijing street circuit.

"From the map, it looks fairly standard for a temporary circuit - plenty of 90 degree corners, one fast sweeper and one very long straight," said Cunningham, who led the Indy Pro Series with four victories in 2006. "Something else that may well be a factor is the weather. I've been keeping an eye on the temperatures over there and by the look of things it is going to be freezing."

4. Texas tickets on sale this week: The first opportunity to purchase individual tickets for the IndyCar Series' annual visit to Texas Motor Speedway begins at 9 a.m. on Nov. 8.

Tickets for the Bombardier Learjet 500k IndyCar Series event on June 9 will be available for purchase at the speedway's main ticket office, online at www.texasmotorspeedway.com, by calling the speedway ticket hotline at (817) 215-8500 or at participating Ticketmaster locations.

"We already have the momentum going for what will be a very exciting season in 2007, and I encourage our fans to get their tickets early," TMS President Eddie Gossage said. "Those choice seats will go fast."

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Kosuke Matsuura , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Aguri Suzuki , Wade Cunningham , Michael Shank , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Michael Shank Racing