IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-11-21

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Honda to sponsor IndyCar Series event at Mid-Ohio 2. Schmidt inks Lloyd for Indy Pro Series seat 3. Kite offers fans chance to see 2007 races 4. Crawford awards test to karting standout 5.

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Honda to sponsor IndyCar Series event at Mid-Ohio
2. Schmidt inks Lloyd for Indy Pro Series seat
3. Kite offers fans chance to see 2007 races
4. Crawford awards test to karting standout
5. Castroneves wins "Golden Helmet"

1. Honda to sponsor IndyCar Series event at Mid-Ohio: American Honda Motor Co., Inc. announced that it will be the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course next July. The July 22 race -- the 12th of 17 on the IndyCar Series calendar -- marks the return of Indy-style competition to Mid-Ohio for the first time since 2003. "There are many reasons why this monumental racing weekend is such a great fit for Honda and Acura," said John Mendel, senior vice president of auto operations for American Honda. "There is our long-time presence in Ohio as a manufacturer, Honda's tradition in open-wheel racing, currently as single-engine supplier to the IndyCar Series; and now in the American Le Mans Series, where Acura will be powering multiple teams in its first year of competition. "Add to that our decade-plus partnerships with both the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the Mid-Ohio School, which has brought us tremendous exposure as Official Vehicle and Official Pace Car."

The race weekend, which will also feature an American Le Mans Series event, is poised to become the largest and most significant motorsports event in Ohio, and has the potential to become the world's largest gathering of Honda associates.

Honda operates three manufacturing plants in central and western Ohio with more than 15,000 workers, approximately two-thirds of all Honda associates in the United States. "We're bringing Honda's and Acura's highest-profile domestic racing programs virtually into the backyards of more than 15,000 company associates who are based at our plants in Marysville, East Liberty and Anna," Mendel said. "We're thrilled to play a significant role in this historic racing weekend, and we are extremely grateful to our partners at IndyCar, the American Le Mans Series and Mid-Ohio for helping to make it happen."

The IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series will compete on a 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course. The park-like, 330-acre complex is located 60 miles north of Columbus and 75 miles south of Cleveland near Mansfield. "We've enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Honda and are thrilled with their involvement in this new event," said Michelle Trueman Gajoch, president of TrueSports, Inc., which owns and operates the facility. "Honda's passion for performance -- combined with our rich motorsports tradition -- will undoubtedly translate into a thrilling weekend for our fans and the thousands of Honda associates that work and live in Ohio."

2. Schmidt inks Lloyd for Indy Pro Series seat: Two-time Indy Pro Series race winner Alex Lloyd will drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the Indy Pro Series in 2007, the team announced. Lloyd, who turns 22 in December, won two races and recorded six top-five finishes in nine starts for AFS Racing in 2006. He finished seventh in the championship point standings despite missing three races. "I am thrilled to join Sam Schmidt Motorsports," said Lloyd, a native of the United Kingdom who recently relocated to Indianapolis.

"The team has won two of the past three driver championships in the Indy Pro Series and is the most successful team in the series' history. For me to be a part of this organization is fantastic and a great opportunity. Everyone within the team is very professional and easy to get on with so I am sure we are going to have a lot of fun and a lot of success."

"Obviously we are extremely pleased to announce that Alex will be competing with our team for the full season," team owner Sam Schmidt said. "Observing him throughout 2006, I know that he has the talent to compete for wins and the championship. He is also a quality individual, and I know our team will enjoy working with him next year."

Lloyd debuted in the Indy Pro Series in the doubleheader event on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. After qualifying on the front row, he recorded 10th- and third-place finishes. Lloyd's victories came on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he passed for the lead with two laps to go, and at Infineon Raceway, where he moved from fifth to first in the first eight laps. Lloyd won the British Open Championship karting title at age 14. In 2003, he was the Formula Renault UK Vice Champion and received the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award. He has tested a McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 Car and was chosen as a driver for Team Great Britain in the A1GP in 2005.

"Our expectations for the year are simply to win the championship," Lloyd said. "Last year I was able to win two races in the nine that I competed in the Indy Pro Series, and this season I will be in the championship-winning car. All the elements are in place for a very successful year and I can't wait to begin work for the upcoming season."

3. Kite offers fans chance to see 2007 races: IndyCar Series veteran Jimmy Kite has found a unique way to combine his passions -- racing and the hobby industry -- while working to continue his driving career. The five-time Indianapolis 500 starter recently opened JK Hobby World in Farmington, Mo., where he lives during the racing season.

"I'm definitely not done racing but without a full-time IndyCar (Series) or NASCAR deal right now, I decided to look a little bit towards my future," Kite said. "Opening the store made perfect sense. It is a great way to combine things I really like and leaves me open to pursue rides."

Kite's store carries models, games, train and slot car sets as well as an extensive list of radio controlled cars, planes, tools and supplies. He also offers customers a chance to win tickets and pit passes to every IndyCar Series race in 2007, including the 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500. "It is great to have friends in high places," Kite said. "We wanted to set ourselves apart. Every time you buy from us, you'll be entered to win two tickets, including cold passes into the garage area, for every IndyCar (Series) race next year. You could even win two tickets and suite passes to the three biggest racing events in the world at Indianapolis. You won't find that offer anywhere else in the world."

4. Crawford awards test to karting standout: When Michael Crawford went to Las Vegas the weekend of Nov. 10-12, it was for some of the least gambling he's done all year. The first-year team owner in the Indy Pro Series put everything he had -- savings, house, job -- on the line late last year to form Michael Crawford Motorsports. He made sure the team made it to the racetrack with two cars for all 12 events in 2006, and his team made enough in prize money and sponsorships for Crawford to breathe a bit easier -- just a bit -- as he looks forward to 2007 from a new 7,500-square-foot race shop near the Indianapolis International Airport. Hence the trip to Las Vegas. The 39-year-old wasn't there to put his 2006 winnings on red or black on the roulette wheel, he was there to scout talent at the SuperKarts! USA Super Nationals.

More than 300 drivers competed in seven classes of karts on a 12-turn, 0.8-mile course at Sam Boyd Stadium. In the end, Crawford awarded the event's "Rising Star Award" winner, San Jose, Calif., native Ron White, a free test in an Indy Pro Series car later this winter. "I've seen the future, and it's definitely bright," Crawford said after the event. "There were a lot of talented people there. "We identified Ron as the Rising Star and are looking forward to testing him early next year. Like a lot of guys out there, he deserves a chance at the next level."

White, the 2002 Super Nationals champion, competed in the Star Mazda Championship this season, finishing fifth in the title chase. The 25-year-old won three of the series' final four races and had six top-five finishes overall.

5. Castroneves wins "Golden Helmet": Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was among the winners at the 10th Capacete de Ouro Awards in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Nov. 20. Castroneves edged Vitor Meira and Tony Kanaan in the voting in the TOP category, which honors the top Brazilian racing in the United States. All three drivers are past winners of Capacete de Ouro. Kanaan and Castroneves were also nominated for a special "Driver of the Decade," which was won by Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello. A panel of Brazilian journalists vote for Capacete de Ouro awards in 13 categories. They are considered the "Academy Awards" of Brazilian auto racing.

-credit: www.indycar.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Rubens Barrichello , Helio Castroneves , Jimmy Kite , Tony Kanaan , Sam Schmidt , Alex Lloyd , Ron White , Vitor Meira