IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-01-04

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 4, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. 2007 IndyCar Series season around the corner 2. Sharp, Rahal team have eyes on national title 3. Gomez joins Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver ...

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 4, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. 2007 IndyCar Series season around the corner
2. Sharp, Rahal team have eyes on national title
3. Gomez joins Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver lineup

1. 2007 IndyCar Series season around the corner: It seems like only last week when Sam Hornish Jr. was posing with the Borg-Warner Trophy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Next week his likeness will be unveiled on the iconic slice of sports memorabilia. The 2007 IndyCar Series season is quickly approaching. The 17-event schedule kicks off with a prime-time race, a first in Indy-style racing on March 24 at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2).

Open Tests on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Daytona International Speedway and Feb. 21-22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will give fans a preview of the upcoming season.

Anticipation for another close duel already is growing. Last year, 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon held off the hard-charging Helio Castroneves by 0.0147 of a second, the ninth-closest finish in series history. "It's a great racetrack, and I've had a lot of success there," said Hornish of Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he has posted three victories in six races. "I look at that track as someplace that I love starting the year out because it seems I usually get a good start in the points. I like the night races and I think it will be a great show there."

Here's a quick recap of the schedule by the numbers:

6+5+4+2 Diversity in the schedule smacks you in the face with six speedway ovals (1.5 miles), five road/street courses, four short ovals (less than 1.5 miles), and two superspeedways (2 miles or more).

17 Races competed over 10 years at Texas Motor Speedway, the most in the series. Castroneves won in 2006 for the second time at the 1.5-mile oval. For 2007, 50 kilometers has been added to the race distance.

100 Percentage of the venues from the 2006 schedule which return on the '07 schedule.

3 New venues added to the schedule: road courses at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Belle Isle in Detroit and the 0.875-mile oval at the new Iowa Speedway.

6 Different race winners and pole sitters in as many years at Kansas Speedway, which hosts the series on a new date, April 29. Nashville Superspeedway also has seen six different race winners in as many years, while Michigan International Speedway checks in with five different winners in its five events.

2 Consecutive victories by Scott Dixon at Watkins Glen International, which hosts the series July 8 for the third year. Castroneves has started from the pole both years. Andretti Green Racing drivers Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti have won the two races at Infineon Raceway, which hosts the series Aug. 26.

7 Races at Kentucky Speedway, which moves to a twilight green flag on Aug. 11. Reigning series title-holder Sam Hornish Jr. used a victory at the 1.5-mile oval to pile up the points in the championship race. He's the only two-time winner at the track.

11 Indianapolis 500-Mile Races under the sanctioning Indy Racing League. Castroneves (2001, '02) is the only two-time winner in that span. There have been 11 different pole winners.

1 and 1 Castroneves started from the pole and Team Penske teammate Hornish won the race at Richmond International Speedway in June -- reversed order from the 2005 event. The 0.75-mile track hosts the series June 30.

2. Sharp, Rahal team have eyes on national title: Rahal Letterman Racing driver Scott Sharp has a little extra incentive to cheer on the Florida Gators in the Jan. 8 BCS National Championship game. Sharp, who lives Tequesta, Fla., not far from Palm Beach, Fla., made a friendly wager with his new team, Rahal Letterman Racing, over the holidays. Rahal Letterman Racing is based in Hilliard, Ohio, near Ohio State's campus in Columbus, Ohio. "I'm a big college football fan, and since I moved to Florida, I've become a fan of the Gators," said Sharp, the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion. "I was going to cheer for Florida anyway, but this will make the game a lot more interesting, especially since some team members are Buckeye fans."

The terms of the wager are simple: If Florida wins, Sharp's No. 8 Dallara/Honda/Firestone will carry the Gators' national championship logo for the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24.

If Ohio State wins, Sharp must wear an Ohio State cap and jersey during the parade lap of the IndyCar Series' inaugural visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July. "It's a win-win for Scott," said Scott Roembke, Rahal Letterman Racing's chief operating officer and general manager. "If he wins, obviously he gets to show his support of Florida on the car. If he loses, the Buckeye fans at the race will love him and cheer for him. He can't lose."

3. Gomez joins Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver lineup: Sam Schmidt Motorsports added Indiana native Logan Gomez to its 2007 Indy Pro Series driver lineup Jan. 4, signing the 18-year-old to a one-year contract with an option for 2008. Previously, the team signed two-time race winner Alex Lloyd for the season. Gomez was one of only two 17-year-olds to have competed in the Indy Pro Series. The Crown Point, Ind., native finished 10th in the Liberty Challenge on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in June.

"I couldn't be more pleased with our program for this coming season," Gomez said. "This will be the best environment for me to pursue my dream of competing at the Indianapolis 500. 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. 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."

"We are extremely pleased to announce that Logan will be competing with our team for the full season," said Sam Schmidt, whose team has won 13 races the past three seasons. "Born and raised in Indiana, he is a perfect example of the type of driver the Indy Racing League was established for. I also personally look forward to working with someone who is so young, talented, energetic and a quality individual. I'm sure the combination of his talent and our team's experience will be very successful."

Gomez, known in Midwest racing circles as 'The Indyana Kid,' began his winning ways in go-karts at age 9, competing nationally in World Karting Association, SuperKarts USA, Enduro and Stars of Karting events. In 2005, he won the SKUSA Super Nationals ICC 125 shifter class. He also was a Skip Barber Scholarship Winner and Red Bull F1 Driver Search semi-finalist. Last year, he finished seventh in the Star Mazda Championship and was voted the Most Improved Driver with eight top-10 finishes.

"Our goals for this year are to compete at the front on a regular basis, finish races and gain valuable experience," Gomez said. "Having Alex as a teammate will be a big benefit from a learning perspective. All the elements are in place for a very successful year, and I can't wait to begin testing for the upcoming season."

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Scott Sharp , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Skip Barber , Marco Andretti , Alex Lloyd , Logan Gomez , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske