IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-01-18

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 18, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Diverse Challenge Awaits IndyCar Series In 2007 2. Top Indy Pro Series teams gear up for season 3. Vision Racing launches website 1....

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 18, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Diverse Challenge Awaits IndyCar Series In 2007
2. Top Indy Pro Series teams gear up for season
3. Vision Racing launches website

1. Diverse Challenge Awaits IndyCar Series In 2007: In less than 65 days, the 2007 IndyCar Series season, which features a record-tying 17 events between late March and early September, begins what promises to be a wild and fast ride But with its blend of speedways, short ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, the schedule will challenge both drivers and the teams that prepare their racing machines.

"We have 1.5-mile ovals," said Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. "We have superspeedways. We have short ovals and road and street courses. That means in 2007, the driver who wins the championship will have succeeded on a variety of tracks."

The season kicks off under the lights on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and ends Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. Set aside May for the 91st Indianapolis 500 and two weeks of lead time for the event at Twin Ring Motegi (April 21) and that leaves 18 weekends for 15 races.

"I think having diversity in the series, everything from road courses to short ovals to superspeedways, makes the series complete," said Danica Patrick, who joins Andretti Green Racing in 2007. "It's what attracts drivers. Back in the heyday of Indy Car racing, that's what it was, a little bit of everything. That's what the IndyCar Series is getting back to, and I think it will be attractive to a lot of people."

ABOUT THE 2007 INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE: Three new venues debut: the 0.88-mile Iowa Speedway oval, the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and the 2.096-mile Raceway at Belle Isle street circuit. The IndyCar Series season will open with a prime-time event, the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- a first for Indy-style racing. The race is one in five prime-time on the 2007 slate. There are four short ovals (Richmond International Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, The Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway) on the schedule. Iowa (June 24) and Richmond (June 30) will be contested within six days of each other. There are six 1.5-mile speedways (Homestead-Miami, Twin Ring Motegi, Texas, Kansas, Kentucky and Chicagoland) and two superspeedways (2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 2-mile Michigan) on the schedule.

In the past, the Indy Japan 300 preceded Month of May activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In '07, once equipment clears U.S. Customs in Indianapolis, it will be on the way to Kansas Speedway for practice and qualifying just a few days later. The Twin Ring Motegi-Kansas Speedway events offer additional diversity and challenges. Though both 1.5-mile ovals, the configurations are completely different for car set-ups.

In addition to the permanent road course at Mid-Ohio, the IndyCar Series will return to Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International for the third consecutive year. Belle Isle joins the race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., as events staged on temporary street courses. Milwaukee returns with a new date following the Indianapolis 500, resurrecting an Indy-style racing tradition.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT THE 2007 SCHEDULE

JEFF SIMMONS: "I grew up running quarter midgets when I was younger. That was basically all ovals. Then for a while in my career, all I ran was road courses. I can honestly say that what I really like is diversity and having the whole mix. I think one of the things that makes this series special is that we have a really good balance."

ED CARPENTER: "I'm all for more races and adding the diversity to the schedule is good. I had the chance to test at Mid-Ohio for the series after the season, and the track seemed to be challenging for the drivers, and they have a great fan following there. Then we add another solid street course at Detroit and a short oval to mix it up, so I'm pretty happy about it."

MARCO ANDRETTI: "I always say I live for the places where you really have to drive and all three of those are like that. I love my road courses, obviously, but on short ovals, I've been really learning my race craft. It can only be good for me."

DARREN MANNING: "Adding more races, especially road courses, is good for me, considering my general background is road racing. I love the ovals because as I like to say, it's all still corners, but the more corners there are, the better for me. I'm looking forward to getting out there and racing again."

SCOTT DIXON: "The more road races they add, the better for me because I enjoy road courses so much. The five we have now shows the series has come a long way. I'm looking forward to all the road courses and the new short oval at Iowa. Our team has struggled on the short ovals lately, but they are a love of mine. I think a step in a right direction."

SAM HORNISH JR.: "With addition of another road course, a street course and a short oval, it shows that the series is getting away from being just mile-and-a half races that turn into draft-fests. The series has quite a bit of diversity. Two of the new courses we go to are both within two hours of home for me. I'm especially excited to go to Detroit because it is a street course. I tend to enjoy the street courses more because they leave so little room for error."

TONY KANAAN: "I think coming up with another short oval and adding another two road courses, it's much better. I come from a road course background. Detroit is where I won my first race ever, but I also had a crash where I broke my wrist, so I have mixed feelings. It will be great to be back there."

2. Top Indy Pro Series teams gear up for season: Two teams that battled down to the wire for the Indy Pro Series championship in 2006 are making preparations for a similar clash in 2007. Brian Stewart Racing, which won the entrant championship by 10 points, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which won the driver championship with Jay Howard by a four-point margin, shared Sebring International Raceway for two days of preseason testing Jan. 16-17. Both teams feature a new driver lineup for 2007 -- with a proven race winner in one car and a rookie in another - making preseason testing all the more important.

"These preseason tests are very important not only to immediately look for improvements on the cars, but also to build team chemistry," Sam Schmidt Motorsports team manager Chris Griffis said. "All the guys can learn from each other, not just the drivers. We've got a couple more tests planned before the Open Test at the end of February, so we should be in good shape once the season starts."

Alex Lloyd (Schmidt) and Bobby Wilson (Brian Stewart) are the veterans who have championship ambitions with their new teams. Lloyd won two races with AFS Racing in 2006 while Wilson won once with Kenn Hardley Racing. "The test went very well," Lloyd said. "It was a productive two days. The car was good straightaway, so we were able to spend a lot of time trying out different things. Everything we tried, we kept finding time, which is a very good thing.

"This was a good time to get on with the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team. We were able to work together for the first time. The guys are very professional, and now I know why they've been so successful the past few seasons. It's great to be a part of it. I think I can learn a lot this season."

Wilson, who competed in the final three races of 2005 with Brian Stewart Racing, was similarly pleased. "It was kind of like putting on an old pair of shoes," Wilson said. "With the groundwork we laid at the end of 2005, it was like being home again. I'm really excited. It was very easy to get back into the swing of things."

While the teams worked on their own programs in separate areas of pit lane, both were well aware of the other's presence and of the battle that looms ahead. "They know what I was doing, and I know what they were doing," Wilson said. "It's very evident that we're going to be going head-to-head all season. You've got two top teams, two top drivers -- that's the way racing is. The team is going to try to repeat the team championship, and I'm going for the driver championship. I'm excited to get going." Logan Gomez, an 18-year-old rookie who made one Indy Pro Series start last season, and Ryan Justice, who made two starts last year, also tested for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Brad Jaeger tested for Brian Stewart Racing.

All Indy Pro Series teams will participate in a two-day Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway Feb. 20-22. The teams will have one day on the road course and one day on the oval. The 2007 season begins March 24 with the Miami 100 on the facility's 1.5-mile, high-banked oval.

3. Vision Racing launches website: Vision Racing has launched its official website at www.visionracing.com. Created by racersites.com, the site boasts a sleek design that features team news, photos, biographies, stats and other information. "The internet is the medium of both today and the future, so creating a website for the team was essential," said team principal Tony George. "It will allow us to better communicate with our fans, media, sponsors and the general public."

***

The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (EST) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Homestead-Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast on a delayed basis by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Sam Schmidt , Tony George , Alex Lloyd , Ryan Justice , Brad Jaeger , Bobby Wilson , Jay Howard , Logan Gomez
Teams Team Penske