IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-01-29

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 29, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Road course Open Test an important starting point for 2007 season 2. Pecorari signs with Team KMA 3. Andretti honored at EMPA convention 4.

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 29, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Road course Open Test an important starting point for 2007 season
2. Pecorari signs with Team KMA
3. Andretti honored at EMPA convention
4. Drivers help organization raise funds

1. Road course Open Test an important starting point for 2007 season: Vitor Meira has been anxiously awaiting the start of the 2007 IndyCar Series season. He has invested hours at the Panther Racing shop since the first of the year, questioning and being questioned by race engineers and shop personnel about everything and anything. It's all part of the off-season planning for the 17-race IndyCar Series season. Time on the front end, Meira hopes, will cut off time on the racetrack. Anything to assist the driver of the No. 4 Dallara/Honda/Firestone to grab his first IndyCar Series victory is welcome. The first Open Test of '07 -- Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 -- is an example. It will be the first time all the 3.5-liter Honda engines will be stocked with 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol and the first official time the IndyCar Series cars will turn right and left on a modified road circuit at the historic Daytona International Speedway.

"Where ever it is, there are always things to learn," said Meira, entering his second season with the two-time IndyCar Series championship team. "Anytime we can be at the track, whether it's a track we race on or not, it's a gain. There are things to test and gain more knowledge. Things you try during the year you can check and see if they are better or worse, so you have more knowledge for the year."

IndyCar Series drivers also will test Feb. 21-22 on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, which will host the season opener March 24 (prime-time race).

From a team standpoint, Target Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull will be looking for execution, communication and at the competition. His team's drivers, 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon and 2003 series title holder Scott Dixon, each won two races last season. But Wheldon came up short in the season-long championship race to Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr., losing on the races won tiebreaker.

"Basically in testing, what we do is you've got to understand the tuning changes and the parameters that affect the car the greatest, and we can learn all of those things at Daytona," he said. "So testing is very important for us. As Vitor said, everybody works hard during the winter to try to improve their individual product. It's the first opportunity that you really have to come out and test with everybody that's represented in the IndyCar field.

"So that is probably the second reason why you want to be at Daytona, or any other racetrack, is to find out how much improvement teams have made. And even bigger than that, we race at Indianapolis with IndyCars. Running at Daytona with IndyCars is a big statement. We're very excited to be at Daytona for that reason."

FAST FACTS:

WHAT: IndyCar Series Open Test

WHERE: Daytona International Speedway, 10-turn, 2.73-mile circuit

WHEN: 10 a.m. -- 5 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1

CARS: Dallara chassis; Honda Indy V-8; Firestone tires

SCHEDULE (All times local; subject to change):

Wednesday, Jan. 31
10 a.m. -- Noon IndyCar Series testing
Noon -- 1 p.m. Lunch Break
1 -- 5 p.m. IndyCar Series testing

Thursday, Feb. 1
10 a.m. -- Noon IndyCar Series testing
Noon -- 1 p.m. Lunch Break
1 -- 5 p.m. IndyCar Series testing

THE TRACK: 10 turn, 2.73-mile road course which incorporates tri-oval superspeedway and non-banked infield section. Infield course and chicane range from 30 to 50 feet wide.

VITOR MEIRA'S VIRTUAL LAP: "Braking into Turn 1 is the hardest you have on the whole track. You go from 187 (mph) to maybe 100 mph. It's a second gear corner. You go through the little Esses, which is like a straight for us. The second hardest braking is going into Turn 3, which for me is first gear. There are some people who might be in second. Then you go through four, which is flat and really heavy braking into five. The Daytona prototypes go straight and we turn left in second gear. You accelerate a little bit, still in second gear, before the backstretch, which is second gear and very slippery. You get to the chicane in fifth gear and downshift to third. The chicane is really cool and fast. The curves allow you to use a lot of the track and you stay in third or fourth gear for three or four seconds before hammering it again heading onto Turns 3 and 4 on the oval side where it has more bumps and undulations more than I thought. We have so much grip in the downforce that it's not a big problem. From there on it's sixth gear onto the start-finish."

2. Pecorari signs with Team KMA: Pennsylvania native Robbie Pecorari will drive Team KMA's Indy Pro Series entry in 2007, team principals Ingo Strackerjan and Jon Lewis announced. Pecorari passed his Indy Pro Series rookie test Jan. 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Pecorari will drive the Cabo Wabo-sponsored Dallara throughout the series-record 16-race season that features races on oval, street and road courses. Cabo Wabo Tequila is owned by legendary rocker Sammy Hagar, who recently became a co-owner of Team KMA's Indy Pro Series car.

"It's really exciting to announce that we were able to offer Robbie a sponsored drive, thanks to the people of Cabo Wabo Tequila," Lewis said. "Besides being a music icon and car fanatic, this truly demonstrates Sammy Hagar's belief in supporting young, talented athletes. As a sponsor of our team and a co-owner of our Indy Pro Series race car, this dramatically increases and enhances the ladder system we have established for our drivers to successfully progress in their careers."

"First off, I would like to thank Jon and Ingo for trusting me to put the Cabo Wabo Tequila car on the top step of the podium," Pecorari said. "Without them and Sammy Hagar none of this would be happening. "I am also looking forward to coaching our team's Formula BMW drivers. This will be a first for me, but I am looking forward to the extra time at the track and becoming an integral part of this team."

Pecorari finished second in the 2005 Star Mazda Championship, just 11 points shy of capturing the title after claiming two victories and seven podium finishes. In 2006, he dominated the Toronto Grand Prix in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, leading every lap and taking the victory. Pecorari will mentor the team's three Formula BMW drivers; Mike Hill, Julia Landauer and Jeffrey Petriello, who will be sponsored by the Cabo Wabo Cantina.

"We are indeed excited to have Robbie within the KMA team," Strackerjan said. "We all know that with his knowledge, Robbie will add to our talent pool, providing our young FBMW drivers with driving pointers, race strategies, and in general, the opportunities to learn from an accomplished driver.

"Over the past three years I watched Robbie's success, followed his progress from karting to Atlantics and have seen Robbie's talents. He will be very successful in the 2007 Indy Pro Series championship. With the addition of more road courses, many of them he has raced on in previous years, his chances are very good to gain podium positions. Our plans for Robbie are very simple -- he will be our entry to the Indy Racing League and the dream to participate in the biggest racing spectacle in the world -- the famous Indianapolis 500. Nothing less will do. We thank Cabo Wabo and Sammy Hagar for being such a great supporter and believer in Team KMA."

3. Andretti honored at EMPA convention: Marco Andretti, the 2006 IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year, was honored with the T. Wayne Robertson Newsmaker of the Year Award Jan. 27 at the annual Eastern Motorsports Press Association convention. "It's a great honor," said Andretti, who captured the attention of the racing world with a second-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 and later became the youngest driver to win a major open-wheel series race with a victory at Infineon Raceway.

"T. Wayne had the same belief that my entire family does, and that was getting the sport out there and getting it done. My entire family got the award. I'm honored to be the third."

The 19-year-old addressed a group of approximately 100 EMPA members at the organization's annual convention in Trevose, Pa. He recalled some early moments in his racing career and looked ahead to 2007. When asked about his goals for the upcoming season, the answer was short and to the point. "Win the Indy 500," he said. "And the championship would be nice."

4. Drivers help organization raise funds: IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series drivers helped Racing For Kids raise more than $200,000 for children's hospitals and touched the lives of more than 2,000 children at 24 hospitals around the United States and Japan through its popular driver visit program in 2006. Racing For Kids is a non-profit organization that uses motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the healthcare needs of children. Hospital visits are made by former IndyCar Series driver and current team co-owner Robbie Buhl, the organization's national spokesman, along with drivers from the IndyCar Series, the Indy Pro Series, the Star Mazda Racing Series as well as the Toyota Grand Prix celebrity challenge drivers.

"The visits brought smiles to the faces of sick children, whose lives had been interrupted with illness or surgery," said J. Patrick Wright, executive director of Racing for Kids. "Often our driver's visit is the best memory a child has of their hospital stay." Since its founding in 1989, Racing For Kids has raised nearly $5 million.

***

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 at 5 p.m. (EST) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Scott Dixon , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Robbie Pecorari , Mike Hull , Julia Landauer , Jeffrey Petriello , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing