IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-03-22

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 22, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. IndyCar Series debuts 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol 2. Fisher to contest full IndyCar Series schedule 3. Lewis, Crews join Michael...

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 22, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. IndyCar Series debuts 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol
2. Fisher to contest full IndyCar Series schedule
3. Lewis, Crews join Michael Crawford Motorsports
4. Contenders line up for Indy Pro Series title run

1. IndyCar Series debuts 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol: Twenty cars running at speeds in excess of 220 mph around Homestead-Miami Speedway are poised to make motorsports history on Saturday night as the IndyCar Series debuts the use of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in competition, a worldwide racing first.

The event marks the first time a major automobile race has been run completely on ethanol. The IndyCar Series was the first to embrace a renewable fuel source and is currently the only series to run on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol.

"We are proud to continue our leadership in racing innovation while making history on Saturday night with a cleaner-burning renewable fuel cultivated in the fields of America," said Brian Barnhart, president and chief operating officer of the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series.

Ethanol is distilled from high-starch crops, primarily corn in the United States. The fuel meets the high performance demands of the IndyCar Series with a higher octane rating (113) in its racing form than methanol (107). Last year, the IndyCar Series ran on a 90 percent methanol 10 percent ethanol blend with impressive results.

And ethanol is not exclusive to the race track. Ethanol-enriched fuel is widely available at gas stations across the country. The most widely available is E10, a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol that is approved for use in any vehicle built after 1980. E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline and can only be used in Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). There are more than 6 million FFVs on the road today. By the end of 2007, nearly 140 plants will be producing approximately seven billion gallons of ethanol

Ethanol-enriched fuel reduces harmful tailpipe emissions in passenger cars by nearly 30 percent. Last year, consumers used enough ethanol to remove nearly 8 million tons of greenhouse gases from the air. This is equal to removing more than one million cars from the road. As production and use of ethanol grow, so too will the environmental benefits.

Beginning Saturday night, ethanol will share the track with a one of America's fastest sports. At each race during the season, fans will see ethanol, a renewable fuel, power a vehicle past the checkered flag, a tribute to the vision shared by many in the racing industry and in farmlands across the U.S.

To learn more about the benefits of ethanol, visit www.drivingethanol.org .

***

2. Fisher to contest full IndyCar Series schedule: Sarah Fisher will compete on the 12 ovals and five street/road course events on the IndyCar Series schedule in the No. 5 Dallara/Honda/Firestone prepared by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

"Sarah tested for the first time on a road course in an IndyCar (Series car) after the Homestead-Miami Open Test and really proved herself and her abilities," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "She really impressed us, and because of this we are making a commitment to put all of our efforts behind her as the driver of the No. 5 car. We want to continue to develop her overall talents, which can only make us stronger as a team as we move forward."

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 1 will be Fisher's first non-oval event in and IndyCar Series car. She is the first female in Indy car racing history to sit on a pole on an oval, and will compete in the season-opening XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to also be competing on the road courses," said Fisher, who completed her first road course test on Feb. 25. "My first test on a road course went extremely well and I learned so much. I've never had so much fun in my life; running on an IndyCar (Series) road course reminds me of my sprint car days.

"Karting is all road courses and a lot of the theories and techniques translate to the big cars. I've been working out and practicing on road courses in my shifter kart and at Skip Barber during the off-season."

The team will continue to look for sponsors for Fishers efforts, but didn't want to hold her back.

"We are in a great position with her car, where we have three-fourths of the budget covered with the primary signage still available on the car," team co-owner Robbie Buhl said. "We need to get $1.5 million to round out our budget, so someone is going to be getting the best deal in all of sports marketing for that. Sarah has worked harder than she ever has before, so we believe that she has earned this position."

***

3. Lewis, Crews join Michael Crawford Motorsports: Michael Crawford Motorsports will campaign drivers CR Crews and Shane Lewis in the Indy Pro Series season opener March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Crews, an 18-year-old Dallas native, will drive the No. 6 Magnus Energy Marketing car, while Lewis, who resides in nearby Jupiter, Fla., will drive the No. 8.

"I got my feet wet on both the ovals and road races last year," said Crews, who made four Indy Pro Series starts, recording two top-10 finishes. "I know I can win races in this series. I will win races in this series. I truly want to surprise as many people as possible by giving (team owner) Michael (Crawford) his best finishes."

Lewis, a veteran sports car racer, will perform double duty during the weekend, debuting in the Indy Pro Series and competing in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

"I'm excited," Lewis said. "I've raced almost everything on wheels but this will be my first time in an open-wheel car on an oval. Michael, Tim (Whiting, engineer) and all the Michael Crawford Motorsports guys have been great to work with. I was hoping to be here at Homestead in the IndyCar Series car, but I couldn't pass on the chance to race the Indy Pro Series car. If you look at the depth of talent and the professionalism of the teams in this series, I think this will be the best open-wheel race of the weekend."

***

4. Contenders line up for Indy Pro Series title run: With the announcement that 2006 Indy Pro Series championship runner-up Jonathan Klein would drive the No. 2 Team Moore Racing car in both races on the streets of St. Petersburg (Fla.), the talent of the series grew deeper.

Seven of the top eight finishers in last year's standings will be at St. Pete for races March 31 and April 1. Where are you Nick Bussell? In the opener March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the series will celebrate a first with the past two season title holders returning. Jay Howard will compete for first-year team SpeedWorks, while '05 champion Wade Cunningham will drive an AFS Racing entry.

In all, a record 26 cars are entered for the race on the 1.5-mile oval that kicks off 16 events (nine road/street courses). Additional cars are possible for the St. Pete doubleheader weekend. Seven new teams have joined the series -- so far.

"The series has grown this year, both in participants and in events, and I think this will be the strongest year in the history of the series," said Howard, who outdistanced Klein by four points last season and is locked in with the No. 44 car through the first three races.

Cunningham, who missed repeating as champion by 11 points after missing two races because of appendicitis, said he'll be pushing hard from the start. Cunningham recorded three victories and finished outside the top 10 only once last year.

"We proved last year that you can fight to lead a lot of laps, win races and challenge for the championship without taking risks," he said. "That is our goal for the year."

There is no shortage of challengers, and with the diversity of the schedule title contenders will be thoroughly tested.

"Really, it's looking like it's going to be a very strong year for the series," said Alex Lloyd, who won two races last year and will drive the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon Systems car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. "I felt that the series was very strong last year, but all the elements are in place to make it an even stronger series. Certainly, in my opinion, the strongest feeder series in the United States right now in open-wheel racing."

Lloyd, who finished seventh in the title hunt last year, will compete with the team that has won two driver championships and 13 races.

"We probably have two expectations," Lloyd said. "First, and probably the most important, is to go out there and win the championship. For myself, I have won races in the Indy Pro Series now and know that that's not sort of a boundary for me to cross. I know that I can do that.

"What I want to do is to now put a championship year together. I mean, the team have obviously done that before. They've got the experience. That's what we all want to do -- we want to come away with a championship. On a second note, one of our expectations is not just to win the championship in a close-fought battle. It can be a close-fought battle, but we want to win it by winning a lot of races, trying to do it in a dominant fashion. Our real aim is to try and win five, six, seven, eight races of the year.

"Of course, if there's another guy that's able to do the same thing, it's a close race, that's fine. But we really just want to win as many races as we possibly can."

Bobby Wilson could be one of those "guys." Wilson, who finished fourth in the '06 standings, will drive the No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing car.

"(Stewart) made it pretty clear when I was signing on, he's adamant about keeping that No. 1, so I know there are some high expectations out there, and I have no problems with that, because I have them as well," Wilson said. "So I'm just going to do my best, trying to win every practice, get pole every race and win every race, so that's how I have to look at the season."

It all starts with the opener.

***

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. (EDT) 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 Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 5 p.m. (EDT) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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