IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-03-26

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 26, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Winner of opening race goes beyond exuding confidence 2. Lloyd turns attention to St. Petersburg 3. Pablo Perez medical update 4. Drivers...

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 26, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Winner of opening race goes beyond exuding confidence
2. Lloyd turns attention to St. Petersburg
3. Pablo Perez medical update
4. Drivers reap post-race rewards:

1. Winner of opening race goes beyond exuding confidence: In 2002, Sam Hornish Jr. led 166 of the 200 laps in winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So the distant third-place finisher in the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 on March 24 relayed to the late-night news conference crowd what winner Dan Wheldon was experiencing.

"That was one of the nicest days I had in the car," Hornish said, referring to the second of his three IndyCar Series victories on the 1.5-mile oval. "When the car handles that well, the race just can't go by fast enough."

Aside from a few anxious moments during a mid-race pit stop, the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 was a Sunday drive for Wheldon. He led 179 of the 200 laps in becoming the first IndyCar Series driver to win three consecutive years at the same racetrack.

"You always want to dominate," said Wheldon, who left Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon 6.4993 seconds in his wake. "And I knew at the (Feb. 21-22) test that I had something that was very competitive. But, no, I guess I didn't think I would dominate like that.

"I think everything kind of went my way to a certain degree. And with the situation that we had in the pits, we were able to not lose too much time because I could get to the front quickly and really not work the tires too much in doing so."

The extended pit stop, caused when an air gun briefly got caught under a tire, dropped Wheldon to ninth. It might have rattled him in the past. Maybe it's synergy with the team entering their second season together or growth from the season-long championship battle in which he tied Hornish in points after 14 rounds but was rendered the runner-up based on a tiebreaker (four victories to two), but Wheldon quickly was on the radio to encourage crew members.

"I would have to say (it's) maturity and confidence in the car," acknowledged Wheldon, who was back on the point within 11 laps. "The reason I would say it's maturity is because when I was at Andretti Green I think Tony (Kanaan) thought he was immature until he saw me. At one particular incident that we had, he found himself calming me down. And he had never seen himself in that position before.

"So I think just with experience you understand the circumstances. I did have a very good car underneath me. And I still had about 90 laps to get to the front. So it wasn't a big issue. And the biggest thing that I felt last year is sometimes I really tried to force the issue. And I didn't want to do that again. I wanted to let it come to me."

It did, in dominating style under the lights.

***

2. Lloyd turns attention to St. Petersburg: Now that Alex Lloyd has won on an oval, he's looking forward to more familiar territory of the twists and turns of a temporary street circuit. Lloyd stayed clear of debris and pitfalls March 24 to win the Miami 100 on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, taking a yellow/checkered combination ahead of pole sitter Chris Festa. The scheduled 67-lap race was truncated because of a Lap 47 incident that involved five cars and damaged a section of the Turn 2 catch fence above the SAFER Barrier. Lloyd, a two-time winner last season on road courses, now turns his attention to the 1.8-mile circuit on the scenic streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Many of the teams will test on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course on March 27.

"I knew that winning was possible in the first race," said Lloyd, making his debut in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon Systems/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.

"I knew I was going to have a very strong car and a very good opportunity. But the difficult thing is when you have that opportunity to make it happen straightaway and come out there and win the first race and the pressure is on. And we were able to do that, which is a great confidence boost. Of course, this is my first race win on an oval. It crosses that sort of boundary, if there ever was one, in winning on an oval. So that was very good. It all worked out very well. We had a few ups and downs at practice and qualifying where things didn't quite go to plan, but it went together for the race, which is the most important thing."

Lloyd, of Manchester, England, finished seventh in the 2006 Indy Pro Series standings with AFS Racing despite missing three races with a vestibular disorder. In 2004-05, he competed in Euro F3000 and selected Italian F3000 event ast year, Sam Schmidt Motorsports won the driver championship with Jay Howard, another driver whose forte is road racing. Communication, preparedness and training goes a long way in developing consistent race winner.

"The great thing in coming to Sam Schmidt Motorsports is they have a lot of success on ovals," he said. "They have a lot of success on road courses as well, but they've won a lot of races on the ovals, they've won championships in this series before. I really felt like my relative inexperience on ovals was sort of made up for by their experience, and they could really give me a lot of guidance in how to get the best out of the car and how to race well.

"So I felt like I'd done more racing on ovals than I actually had, to be honest. So I came in with a lot of confidence and really used their experience, Sam Schmidt's obvious experience in Indy cars to my advantage. I think that helps a lot. When we come into St. Petersburg, which is now more of what I'm used to in road courses, I've raced there twice before, I feel very strong because, you know, I've raced these cars at that track.

"So we're all looking very good. I know we should have a good car. A lot of our preseason testing has been development towards St. Pete. I'm looking forward to see how that goes."

***

3. Pablo Perez medical update: Indy Pro Series driver Pablo Perez underwent further surgery for injuries on March 26 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, said Dr. Michael Olinger, director of medical services for the Indy Racing League. Olinger said tentative plans are in place to transfer Perez to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis as early as March 27 for definitive care under Dr. Kevin Scheid, the Indy Racing League's orthopedic consultant and a member of the Delphi Safety Team Perez, a 24-year-old rookie from Argentina, sustained serious leg injuries in a multi-car accident on Lap 47 of the Miami 100 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the season-opening race of the 2007 Indy Pro Series season. He has undergone multiple surgeries for his injuries since arriving at Jackson Memorial Hospital on March 24 and is progressing as expected, Olinger said Further updates on Perez' condition will be provided when available.

***

4. Drivers reap post-race rewards: Dan Wheldon reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event. As the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 race winner, Wheldon was presented with an Automatic Gran Data timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2007 and a $100,000 timepiece to the IndyCar Series champion. Wheldon also collected the IndyCar Series Pole Award and its $10,000 prize and the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 135 of the race. Kosuke Matsuura claimed the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back. As the Miami 100 race winner, Alex Lloyd was presented with a Forum timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the Indy Pro Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each Indy Pro Series event in 2007 and a $25,000 timepiece to the Indy Pro Series champion. Chris Festa collected the SWE Race Car Parts Pole Award and its $1,000 prize.

***

The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on April 1. The race will be telecast live by ESPN 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 continues with the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg doubleheaders on March 31 and April 1 on the at Streets of St. Petersburg. The race will be telecast at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Kosuke Matsuura , Alex Lloyd , Chris Festa , Jay Howard , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing