INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- May 31, 2007
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. After 500, IndyCar Series goes to Milwaukee
2. Sharp, Crew Chief Grahn Win Special Indianapolis 500 Awards
3. Camara hopes to break Lloyd's streak at Milwaukee
1. After 500, IndyCar Series goes to Milwaukee: For the first time in 12 years, a bottler of milk doesn't just mean the end of the Indianapolis 500, it signals the beginning of travel plans for the legendary Milwaukee Mile.
This weekend, many of the drivers that participated in the Indianapolis 500 on May 27 will make the trek up I-65 to Chicago and then I-94 to Milwaukee for Sunday's ABC Supply A.J. Foyt 225.
From 1996-2005, the week after Indy date was part of the CART Champ Car schedule but after the IndyCar Series held a race at The Milwaukee Mile the past three years, it's been moved to its traditional week after Indy slot on the schedule.
"We always packed that place when we left the Indy 500, Wisconsin race fans are great, they are just out of this world," said four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Sr., one of nine drivers to win the Indianapolis-Milwaukee double. "Their favorite drivers who did bad or good here in Indy, well they cheered them on in Milwaukee and that just made a wonderful trip out of it."
Unser's son, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., recalls seeing his father and uncle, Bobby Unser, race at Milwaukee after racing in Indy.
"Back then, it was during their State Fair, and that is what I liked about it. I got to go ride on the rides while dad was racing," said Unser Jr., who like his father recorded wins at Indianapolis and Milwaukee in 1994. "All through my career, we would race Indy and then race Milwaukee, it is something I grew up with and the track holds a lot of tradition."
Because the racetracks are so different, with Indianapolis the longest track on the schedule and Milwaukee a short oval, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford, who doubled up in 1974 acknowledged it was a bit of an adjustment.
"Anywhere we went after that race it was like, 'Golly, why are we going so slow?'" Rutherford said. "You've been at Indy all month practicing and getting your timing down for this 2½-mile race course and you go to Milwaukee and it's a flat one-mile track.
"The technique was totally different because it was flat, had no banking to speak of and one mile in length you had to slow down that much to make the car handle to go around The Milwaukee Mile. I enjoyed Milwaukee. It was one of my favorite racetracks. It was a finesse racetrack. It was so flat and right after all the high speeds we ran at Indy so it was a challenge."
One week after the biggest race of the year, the momentum carries over to Milwaukee, creating interest at the track and on television.
"I love it that it is back on the schedule, I love Milwaukee, it is one of my favorite ovals to drive," said Andretti Green Racing co-owner Michael Andretti. "For me as a competitor, not having much luck at Indianapolis it was always nice to have a race the following week at a racetrack that for whatever reason I had good luck at."
2. Patrick, Franchitti make special deliveries: Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti and his Andretti Green Racing teammate, Danica Patrick, might compare notes when they reunite June 1 for the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 presented by Time Warner Cable at The Milwaukee Mile.
Both threw out ceremonial first pitches May 30 -- Franchitti at Minute Maid Park in Houston before the Astros hosted the Cincinnati Reds and Patrick at Road Ranger Stadium in Loves Park, Ill., before the Rockford RedHawks faced Traverse City in a Frontier League game.
Coming off an eighth-place finish in the 91st Indianapolis 500, Patrick participated in the MDA Danica Patrick Jersey Auction. For the second consecutive year, the RiverHawks took the field in jerseys modeled after the Roscoe, Ill., native's racing suit. Immediately following the game, the jerseys autographed by Patrick were auctioned off to fans, with proceeds going to the MDA.
Franchitti entered Minute Maid Park with some trepidation. The Scot had played cricket as a lad, but had never thrown a baseball. After a quick session with pitcher Roy Oswalt, the left-handed Franchitti was ready to go. The capacity crowd cheered when he was introduced and (mostly) cheered after Franchitti delivered a ball (low and inside).
"When I went into the corridor, the next thing you know we're standing there on the field and I thought, 'Wow!' '' Franchitti said. "There were all the players there having batting practice and balls wizzing by and the crack of the bat. The first guy I saw was Ken Griffey Jr., and with my limited knowledge of baseball even I know who he is. We did a little bit there on the field and then went to practice throwing a few balls with Roy Oswalt and I felt more comfortable after that.
"It was good fun. I went out there and threw it and I was more relaxed. They said it was better than Dan's (Wheldon in 2005) throw, so that made me feel better."
Afterward, he was interviewed on the TV and radio broadcasts. Earlier in the day, Franchitti was a guest of Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage at a media luncheon. Gossage presented Franchitti a Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat.
"I'm not used to being the Indy 500 champion to be honest," Franchitti said. "I think it's gradually kind of soaking in I guess. At first, in Victory Circle, I was in shock, I must admit. I was just in total shock that it all happened and it all went my way and I couldn't quite believe it."
Franchitti will join other IndyCar Series competitors in the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9.
"We wish you the best," Gossage said. "I hope you have a great time and soak it up. Have fun being the Indy 500 champion. That's such a special thing and then we look forward to seeing you here next week for the Bombardier Learjet 550k."
3. Camara hopes to break Lloyd's streak at Milwaukee: Jaime Camara heads to The Milwaukee Mile hoping the country's oldest active oval track is as good to him this year as it has been in the past.
Camara and 21 other Indy Pro Series drivers will contest the Road Runner 100 at the facility on June 2 -- the fifth of 16 races on the 2007 schedule.
Camara is one of the leading candidates to end series points leader Alex Lloyd's four-race winning streak. The 26-year-old Brazilian won the pole at The Mile in 2005 and recorded his third career Indy Pro Series victory there last year.
"I love that track," said Camara, who drives the No. 11 Osofresh car for Andretti Green Racing. "I've always done well there.
"We had a test there a couple of weeks ago, and my car was really good right out of the box, so I think we're going to be really competitive there from the first practice. I'll do my best. We're working hard on the setups already. This whole week we're going to see what we want to change from the test for the race, adapting to the weather conditions. I really think this one is going to be really good. I want to fight for the win to the last lap."
While Lloyd has been the record setter this season, tying the series mark for consecutive victories and becoming the first driver to win on both the oval and road course at Indianapolis, Camara has been making his own statements.
He started the season by advancing a record 20 positions during the race from a starting position of 24th to a finish of fourth. He made jumps of 15 spots in each of the last two races.
"I had a problem with the fuel pump at Homestead, and that cost me qualifying," Camara said. "But the race was good. At Indy, I had a problem with the uprights (during qualifying). I can only hope that they fix those problems for the next races. I expect the best from them. I trust them. I think they are doing a great job, and I think they will do it for me."
Others entered in the Road Runner 100 include last year's pole winner and 2005 series champion Wade Cunningham, leading rookie Hideki Mutoh and Oconomowoc, Wis., native Bobby Wilson.
The Road Runner 100 will be the first one-day event for the Indy Pro Series with practice, qualifying and the race all taking place on June 2.
The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 presented by Time Warner Cable at 4 p.m. (ET) on June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. 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 Road Runner 100 on June 2 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast at 6 p.m. on June 7 by ESPN2.