Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Darren Manning and Alex Lloyd teleconference 2. Pit stops can be key to success in IndyCar Series title race 3. Chesson teams with Roth, Dussault Apparel for Chicagoland race 4. Lloyd, ...
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Darren Manning and Alex Lloyd teleconference
2. Pit stops can be key to success in IndyCar Series title race
3. Chesson teams with Roth, Dussault Apparel for Chicagoland race
4. Lloyd, Prendeville test IndyCar Series machines
5. Hildebrand joins RLR/Andersen Racing at Infineon
1. Darren Manning and Alex Lloyd were the featured guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
Lloyd, who is on the verge of clinching the Indy Pro Series championship on the strength of a series-record seven wins, spoke about his recent IndyCar Series test with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and his plans for 2008.
Q. Ultimately the role of the Pro Series is to give guys the opportunity to move up to the next level. Last week, you had an opportunity to test an IndyCar. Tell us about that.
ALEX LLOYD: "It's been an amazing couple of weeks for me. I got my first IndyCar test at Sebring, and that was very special for me, especially racing with Chip Ganassi Racing. They're one of the biggest teams in the IndyCar Series, and one I've always dreamt of driving for.
"To get a call from them saying, 'We want to put you in our car alongside Scott Dixon," and you go out there, and I've got an opportunity to show the best team out there and share a car with one of the best guys out there and show them what I can do, and I have an opportunity to learn as much as I can off these guys, that was a great experience. The car is a fantastic car to drive.
"I think one of the things I learned from this is that these cars, the Indy Pro Series, prepares you well for the IndyCar Series. I felt completely at home when I got in the car. Obviously there's more horsepower, more grip, but it only took me a handful of laps before I was right there and feeling competitive, and then I spent the rest of my time learning and working on the car to suit my driving style.
"So that's, again, one of the greatest things the Pro Series is there for is to train drivers, and for me it's done a great job. Great to have done that test now, and I'm looking forward to more tests."
Q. Alex, got anything planned for next year to move up into the (IndyCar) Series?
ALEX LLOYD: "There is a lot of interest at the moment. We're really you know, I'm not rushing into anything too much at the moment. I'm just waiting to see what's around the corner. But like I say, the great thing is I've had a lot of people call me up, asking me what my plans are, and I'm just going to wait and see how things unfold and try and pick the best ride that's available for me.
"I've got a lot of confidence that I'll be in the IndyCar Series next year, where is still a little bit unknown but for me. It's important to try and get myself in a race winning car so I can compete and try and get some race wins. We'll see where we end up, but so far things are looking promising."
Manning, who joined A.J. Foyt Racing this season talked about how the team is taking 2007 as a building year.
Q. You mentioned the results this year aren't quite what you were hoping for, but do you feel you're laying the groundwork for next year?
DARREN MANNING: "Absolutely. It literally has been. It's been, "I wish we could start the weekend over again right now. It's been very difficult to carry anything over. Some of the big changes at the beginning of the year from Homestead to Motegi to Indy was a big learning curve for us; those things carry forward. But we got to a stage after Indy trying to get the fine tuning settled on the car, and that last little bit of speed, which is nearly impossible to do.
"We always would finish the weekend saying, at least we know we're going to be alright next year when we come back to these tracks, and it's not very good to be saying that but, you know, we've got to look at where they're coming from over the last few years of parking the car nearly every other weekend because of set ups and speed and crashes.
"If you look at it on paper, from where they're coming from, we're right to be looking at it as a building year, and that's pretty much what we're doing, and when we get our chances, we are racing right up front with them."
2. Pit stops can be key to success in title race: For the drivers chasing the 2007 IndyCar Series title, the upcoming road/street course races at Infineon Raceway and the Raceway at Belle Isle could be the key to winning the championship.
Qualifying and running up front during the race can be critical for a driver trying to score maximum points. But if they are behind their rivals, pit stops are the prime opportunities for gaining extra positions.
A pit stop is never as easy as it looks. For six-and-a-half seconds (if all goes well), the drivers' chances in the race are in the hands of their pit crew.
"In six-and-a-half seconds, a lot goes through your mind," said Todd DeNeve, the fueler for Scott Dixon's No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara. "You think about a lot more stuff than you imagine you would in six-and-a-half seconds. A lot of things are happening. It's almost like you're in slow motion. You think it's been a long stop and then look at the stopwatch on the fuel tank and it was only six seconds."
Getting on and off pit road quickly in the laps before and after a stop also can help a driver pass a rival who may be difficult to pass on a road/street course. Scott Dixon used this formula to get the lead during the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio earlier this year.
Being part of the pit crew is one of the most exciting parts of a race team. It is also potentially one of the most hazardous, yet few would swap their job in the pit lane for anything else.
Following are some comments from some of the key players in an IndyCar Series pit stop about their duties, and how they help their driver get up front.
SCOTT DIXON (Driver, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "You're thinking about the pit stop well before you hear that you will be pitting. Before the second stop at Mid-Ohio, we knew our car was quicker than (Helio) Castroneves, but we couldn't get by him, so we decided that we should save fuel early in the stint. Just by saving fuel, we were trying to go that one lap longer we needed.
"During an in lap you're trying to go as hard as you can. You make sure you're using full-rich fuel and trying to put together the best lap that you can while gaining as much time as you can. We emphasize that. You also are looking ahead and making sure you have the space going into pit road. You also have to make sure you don't speed because that's a bigger penalty than anything you'd lose in the pits.
"As you approach your pit, you're trying to get clear vision and see that the (crew) guys have given the most room so that you can to get into the stall cleanly. You're trying to be smooth and not overshoot, but you don't want to be short because that seems to throw off the crew and takes more time. A lot of things are going through your head when you're trying to hit your marks.
"Through the whole pit process I'm looking at the two front tire changers. You can see them clearly. You can feel the changes and you can notice when things seem to be out of whack. I'm trying to pull first gear as late as I can so that I don't upset the rear tire changers. I try to leave that for as late as possible and focus on (crew chief) Ricky (Davis) to tell me to go.
"I think the out lap is harder than an in lap. The tire grip is hard to judge and can be where you can gain a lot of time. I love out laps. That's where we gain time on others. It's a lot of fun. You're again just trying to piece together the quickest lap and not give a lot of track position."
JOHN ANDERSON (Race strategist, Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone driven by Dario Franchitti): "When to pit on a road course is the big decision to make. If it works in your favor, you look like a hero and you look like a bozo when goes it wrong. You basically don't want to get caught by a yellow. You also don't want to be the first one in because if you can go a lap longer than the next guy, you may be able to get around him. The big thing is when the pit stops start, there can be yellows because guys trying to go too quick on cold tires. If you're about to pit and the yellow comes, you're stuck out there. Guys who are through with their stops come to the front and you join the queue behind them.
"There's no hard and fast rule to pitting. There are certain things you can do, you just have to see how the race develops and pick which strategy you're going to use. Saving fuel is great if you can't pass. If you save fuel, you can go further than the guy or if he comes in at same time, you can put in less fuel and get a quicker pit stop."
DAVE SHARPLEY (Outside front tire changer, No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone driven by Dario Franchitti): "After Ando (race strategist John Anderson) says we're pitting, you're going through some checks in your mind and make sure your equipment is right. I'm making sure my (air) gun is right. I have my spare nut on my belt and have the right tire. It's time for getting yourself focused, and I'm trying to figure out where Dario (Franchitti) is and whose cars are in front or behind us coming in by looking at the pylon or watching him on the track.
"When he comes in, the spotter tells me, 'Dave, he's the second car in line,' or 'He's behind so and so.' I'm still trying to find out where he's at and trying to be as visual for him as I can be to make sure he sees me. He has to know where I'm at as well.
"From there it's a pretty standard procedure. It's the same procedure that we've trained long and hard for all year long. It's a standard tire change. That's the clockwork of the pit stop. It's a routine -- nut off, tire off, tire on, nut on. That's the routine. That's the easier part of the pit stop for me. It's so practiced and so routine.
"From there I'm the driver's key to leave. That's the adrenaline part of the pit stop. I'm holding him and waiting for everyone to be done and making sure all the fuel is in. At the same time, you have to have your eyes up pit lane and not send him out when there's someone coming in or leaving.
"I think that's the most important part of my job. I need to make sure everyone is clear of the stall and make sure that if people are coming out of pit lane that I am not sending the car out into it, or sending the driver out with the fuel hose plugged in. You don't have to worry as much if you're first in line, like we've been lately. If there's someone coming and he's two boxes behind, Dario's going. I'm sending him and he's on his own. He's using Ando and he's using his own mirrors to get back out on the track."
NICK FORD: (Outside rear tire changer, No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone driven by Tony Kanaan): "What I'm thinking when TK (Tony Kanaan) pits depends on what we have going on. Is it a regular pit stop? Are we under caution? Where are we on the track? Can we make up spots or maintain? If it's a backwards stop like Detroit, I may think about it a little more. I just try to get ready and do my visualizations and get ready and do the pit stop.
"My job entails a little more than everyone else. It's nothing too elaborate, but it can be crucial to the stop. It all starts as TK's pulling into the pits because I've got to run around the car. My cue is to start earlier than everyone else and get timing right to be around the car as he comes in. I run around the car and get my gun on the hub by the time the car is up in the air. I'm the last guy to get there, and by that time I don't have to worry about the car coming up.
"I don't want to pull the gun early and drop the (wheel) nut. I switch my gun on the way down, so I don't have think about if I've switched it or not. I pull off the old tire and pick up new one. It's a whole process. Hopefully, the old tire doesn't bounce so I can throw the new one up right away. I make sure the gun is on the hub and tighten the nut. I need to make sure it's tight, and I have to get up and get the right front tire from my crew chief and get both his tire and my tire out of the way as well and hopefully, we've made up some spots."
TODD DeNEVE (Fueler, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, driven by Scott Dixon): "When I hear we're going to pit, I start going through my mental checklist. I'm the fueler, so I check the pressure to fuel probe. I make sure the fuel valve has pressure. I check the deadman valve and just check everything. I'm also in charge of the pit box, so I make sure everyone has the right tire and they have air pressure for the guns and get ready to go over the wall.
"I always visualize the pit stop before it happens. We do a lot of practice in the off-season. We do 20 consecutive stops. I visualize that, and that keeps me from getting nervous. I just reflect on all the successful stops. There are a lot of people watching you, especially on the fuel-only stops.
"I look down pit lane until I see our car. Once I spot it, I don't take my eyes off it. I make sure my feet are on my marks and I watch the car until see the buckeye. I focus on the buckeye and try to get plugged in. Once I'm in, I make sure the valve is open. I watch the vent and wait until it's full, or if it's a timed stop, we have a light on the vent and I watch for that. I pull out as quick as I can and try to stay away from a car and hope we beat cars on pit lane, which we've done a lot this year.
"Of course, sometimes the fuel takes longer than tires and when they drop the car, the driver has full throttle waiting to drop the clutch. Sometimes the clutch moves a little. You're thinking, 'I hope he doesn't dump the clutch.' It's happened to me before, but I don't dwell on it. When the car hits the ground, I have a lot of faith in (crew chief) Ricky (Davis) that he won't send the car until he sees the bottom of my probe. You have to have a lot of faith in the driver and outside front guy that he won't send it early. If you worry, you'll end up with a problem."
3. Chesson teams with Roth, Dussault Apparel for Chicagoland race: P.J. Chesson expects the two Roth Racing cars to "turn some heads" during the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway.
He was referring to being competitive in the IndyCar Series season finale, but easily could have been citing the "Dussault Green Monster" livery design on the Honda-powered Dallaras.
Chesson, who has made four IndyCar Series and 12 Indy Pro Series starts, has been named by team owner Marty Roth as the driver of the No. 73 car for the race on the 1.5-mile oval. Roth will make his fourth start of the season in the No. 25 car.
Dussault Apparel Inc., whose new Monster line of hoodies is the inspiration and main element of the car design, is the primary sponsor. The program includes a "Name the Dussault Green Monster" contest through Sept. 6 on indycar.com.
"It's like the dream team having Dussault Apparel as our primary sponsor for the Peak Antifreeze 300," Roth said. "Their high-quality apparel has that edgy out-of-the-box thinking and there's nothing more edgy or out of the box than IndyCar racing."
In June, Roth announced plans for the two-car effort targeted for the final race. Initially, the program was designed to invite the Indy Pro Series champion to compete in the IndyCar Series car. When a scheduling conflict for testing last week at Chicagoland Speedway arose with Indy Pro Series points leader Alex Lloyd, Chesson was the beneficiary.
"My phone rang and it was Marty and he said, 'Hey, man, I have an opportunity for you to test a car and race in Chicago. What do you think?' I said, 'Hell, yeah, count me in,' '' said Chesson, who last competed in the IndyCar Series in the 2006 Indianapolis 500. "It's been a long time coming for me; I've been working really hard to get an opportunity and Marty put that one up for me and I took it. I'm really happy that I did.
"Marty is just so enthusiastic; you can tell how much he loves the sport. He wants to be competitive at the highest level and he's really committed to it. I wouldn't mind racing with him full time. It would almost be the preferred situation for me."
First things first, but Chesson is a forward-thinking guy. Roth and Chesson competed against each other in the Indy Pro Series in 2004 and '05. This season, Chesson has been the spotter for the No. 22 Vision Racing entry driven by A.J. Foyt IV.
"It's not meant to be a sad song and dance, but it's been hard to go to the races and not be racing," said Chesson, a three-time Indy Pro Series race winner. "But at the same time I have to thank Tony George and Larry Curry and everyone at Vision Racing for allowing me the opportunity to spot for A.J. It was a great experience; very humbling."
Jason Dussault, founder, chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Los Angeles-based Dussault Apparel Inc., will select the contest winner. He joined the Roth Racing team during the test session at Chicagoland Speedway.
"I wanted to bring a design to an IndyCar Series car that showed our attention to detail and showcased our unique and ever-expanding brand, and I am pleased to report that Roth Racing has helped me to accomplish my vision," he said. "Marty's integrity and attention to detail and passion for high performance are exactly what Dussault Apparel is all about. Fast cars, passion, rock 'n' roll and fashion, it all works so well together."
4. Lloyd, Prendeville test IndyCar Series machines: Indy Pro Series drivers Alex Lloyd and Andrew Prendeville got their first taste of an IndyCar Series car on Aug. 16. Lloyd, the series points leader, tested with Target Chip Ganassi Racing at Sebring International Raceway while Prendeville tested with Rahal Letterman Racing at Infineon Raceway.
"Everything went really well," said Lloyd, who has won seven Indy Pro Series races this season and can clinch the championship at Infineon Raceway Aug. 25-26. "I got to run for a couple hours after lunch, two sets of tires. It was a pretty great thing to be able to run with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team and especially alongside Scott (Dixon), who is arguably the best road course driver out there. I put down some good times, the pace was pretty strong.
"I got as much out of the test as I think I could have, learned as much as I could from Scott and the engineers. Having done this test, I confirmed to myself that I'm capable of running up front in these cars. Now, I'm that much more prepared for my next opportunity to test one of these cars."
Prendeville, a rookie in the Indy Pro Series, only ran a handful of laps in the IndyCar Series car because the team battled some mechanical issues.
"I didn't run many laps, but it was more than I had ever done before," said Prendeville, who has recorded five top-10 finishes this season. "I've been working toward today for the last 21 years, and it was great to get in the Rahal Letterman IndyCar Series car and turn some laps. I had a lot of fun. I look forward to getting another shot in an Indy car in the future."
Rahal Letterman Racing chief operating officer Scott Roembke said the bonus test for Prendeville was a well-deserved reward for the driver and his first-year team, Andersen Racing, which partnered with RLR before the season began.
"If you watch that entire team, Dan (Andersen) and his group have done a pretty good job of coming in blind and quickly learning the ropes," Roembke said. "These are difficult cars to run on. We've seen a steady progression from the team, and Andrew has been pretty consistently in the top five, in what I call a pretty tough top five. It's very expensive to go out and do this, so if we didn't feel there was a benefit for both parties, we wouldn't be doing it."
Indy Pro Series veteran Jaime Camara, who has participated in several bonus test days with Andretti Green Racing, also tested in an IndyCar Series car at Infineon Raceway.
5. Hildebrand joins RLR/Andersen Racing at Infineon: J.R. Hildebrand, who won 12 races last year to run away with the Formula Ford 2000 championship, will make his Indy Pro Series debut with RLR/Andersen Racing in the doubleheader at Infineon Raceway Aug. 25-26.
The partnership will reunite the 19-year-old with Dominic and Nicholas Cape, who engineered his championship effort in 2006.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity that (team co-owner) Dan Andersen has given me to race at my home track and extremely excited to work with the Capes again," said Hildebrand, who hails from nearby Sausalito, Calif. "We combined for a lot of success in the Formula 2000 series. I think I'll be able to slip right into the team easily."
Hildebrand tested with the RLR/Andersen team at Infineon Aug. 16.
"Everything went very well, and the Capes and I are very optimistic about our chances with both Andrew (Prendeville) and J.R. at Infineon," team manager John Andersen said.
Hildebrand is no stranger to success. In addition to his championship last season, he won titles in 2004 and 2005.
In 2005, he was second overall and Rookie of the Year in the Pacific F2000 Zetec Formula Ford series. He earned the SCCA Formula Russell championship in 2004.
Hildebrand was tabbed for the prestigious Team USA Scholarship program in 2005, finishing third overall in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Cup in his first experience racing in Europe.
Earlier this season, Hildebrand drove in the Champ Car Atlantic series, finishing seventh overall. His best finish was second at Cleveland in June.
Hildebrand will drive the No. 15 RLR/Andersen Racing entry, replacing Joey Scarallo, who had two top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
The next IndyCar Series event is the Motorola Indy 300 presented by Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 26 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be televised live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Carneros 100/Valley of the Moon 100 doubleheader on Aug. 25-26 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 by ESPN2.