INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 29, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. P.J. Chesson and Helio Castroneves 2. Unknowns of Belle Isle circuit challenges IndyCar Series contenders 3. New layout better for Kanaan 1.
INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 29, 2007
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. P.J. Chesson and Helio Castroneves
2. Unknowns of Belle Isle circuit challenges IndyCar Series contenders
3. New layout better for Kanaan
1. P.J. Chesson and Helio Castroneves: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and IndyCar Series driver P.J. Chesson were the guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
Chesson, who returns to the series with Roth Racing for the season-finale at Chicagoland Speedway after more than a year out of the driver's seat, spoke of how he handled his time away from racing.
Q. At any point during this time out did you say, I may be done?
P.J. CHESSON: "No, I didn't. And I think that's part of the reason why I'm getting this shot. I mean, of course, you might have your moments of weakness. I stayed really focused with my training. Just staying positive. I've been around my family a lot. Just been pushing.
"I mean, it's not a nice thing when you feel like you're staring failure or you're having a difficult time trying to achieve a goal that you have. You know, just to stay fit, stay focused, that's -- there's not really much I've been doing. Just travelling to the races and training, staying strong."
Q. Did you ever say, 'Why me? Why can't I get this?'
P.J. CHESSON: "No, not really. Nobody owes me anything. I don't feel like anybody owes me anything. There's no reason for me to say, 'Why me?' The way I look at this, this is the greatest thing that's happened. I believe that everything happens for a reason.
"For me to be out, it puts everything in perspective. How badly do I want this? Am I willing to sacrifice a lot of things? Am I willing to fight for this? Am I willing to go through the dark days, be by yourself sitting on the sidelines, your phone stops ringing? There's a whole lot of stuff that happens.
"Quite frankly, I enjoyed the experience. It's probably not over. I mean, I still have a little bit of work to do as we start rounding the corner for next year. But I'm extremely optimistic and I'm ready for it, man. This is a dream of mine and I'm not letting it go.
Castroneves, who was announced as one of the 12 celebrities for the fifth season of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," on Wednesday spoke about his skills as a ballroom dancer.
Q. With you being on Dancing with the Stars, the different dancing there, what will be your forte? What are you strong in now?:
HELIO CASTRONEVES: "I don't think I'm strong on anything on dancing right now. I thought Samba would be something that I might get away with it. But after three days of rehearsing, I can see that I need a lot of practice.
"But I have to say that it's extremely hard. You people that think you can dance, oh, boy, I mean, it is very difficult. Especially me, my sport is I'm sitting, and now you have to use a lot of balance. You have to use a lot of legs, especially like kind of a squat. We don't do that in racing.
"It is quite a big challenge for me. But, hey, I'm taking everything I can. I know I'm going to try to listen as much as I can to try. The problem is sometimes I do understand, but the problem is getting my body to do what I understand.
"It's been fun. I have to say I broke some laughs the last few days. Today was fun, as well. I just learned Mambo. If you see on TV how I'm dancing Mambo, you're going to be, 'Wow, I never saw Helio doing something like that.'"
2. Unknowns of Belle Isle circuit challenges IndyCar Series contenders: New venues can be challenge for any team competing in the IndyCar Series, but the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone could provide even more of a challenge to those still eligible for the 2007 IndyCar Series championship.
Unlike Iowa Speedway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the other new venues the IndyCar Series visited this season, there was no testing allowed prior to the event. In fact, the Raceway at Belle Isle event will be the first time the IndyCar Series has raced its penultimate event without a previous race or test prior to race weekend.
"Detroit's going to be a bit of an unknown," said IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon, who carries a four-point lead over Dario Franchitti into the Sept. 2 event. "You have to go into it with an open mind and race it as if it was any other event."
With no prior testing at the Raceway at Belle Isle, some teams come into the race with several years of experience in Indy car racing to build upon. For some drivers, there are only good memories of Belle Isle.
Dario Franchitti won a CART event there in 1999 and has four top-five finishes in five starts on the course. Still, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion doesn't see his success on the street circuit as an advantage.
"(Tony Kanaan) and I have been around long enough that we actually raced on the short layout that we're going to use," Franchitti said. "It's a slightly different layout from the one I won on. I've seen some of the pictures and the layouts of the track, and I think we'll have an advantage in the first session, but by the end of that first session everyone will have it figured out."
Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing team chose to test at Sebring International Raceway instead of joining other teams who tested at Infineon Raceway prior to the Motorola Indy 300. The hope was the flat, bumpy surface at Sebring could translate into success in Detroit.
"Our test at Sebring was sort of more in line with trying to find grip on bumpy, low grip circuits," Dixon said. "Hopefully, we feel a little better with general grip and qualifying at Detroit, because I think that's going to be big. The track is different from when I last raced there. They tried to smooth out some sections and we really don't know how much grip or how bumpy the mid-section will be. But it will be the same for everyone."
Dixon, who recorded a pair of top-10 finishes at Belle Isle in Indy Lights, made his only CART start at Belle Isle in 2001, finishing 22nd. But even with his limited experience on the track, Dixon also doesn't see much of an advantage.
"Maybe it will in the first practice," Dixon said. "All season long, we've just gone to races and tried to go as quick as we could and win races. Racing with the points lead won't change that."
3. New layout better for Kanaan: While it's been six years since Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan among others have raced at Belle Isle, Franchitti joked that one change to the circuit should help Kanaan, who missed the 2000 and 2001 CART races at Belle Isle after sustaining injuries in qualifying accidents in the same corner.
"They've gotten rid of TK's corner where he kept crashing and knocking himself out, so that's a bonus," Franchitti said. "We'll have to thank Roger (Penske) for that."
The next IndyCar Series event is the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the Raceway at Belle Isle. The race will be televised live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN2's coverage of the race will be televised at 5 p.m. on Sept. 13.