IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-09-05

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Road to Chicagoland -- Dario Franchitti 2. Men who call shots have been here before 3. Kite pairs with SWE Racing for Indy Pro Series finale 1. Road to Chicagoland -- Dario Franchitti:...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Road to Chicagoland -- Dario Franchitti
2. Men who call shots have been here before
3. Kite pairs with SWE Racing for Indy Pro Series finale

1. Road to Chicagoland -- Dario Franchitti: (This week, we'll examine the season of each of the contenders for the IndyCar Series championship and how they became a title contender. Today, point-leader Dario Franchitti.)

Shortly after he won the SunTrust Indy Challenge in June, Dario Franchitti was quick to discount predictions that the IndyCar Series championship was already his.

The 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner knew there was plenty of racing left and his 65-point lead wasn't as insurmountable as was portrayed.

"I said this was going to be a hell of a championship battle, and it is," Franchitti said. "We want to win and (Ganassi) wants to win. On the track, we don't take any prisoners, either team."

Franchitti set the tone for the season with four top-five finishes in five starts before winning the 91st Indianapolis 500. He took the point lead the following week at Milwaukee and with back-to-back wins at Iowa and Richmond, built a 65-point lead over Dixon.

But Dixon's three-race win streak and mistakes that led to finishes of 13th at Michigan and eighth at Kentucky left Franchitti vulnerable.

"I preferred the view from Richmond with a 65-point lead," Franchitti said.

As Scott put his tremendous run together, we were second, but he was slowly cutting into our lead. I made a mistake coming into the pits at Kentucky and that allowed Scott to get an advantage."

At Infineon, a collision between Franchitti and Marco Andretti in the closing laps at Infineon Raceway cost Franchitti the championship lead. But he got it back after Dixon collided with Buddy Rice and spun out at Belle Isle. Now with one race to go, Franchitti has a three-point advantage over his season-long rival.

"It's really close but that doesn't change our game-plan." Franchitti said. "We just need to win the race or try to be up front and do the best we can to beat Dixon."

And if he does that, he'll join Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr. in the exclusive club of Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Series champion in the same season.

***

2. Men who call shots have been here before: When Chip Ganassi is asked how his team managed to win five Indy car championships in nine years, his response always includes these two words: Mike Hull.

Since Hull, now the team's managing director, joined Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 1996, the team has won four CART championships, one IndyCar Series championship, the Indianapolis 500 and a Rolex Sports Car Series title.

He said his approach to each race is the same.

"This race isn't any different than before," Hull said. "The same as all year really. We have to race to win like we do every week. When you finish at the front by trying to win, you gather maximum points. So I think our approach to this race will be exactly that."

Hull, who calls race-day strategy for Scott Dixon's No. 9 car, is the most decorated of the three men who will serve as "head coach" for their drivers in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300, but they all have championship experience.

John Anderson, who calls Dario Franchitti's strategy, is a 30-year veteran of motorsports and oversaw the IndyCar Series championship efforts of Dan Wheldon in 2005.

"It's crunch time," he said. "The pressure's on. We really need to win this championship. All four drivers understand that and they're all going to do what they can to try to make it happen."

George Klotz, who is in his first season working with Tony Kanaan, worked with Bryan Herta for the last three seasons as strategist. Though he has never won a title in his current role, he spent three seasons as chief mechanic for Franchitti and helped Forsythe Racing win the 1995 CART title as a lead mechanic.

***

3. Kite pairs with SWE Racing for Indy Pro Series finale: Veteran IndyCar Series driver Jimmy Kite will make his Indy Pro Series debut in the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9. Kite, who has 34 IndyCar Series starts, will drive the No. 43 SWE Racing/SWE Race Car Parts entry in the 67-lap season finale at the 1.5-mile oval.

"The Indy Pro Series car is one of the few open-wheel cars I haven't raced," Kite said. "I think it will be a great experience and a lot of fun. I have known (team owner) Steve (Eppard) for years and we've had conversations about me driving his car. I am glad it finally came through."

Kite has been friends with Eppard for a long time, having met while Eppard's company prepared the gearboxes for several IndyCar Series cars that Kite drove. He will be teamed with Jon Brownson, who has driven the No. 34 SWE Racing entry for the full season.

"SWE puts a great car on the track, and my goal is to win," Kite said. "I love racing, but I love winning even more. I think we can do that with SWE."

Kite returns to Indy Racing League competition for the first time since 2005 when he made 11 starts in the IndyCar Series, beginning with the Indianapolis 500. His best finish of the season was 10th on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in the Hemelgarn Racing entry.

Kite, 31, debuted in the IndyCar Series in 1997 with Team Scandia. He recorded a career-best finish of sixth in the season finale at Las Vegas.

Kite has also competed in USAC Silver Crown and Midget series, scoring several victories.

Practice and qualfying for the Chicagoland 100 are scheduled for Sept. 8.

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. 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.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Jimmy Kite , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Jon Brownson , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Mike Hull , John Anderson , Sam Hornish Jr.