IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-10-17

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Oct. 17, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Lloyd signs with Target Chip Ganassi Racing 2. IndyCar Series teams given offseason testing days 3. Ethanol named AgriMarketing's Product of...

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Oct. 17, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Lloyd signs with Target Chip Ganassi Racing
2. IndyCar Series teams given offseason testing days
3. Ethanol named AgriMarketing's Product of the Year
4. Former motorcycle racer tests Cheever Indy Pro Series car
5. Stewart helps Canadian golfer qualify for tourney

1. Lloyd signs with Target Chip Ganassi Racing: 2007 Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd will join Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Driver Development Program, team officials announced Oct. 17.

Though Lloyd's 2008 program is not set, it will most likely be a combination of IndyCar Series races, Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series races and testing.

"I wanted to make sure I'm in a place where I can have good prospects for the future, not just in 2008. I felt that by joining this team I have the opportunity to do well, and if I perform well to be there for a long time," said Lloyd, who recorded an Indy Pro Series-record eight victories, including five in a row to commence the 2007 season.

"I can really learn the traits of the IndyCar Series and grow within the team. I feel that although I won't be doing a full season next year, the races that I will be doing I will be in one of the best cars out there with a team I've admired for years. For me, that's actually a more exciting thing than saying I'll be doing a full year in a mid-field car.

"I'm happy they have given me this opportunity to be able to drive for them, get some races in and see how that progresses in the future. I'm sure over the next four to eight weeks we'll have a clearer idea what our plan will be. I'm looking forward to get going in whatever aspect that might be."

Lloyd, a native of Manchester, England, tested with Target Chip Ganassi Racing at Sebring in August with permission from Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He recorded laps comparable to ones posted by Scott Dixon. Later that month, Lloyd competed for the team in a Grand Am race at Infineon Raceway -- in addition to participating in an Indy Pro Series doubleheader where he clinched the 2007 Indy Pro Series title.

"He is a talented driver and a perfect candidate for our development program," Target Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull said. "In the span of 10 days, he took the wheel of two very different race cars for the first time. He showed at Sebring that he is ready to race an IndyCar (Series car), and then at Infineon Raceway for the Grand Am event, proved under race conditions that his skills were immediately equal to the best drivers in the very competitive high-horsepower Daytona Protoypes."

Lloyd, who finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in the UK Formula Renault Championship in 2003, earned three poles and a victory in seven Formula 3000 races in 2005. He joined AFS Racing in 2006 for his first Indy Pro Series race on the streets of St. Petersburg, where he qualified on the front row and earned a podium finish.

This past season, Lloyd started from the pole five times and from the front row in every race there were qualifications. He paced the field with 399 laps led, 751 laps completed, eight wins, 13 top-five finishes and 13 top-10 finishes (tie).

"Everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports is extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish with Alex in 2007," team owner Sam Schmidt said. "We recognized his tremendous ability and potential in 2006 when he drove a partial season, and I'm glad that we were able to maximize those talents last year. Of course, the championship and multiple records are great, but we are ultimately in this business to graduate drivers to the next level. Alex is the total package and we have no doubt that he'll be very successful driving for TCGR.

"He has legitimately earned the shot and I applaud Chip (Ganassi) and Mike for supporting the system."

2. IndyCar Series teams given offseason testing days: The IndyCar Series will allow limited testing opportunities prior to the start of the 2008 season.

IndyCar Series teams will be allowed a maximum of four test days during the offseason -- two days between Oct. 22 and Dec. 19 and two days from Jan. 11, 2008 through Feb. 20, 2008.

"Because we have very few opportunities to test, teams had limited chances to improve at tracks where they may have issues," said Kevin Blanch, IndyCar Series technical director. "This will allow teams the flexibility to pick where they want to test and to improve."

Tests days will be granted in addition to any Open Tests, manufacturer tests or bonus test days that the team has earned during the 2007 season. Teams will not be allowed to carry over days from one testing period to another.

3. Ethanol named AgriMarketing's Product of the Year: Based on its far-reaching impact on the marketplace, ethanol has been selected as the 2007 Product of the Year by AgriMarketing magazine.

In just the past year, ethanol production has increased more than 50 percent, giving several segments of the economy a much needed boost and increased household income by $6 billion.

The magazine gives partial credit to the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. EPIC is the consumer marketing arm of the ethanol industry based in Omaha, Neb. The organization developed and heavily promoted the ethanol brand through a series of high profile events throughout 2007.

These efforts were fueled in part by a nearly year-long publicity strategy surrounding the IndyCar Series switch to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol for the 2007 season. This was the first time a racing series utilized a 100 percent renewable fuel.

4. Former motorcycle racer tests Cheever Indy Pro Series car: Italian Super Bike rider Alex Pignone completed a successful Indy Pro Series test in a Cheever Racing-fielded race car at Kentucky Speedway on Monday, October 9.

The test was the latest comeback milestone for 41-year old Pignone, who suffered serious injuries in a 2003 motorcycle racing accident at Daytona International Speedway. The former Italian Superbike and AMA Superbike star has undergone years of extensive physical therapy in recovering from his injuries.

"We are very pleased with Alex's performance during the test session at Kentucky," said Cheever Racing team owner, Eddie Cheever, Jr. "The competitive spirit and concentration Alex used to great effect in his motorcycle racing career definitely came into play with the Indy Pro Series car. He never turned a wheel wrong, and there is little doubt that with additional seat time his confidence and performance will increase further."

Pignone's successful Indy Pro Series test represents a further stepping-stone in his conversion from two-wheel to four-wheel racing. One of the most competitive open-wheel support formulas in North America, the Indy Pro Series is an essential stepping stone for teams and drivers aiming to compete in the IndyCar Series.

5. Stewart helps Canadian golfer qualify for tourney: Indy Pro Series team owner Brian Stewart spends nearly as much time on golf courses as he does at racetracks.

Earlier this week, Stewart took time away from chasing his own golf balls to caddy for fellow Canadian Dan Payton in Chattanooga, Tenn., as the young golfer qualified for this weekend's Nationwide Tour event at Black Creek Club.

"Dan is a good kid," Stewart said of Payton, who regularly golfs on the Great Lakes Tour, Canada's developmental golf circuit. "He works at the club where I belong, and we had a chance to talk and play a couple of times, so I decided to back his efforts."

Payton, who ranks third on the Great Lakes Tour, will compete for part of a $475,000 purse. Stewart, who caddied "in the blazing hot sun" Monday and Tuesday, departed for Iowa Speedway where the team will conduct some offseason testing.

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on 11 ovals, three permanent road courses and two temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with ABC Sports/ ESPN.

-credit: irl

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