IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-12-12

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Dec. 12, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Castroneves to join Dancing With The Stars The Tour 2. Lloyd begins prep work for 2008 debut with Sebring test 3. Schmidt crew builds ...

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Dec. 12, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Castroneves to join Dancing With The Stars The Tour
2. Lloyd begins prep work for 2008 debut with Sebring test
3. Schmidt crew builds championship pedigree

1. Castroneves to join Dancing With The Stars The Tour: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves will join the "Dancing With The Stars Tour" this winter making seven appearances along with his professional dance partner Julianne Hough.

Castroneves, who teamed with Hough to win the fifth season of the celebrity dance competition, will perform at shows beginning Jan. 18 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

"After the show ended, I began preparations for the 2008 IndyCar Series season and even a chance to get back in a race car. But I realized that I've got one more week of the quickstep and that infamous yellow suit left in me," Castroneves said . "I can't wait to hit the road with Julianne and the entire cast -- and perform live for our fans -- without the judges this time."

Castroneves will also appear in three markets that host IndyCar Series events in addition to Indianapolis -- Nashville, Tenn. (Jan. 19), Tampa, Fla. (Jan. 21) and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Jan. 23). He will also appear in Jacksonville, Fla., (Jan. 22), Providence, R.I. (Feb. 9) and Philadelphia (Feb. 10).

"A number of our tracks helped spread the word that Helio needed votes when he was on the show," said Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League's commercial division. "This is a great opportunity for a few lucky promoters to link Helio to their own events when he's in their area."

The third Dancing with the Stars tour kicks off Dec. 18 in Seattle and will hit 38 cities throughout North America before taking a final bow in Philadelphia on Feb. 10.

2. Lloyd begins prep work for 2008 debut with Sebring test: The last time reigning Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd tested an IndyCar Series car, it was an audition with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

On Dec. 17, Lloyd will make his official debut as a Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver, testing alongside 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon at Sebring International Raceway. The test will cap an eventful week for Lloyd, who was named to the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's All-America team on Dec. 10 along with IndyCar Series titlist Dario Franchitti.

"I'm excited to get to Sebring and get back in an IndyCar (Series car)," Lloyd said. "I drove one for the first time there, so it will be nice to see if I can pick up where I left off. I'm looking forward to getting back in the car and seeing where we are. "

Lloyd will team with Wheldon, 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and Salvador Duran at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in January. He hopes the race is the first of many races he will participate in as teammates to Dixon and Wheldon.

"We're still working hard on finding funding and trying to figure out how the year is going to work. Next week is all about getting some miles and preparing myself for my first race, whenever that may be. The more miles I have the better."

3. Schmidt crew builds championship pedigree: The glass display cases in the small lobby at Sam Schmidt Motorsports' headquarters on the west side of Indianapolis are overflowing with trophies. Since 2004, the team has won 22 Indy Pro Series races and its drivers have won three championships.

Walk past the displays and into the race shop and the reason for the team's success becomes evident -- it's the people. The engineers and mechanics that work tirelessly to put three or four race cars on the track each weekend have long, successful careers in motorsports.

"In a support series, one of the biggest difficulties we face each season is to develop the next Alex Lloyd," team owner Sam Schmidt said about the 2007 series champion, who dominated the series with eight victories. "The drivers are rarely consistent from year to year. The only thing that is constant is our team.

"Our overall strategy is to assemble a team that's first purpose when we hit the track each weekend is to win races. We have the type of people on our team that can work in the IndyCar Series."

In fact, many of the crew members at Sam Schmidt Motorsports have spent years working at the highest levels of open-wheel racing.

While Schmidt provides overall guidance for the team from his home in Las Vegas, the day-to-day details are taken care of by team manager Chris Griffis.

"The number one asset we have is definitely our employees," said Griffis, whose career started in 1985 with Patrick Racing and includes an Indianapolis 500 championship in 1989. "We've corralled a group of guys who are racers."

Many of those racers have known each other and worked together for years, building trust in each other and a sense of family.

Griffis and John Roof Jr., who was the chief mechanic on Lloyd's championship-winning car, have been together off and on since 1991. Chief engineer Tim Neff and Griffis also worked together in the 1990s.

"It's like a family here," said mechanic Mike Meyer, whose great grandfather was Louis Meyer, the first three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. "We all look out for each other."

"We've got the best group of people we've ever had -- from a talent perspective, a morale perspective," Schmidt said. "Everybody equally brings something to the table. They don't mess around. They do it right the first time. They're true professionals."

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the SpeedJam Indy 300 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. The 2008 Indy Pro Series season also begins on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, which features eight ovals and four road/street course doubleheader weekends, will be televised by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS