IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-12-18

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. ESPN2 to televise 2008 Indy Pro Series slate 2. Manning returns to A.J. Foyt Racing 3. Indy Pro Series To Sponsor Loyet Motorsports At Chili Bowl 4. Adam Andretti to debut with new Indy Pro...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. ESPN2 to televise 2008 Indy Pro Series slate
2. Manning returns to A.J. Foyt Racing
3. Indy Pro Series To Sponsor Loyet Motorsports At Chili Bowl
4. Adam Andretti to debut with new Indy Pro Series effort
5. Six Indy Racing League drivers ranked in Autosport Top 50 of 2007

1. ESPN2 to televise 2008 Indy Pro Series slate: Indy Pro Series races will be telecast on ESPN2 for the seventh consecutive season in 2008, including live coverage of the season finale Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The live telecast highlights the 2008 Indy Pro Series television schedule on ESPN2 that features 12 telecasts, including same-day coverage of the Freedom 100 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23. In addition to Indianapolis and Chicago, the six remaining races on ovals are packaged into 30-minute shows filled with side-by-side racing and vignettes on the series' top drivers. Races from the four doubleheader weekends on road/street courses are combined into one-hour shows.

"We're excited about the enhancements in the coverage, especially the fact that our championship could be determined on live television," said Indy Pro Series executive director Roger Bailey. "ESPN2 does a great job of showcasing the quality of our racing to a worldwide audience. We're very happy to continue this partnership."

Bob Jenkins, Robbie Buhl and Mike King will return as the broadcast team. Jenkins, who anchored the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcast from 1990-98, and King, who has called the 500 since 1999, will be back for their second seasons on the Indy Pro Series telecasts. Jenkins will call the play-by-play while King will report from the pits. Buhl, who retired from IndyCar Series racing in 2004 after 78 starts, will be back for his fifth season as analyst.

ESPN2 telecasts more than 4,800 hours of live and/or original programming to more than 91 million homes each year. The race telecasts will also air around the globe on various ESPN affiliates. All Indy Pro Series races are streamed live at www.indycar.com.

2. Manning returns to A.J. Foyt Racing: A.J. Foyt Racing announced Dec. 17 that driver Darren Manning has re-signed to drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda/Firestone in the IndyCar Series.

"Last year we came away most weekends wishing we could start the weekend over because we had learned so much about the car, and what I want in a car," Manning said. "With the compressed schedule, we were doing most of our development work on race weekends.

"We now have a baseline to work from for all of the tracks which will help tremendously. Last year was my first year working with A.J. and driving the Dallara chassis with Honda power. There was a lot that had to be learned: A.J. learning what I want, me learning how the Dallara reacts to changes and then the overall communication within the crew. We did learn but the process affected our consistency. I look for all of that to change for the better in 2008."

Manning headed back to his hometown of Knaresborough, England last week to spend the Christmas holiday with his family. When he returns to the U.S. later this month, he will get back up to speed with the Foyt team. Last month, Manning hired a personal trainer to work with him to improve his strength in preparation for the new season.

"He's killing me but I asked him to," joked Manning, who explained the long winter lay-off does affect drivers' strength levels.

3. Indy Pro Series To Sponsor Loyet Motorsports At Chili Bowl: The Indy Pro Series has teamed with Loyet Motorsports to sponsor the team's entries in the 22nd Annual Dodge Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Jan. 8-12, 2008 in Tulsa, Okla.

The Sunset Hills, Mo.-based team will field five Spike-Esslinger midgets in the annual indoor race.

"We're very excited and proud to be associated with the Indy Pro Series," said team owner Joe Loyet. "The series has grown so much and has become a true destination for drivers looking to advance their racing careers. Everyone worked hard to put this program together and we fully expect to take the Indy Pro Series to victory lane. We can't wait for the green flag to fall and the racing to begin."

Loyet Motorsports, which was founded in 2000 to help progress the career of rising driver Brad Loyet, has fielded entries in the last four Chili Bowls.

"We have five new cars for this event, with brand new Spike chassis' and we've always been very competitive at the Chili Bowl," Loyet said. "I feel like with our driver lineup for this year's event, we'll have five cars contending for the win in the A-Main."

In addition to Brad Loyet, who finished ninth in USAC midget point standings and won the POWRi Midget title in 2007, the team will field entries for:

* Danny Lasoski, 2001 World of Outlaws and 2006 National Sprint Tour champion and three-time Chili Bowl runner-up.

* PJ Jones, two-time Indianapolis 500 starter and 1996 Chili Bowl runner-up.

* Jon Stanbrough, winner of 30 feature events in non-winged sprint car competition in 2007, the 2007 King of Indiana Sprint Series champion and 2007 non-winged sprint car driver of the year The driver for the fifth Loyet Motorsports entry will be announced at a later date.

"Our Chili Bowl sponsorship program has grown this year from one car to five cars this season," said John Lewis, vice president of league development and marketing for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the Indy Pro Series. "Loyet Motorsports' Chili Bowl driver lineup is capable of winning the race, but more importantly, it will help generate exposure for the Indy Pro Series."

4. Adam Andretti to debut with new Indy Pro Series effort: FuZion Autosport, a newly formed racing team whose principals are motorsports veterans, will debut in the Indy Pro Series in 2008 with Adam Andretti as its driver.

Andretti, the nephew of Mario Andretti and cousin of Michael and Marco Andretti, debuted in the Indy Pro Series in the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, qualifying 13th and finishing 18th.

The team will conduct its first test on Dec. 18 at Sebring International Raceway.

"I am very happy to finally be settled in with an Indy Pro Series team," Andretti said. "FuZion was a no-brainer for me. Even though the team is new, the engineers, mechanics and management have been around the series since its inception, and the ownership group is made up of true red-blooded racers.

"I recently relocated back to Brownsburg (Ind.) where I was raised and attended high school, so everything feels like the right fit. Most of all, it is an honor to drive for a well-respected group of owners who have the talent needed for the team to succeed. I can't wait to start testing and get on with the season"

The ownership group features longtime Indy Pro Series participant Dave McMillan, Terre Haute, Ind. native and Formula BMW team owner David Hunt, and Northern California businessman Preston Countryman.

"I feel very fortunate to be a co-owner of FuZion and associated with both David Hunt and Dave McMillan" Countryman said. "It's rare to find and put together a group with as much open-wheel racing experience and knowledge. My first love is open-wheel racing, so to be a part of the Indy Racing League, with the leadership Mr. (Tony) George has to guide owners as well as the league, is a dream come true for a businessman with a passion for racing.

"I am personally delighted Adam Andretti is back in a race car where he belongs, and in an open-wheel Indy car where he truly belongs. And, just like in 2001-2002 when I owned a West Coast stock car team, I am honored Adam Andretti is driving for a team I co-own."

The team recently moved into a new race shop in Brownsburg a few miles west of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Indy Pro Series begins its 16-race schedule with the Miami 100 on the oval at Homestead on March 29.

5. Six Indy Racing League drivers ranked in Autosport Top 50 of 2007: Five IndyCar Series drivers, including IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, and Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd are ranked among the top 50 drivers in the world, according to British racing magazine Autosport.

Franchitti and Scott Dixon, who staged a thrilling title fight that culminated in the last turn of the last lap of the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway are ranked eighth and ninth, respectively.

Lloyd, who won the Indy Pro Series title with a record-setting season, was ranked 50th. Tony Kanaan (16th), Helio Castroneves (30th) and Sam Hornish Jr. (42nd) were also ranked in the poll, which is determined by the staff of Autosport.

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