IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-01-22

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Indy-style qualifying on tap at all ovals in 2008 2. Matos excited to drive for Andretti Green Racing 3. Kansas Speedway names title sponsors 4. Alliance Motorsports forms Indy Pro Series ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Indy-style qualifying on tap at all ovals in 2008
2. Matos excited to drive for Andretti Green Racing
3. Kansas Speedway names title sponsors
4. Alliance Motorsports forms Indy Pro Series team

1. Indy-style qualifying on tap at all ovals in 2008: One quick lap won't be enough to win a pole position in the IndyCar Series in 2008. Embracing its Indianapolis 500 heritage, the IndyCar Series will implement four-lap qualifying runs at every oval racetrack in 2008 beginning with the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29.

The pole winner will be the driver who records the fastest cumulative time over four laps.

"Qualifying is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences for an IndyCar Series driver," said Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations division of the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and the Indy Pro Series. "At Indianapolis, that has meant 10 miles of error-free driving at 225-plus miles per hour. We're going to take that kind of intensity and drama to every other oval on our schedule.

"This new qualifying format will enhance the overall IndyCar Series weekend experience for our fans and our oval track promoters with a direct link to the Indianapolis 500."

Qualifying on road and street courses will retain its current format in 2008. In 2006, the IndyCar Series introduced a unique qualifying format for road and street courses that included single-lap, single-car qualifying for all cars followed by a 10-minute Firestone Fast Six shootout by the fastest six cars to determine the pole position.

The new oval qualifying format also includes a maximum of one attempt per car at the tracks outside of Indianapolis.

The Indy Pro Series will also adopt a new qualifying process for all oval tracks, utilizing a cumulative two-lap qualifying attempt.

Select quotes from drivers and track promoters regarding new qualifying format:

Eddie Gossage, President of Texas Motor Speedway: "The four-lap qualifying format adds drama and may bridge the gap between the front-running teams and the teams in the back of the pack. The drama is: Can Helio Castroneves or Danica Patrick or Dan Wheldon avoid a mistake - a little bobble - while holding their breath for four laps at 220 mph? Maybe they could for a lap or two of qualifying, but four laps require tremendous focus and mental strength. And a little bobble will put a fast car at the back of the starting lineup. The cars in the back of the pack may be slower, but if they pull off four consistent laps they can qualify at the front of the field. That's good drama for Indy Car racing."

Darren Manning, A.J. Foyt Racing: "I don't know if I can hold my breath for four laps. Normally it's just two laps you've got to hold your breath. At some of these tracks, I think it's going to be a big difference. You're starting to go a bit slower, your car's handling is already starting to go away after that second flying lap, so it's going to mix up the qualifying order a lot. Normally, somebody might put in an absolute flyer just for one lap and then pull into the pits. They've got to do it for four laps now. I think that will be better for the teams like ourselves that are trying to break into the big league. They maybe could really out qualify us, but then in the race, you find that you're racing with them. Maybe this is going to bring them back towards us in qualifying, which will make it a bit easier at the start of the race anyway."

Marco Andretti, Andretti Green Racing: "It will be interesting, especially at the Milwaukees and Richmonds. There are some ovals where it can be quite easy for one lap. This will make it tougher to get a balance for the four laps. Even on some of the bigger ovals, it will be a bigger challenge to get balance and speed while staying on the line."

Helio Castroneves, Team Penkse: "It's a new challenge. That's the way they do it at Indianapolis, so it's great to have it at other race tracks. It should be fun and exciting. It will be tight, that's for sure. It should be very competitive."

Dan Wheldon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing: "I think it's good for the series and good for the fans. They get used to the way we qualify for the Indianapolis 500, so I'm excited about it. You need to make sure that every lap counts. You could see from the last race of last season, and all races for that matter, that the series is very competitive. You can't make a mistake in qualifying. It will add a new element of excitement."

Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing: "It's going to be great for the first couple if you do well, but it's going to make it challenging. Not so much on the bigger circuits, but places like Milwaukee and Richmond, it's going to be really tough. I know that I can put one lap together quite comfortably at Milwaukee, but trying to put four together is a different story. There may be some conservative approaches and it should definitely mix up how people start in races, which is good for the race in general. It makes qualifying something you need to work on for consistency, which will help the racing, as well."

***

2. Matos excited to drive for Andretti Green Racing: When it came time for Raphael Matos to decide where to race in 2008, there was one factor that played a key role -- his future as a race car driver.

That's why he couldn't pass up the chance to be a member of one of the IndyCar Series' most successful teams, Andretti Green Racing.

"I need to get the oval experience to be an IndyCar Series driver in 2009, and I believe the best place to get that experience is to race in the Indy Pro Series," said Matos, whose last race on an oval came in Star Mazda competition in 2005. "I feel very comfortable on road courses. I have lots of experience on road courses, so I have a steep learning curve on ovals.

"For me, when Michael (Andretti) made me the offer, it was pretty clear for me where my future was. It's a great step in my career. I'm very excited to be back in the Indy Pro Series and part of the (Andretti Green Racing) team. Having a team like AGR behind you is something that makes you comfortable as driver, and I feel like I have a great future."

Matos, who won the 2005 Star Mazda title and the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic crown, will drive the No. 27 AFS car as part of AGR's two-car team, a joint effort between AFS Racing and Andretti Green Racing that will be housed in Andretti Green Racing's Indianapolis shop. It's the first time AGR's Indy Pro Series effort will be headquartered alongside its IndyCar Series program.

"The fact that Andretti Green is bringing the Indy Pro Series program in house was a big factor to make my decision," Matos said. "It made me feel comfortable because I know the car will perform well, and we have all the people and all the tools to make us a successful program.

"I'm also very excited about the great association with AFS Racing. For Gary Peterson to support me is something I'll always remember."

Matos joins a lineup of drivers at AGR that includes fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and rookie Hideki Mutoh. Matos said he is looking forward to learning from all of his teammates.

"Racing for me is all about results and Andretti Green has the best record out there," he said. "Tony Kanaan has been a guy I've been following for a long time. The results from Tony speak for themselves and they do for Marco as well. He jumped from the Indy Pro Series to an AGR car and was fast. I hope I can learn as quickly."

That learning process begins Jan. 30 when Matos tests his car for the first time on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a private test. He'll have another open test at the track in February before making his race debut at the track on March 29.

"I hope to learn a lot from preseason testing and hope to be quick out of box in the first race," Matos said. "I'm hoping to win the championship, obviously, and hoping to learn a lot this year to use when I go to an IndyCar ride in 2009."

***

3. Kansas Speedway names title sponsors: Time Warner Cable is the new title sponsor of the IndyCar Series race at Kansas Speedway on April 27. The race will be called the RoadRunner Turbo Indy 300.

Kansas Speedway also announced that the Indy Pro Series race at the facility will be called the Hard Rock 100.

The 2008 season will mark Time Warner Cable's first full year as a speedway sponsor.

The Hard Rock 100 is a result of Kansas Speedway and The Cordish Company partnering on a proposal for a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino overlooking Turn Two of the track. The two companies are awaiting word from the Kansas Lottery Gaming Commission on approval of the hotel and casino. Additional information regarding the Hard Rock 100 and sponsorship will be released in the coming weeks.

"I look forward to establishing a great partnership with Time Warner Cable," Kansas Speedway President Jeff Boerger said. "We are also very excited about the opportunities to drive additional tourism to the state of Kansas if we are fortunate enough to be granted the license to operate a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino at Kansas Speedway. The combined marketing strength that Kansas Speedway, the Cordish Company and Hard Rock represent will maximize revenue to the state and Wyandotte County. It will also allow us to continue to enhance our race weekends and improve on what many already consider the best guest experience in motorsports."

***

4. Alliance Motorsports forms Indy Pro Series team: Three Indianapolis-area businessmen have joined together to form a new Indy Pro Series team, which will compete beginning this season.

Alliance Motorsports, whose ownership includes IndyCar Series veteran Tyce Carlson, purchased the assets of Kenn Hardley Racing in December, and is preparing for its first season in the IndyCar Series' developmental series.

"I am looking forward to competing again, especially in this (ownership) capacity," said Carlson, who made 30 career IndyCar Series starts, including two Indianapolis 500s. "I truly enjoy helping young drivers, and I am excited for the opportunity."

Joining Carlson as co-owners are Carmel, Ind., businessman Chris Williams and auto racing veteran Jeff Matthews. The team will be located in Brownsburg, Ind., and is interviewing drivers to drive its No. 24 Dallara.

"When Tyce approached me about the idea of starting the team, it didn't take long for me to decide," Williams said. "The Indy Pro Series is showing steady growth in terms of participation and fan interest, and is providing some fantastic racing. This is certainly something that I want to be a part of."

Matthews has been involved in professional auto racing since 1998, working in various management positions with IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series teams.

"This has been in the making since last April," Matthews said. "We have been working our tails off this past year by networking and getting our message out, and our current position is the result of the hard work we put into it. We have much more work ahead of us, and are looking forward to the challenge."

***

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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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Tyce Carlson , Gary Peterson , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Hideki Mutoh , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Danica Patrick
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing