IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2003-06-25

Drivers expect Richmond thrills; De Ferran gets hero's welcome in Brazil INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 25, 2003 -- When the IRL IndyCarTM Series visits Richmond International Raceway for the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 28, comparisons...

Drivers expect Richmond thrills; De Ferran gets hero's welcome in Brazil

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 25, 2003 -- When the IRL IndyCarTM Series visits Richmond International Raceway for the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 28, comparisons between open-wheel racing and NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing are inevitable.

After all, RIR has played host to stock-car races since 1953. And Virginia is a traditional hotbed of stock-car racing.

But the IndyCar Series has staged thrilling races in its first two events at RIR, and the stars of the IndyCar Series expect that to continue under the lights Saturday night on the ¾-mile oval. It's the only track shorter than 1 mile in the series.

"We get from point A to point B much quicker than the NASCAR guys, and we race just as close as they do," IndyCar Series points leader Tony Kanaan said. "Fans who watch us race here in Richmond will see a race like a NASCAR event but with smaller and faster cars. Obviously, NASCAR is a great series, but we are a great series, too."

Said 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran: "If you're a NASCAR fan and you've never seen us, it will blow your mind. You will never see cars go around corners as fast as the IndyCar Series cars do. It really is an awesome sight. It's unbelievable when you look at a car going around the turns and you think, 'That's impossible.' But it happens."

Like NASCAR, tight technical regulations ensure close racing in the IndyCar Series, said 1996 series co-champion Scott Sharp.

"Richmond is always an exciting race for the Winston Cup cars, but I think it even takes one or two steps higher for our cars," Sharp said. "We have the ability with our downforce to be side-by-side so easily around here and to be three abreast down the front straightaway. We have equally matched chassis and a huge engine rivalry. So you end up with about 15 or 16 drivers that are all about the same speed. I think it's going to be another fabulous night race."

Richmond history: The SunTrust Indy Challenge may be only the third IRL IndyCar Series event at Richmond International Raceway, but there is a greater history of open-wheel racing at the facility.

In fact, Ted Horn drove an open-wheel car to victory in the first race ever at RIR, on Oct. 12, 1946. The facility was a half-mile dirt oval at the time.

Indianapolis 500 veteran Horn is the only driver to win three consecutive Indy-style championships, from 1946-48.

***

Sweet homecoming for de Ferran: Gil de Ferran is in his native country of Brazil this week, making his first visit since winning the 87th Indianapolis 500 on May 25.

De Ferran became just the third Brazilian to win the Indianapolis 500, joining fellow countrymen Helio Castroneves and Emerson Fittipaldi. De Ferran is visiting with family and friends in celebration of his victory, and he also completed a number of interview requests and met with the First Lady of Sao Paulo.

De Ferran was recognized for his Indy 500 win by Maria Lucia Alckmin this week at the Palacio dos Bandeirantes, the official residence of the Governor of Sao Paulo. While there, he donated memorabilia from his victory to the charity Campanha do Agasalho, which will auction the items to raise money for the poor in Brazil.

In addition, de Ferran fulfilled interview requests for Istoe Magazine, Brazil's leading news magazine, and O Estado de Sao Paulo, the largest newspaper in Brazil. De Ferran also was featured on "Mais Voce" on TV Globo, the nation's largest television network.

De Ferran will return to the United States in time for the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 27-28 at Richmond International Raceway.

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Brack's band to play Richmond: Kenny Brack's rock cover band will play a free concert June 26 at Brown's Island in downtown Richmond as part of the pre-race promotion for the SunTrust Indy Challenge IndyCar Series event June 28 at Richmond International Raceway.

1998 IndyCar Series champion Brack plays guitar for Pioneer presents Kenny Brack and the Subwoofers. Among the other performers in the band are guitar player Laz Denes, who handles public relations for Mo Nunn Racing, and singer Kathy Prather, who handles public relations for 1999 series champion Greg Ray.

The show starts at 6 p.m. (EDT). Gates open at 3 p.m.

"We have great fun," Brack said. "I'm bit bumpy on the guitar, but I've got great musicians in the band. We're sounding pretty good, thanks to them. We're opening up for 3 Doors Down in Richmond so that's going to be big."

Republic Records/Universal Records rock group 3 Doors Down is the headline act at the concert. Echo 7, which is touring with 3 Doors Down, also will play.

Fans also have the chance to learn how to change tires on an authentic IndyCar Series car by participating in the Indy Racing League's Pit Crew Challenge competition that will be on site during the concert. Concertgoers will be able to learn more about the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway and purchase tickets for the June 28 race.

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Navy admiral is Richmond grand marshal: Rear Admiral David Architzel will serve as the grand marshal for the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 28 at Richmond International Raceway and will issue the command of "Lady and gentlemen, start your engines."

Rear Admiral Architzel has accumulated more than 5,000 flight hours, and his decorations include two Legions of Merit, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Navy Achievement Medal and various other service-related awards and campaign ribbons.

In August 2001, Rear Admiral Architzel became Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.

***

Night moves: The SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 28 at Richmond International Raceway is the second of three night races on the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series schedule. And when it comes to racing at night, few IRL teams are better than Kelley Racing and Marlboro Team Penske.

Kelley Racing has four victories under the lights, with Scott Sharp recording three and Al Unser Jr. one. Sharp won in 1999 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and in 2000 and 2001 at Texas Motor Speedway. Unser triumphed in the Bombardier 500 earlier this month at Texas.

Since it joined the IndyCar Series full time in 2002, Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran have two top-three finishes in four night starts, six top-10 finishes and three front-row starts. The team still seeks its first victory at night, though.

The success of Marlboro Team Penske after dark is somewhat ironic in that it never competed under the lights until joining the IRL last year.

***

Goodyear drives to victory: Two-time Indianapolis 500 runner-up Scott Goodyear made a stirring drive to victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen sports car race June 22 at Watkins Glen International.

Goodyear, now an analyst for ABC and ESPN's IRL IndyCar Series telecasts, made a daring pass of Indy 500 veteran Didier Theys for the lead with just two laps remaining in the Grand-Am Rolex Series event. He then drove the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Daytona Prototype to victory for the Brumos Racing team and co-drivers Mike Borkowski and David Donohue.

Goodyear recorded the victory despite a painful flare-up of a shoulder injury. He trailed Theys by 18 seconds with just 15 minutes remaining in the six-hour race.

"To have a guy who hasn't driven in four months, only drives a couple times a year, to tell him to chase the leader down, I thought, 'Thanks, guys, you're really putting the pressure on,'" Goodyear said. "Didier actually turned into me a little bit, tried to close the door, then he whacked me -- that was some NASCAR rubbing going on, but it was fun."

***

Cheever goes to camp: In his younger days, Eddie Cheever Jr. wanted to be an astronaut. Instead, he became a race-car driver.

But Cheever's interest in science hasn't waned. That's why 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Cheever will serve as an honorary counselor this year during the Super Summer Safari Science Camp in Noblesville, Ind., which is run by the Indianapolis Boys and Girls Club.

Cheever will present a race engineering project and create other racing-related science experiments for campers. Cheever's enthusiasm for the program, which is geared for children in grades three through seven, stems from his interest in science as a youth.

"I wanted to be an astronaut, but I messed up on that one and ended up being a race-car driver," Cheever said. "I got the second-best thing. I got to drive race cars. If you look at the American flag on my racing suit, it's the same size and position as the flag the astronauts wear. I was very much into NASA and the moon landings when I was young."

As owner of Red Bull Cheever Racing, Cheever's goal is to get campers interested in scientific ideas through the dynamics of racing.

"I thought it would be a good way to incorporate the science of racing in a program designed for children," Cheever said. "I thought it would be nice way to get them involved."

***

Hot laps: Sam Hornish Jr. was honored June 23 in Dallas at the annual Dallas All Sports Association awards. Two-time IndyCar Series champion Hornish received the Texas Motor Speedway Award recognizing him as the most valuable player in motorsports for the 2002 season. Past winners of the award include fellow IndyCar Series champion Greg Ray and NASCAR Winston Cup driver Bobby Labonte -- Richmond International Raceway recently signed a unique promotional partnership with Richmond International Airport. RIR events and the drivers that compete in them will be promoted at the airport through signage, displays and video highlights. Backlit signs featuring IRL IndyCar Series drivers and video footage from last year's SunTrust Indy Challenge now are on display at the airport, and an IndyCar Series race car is on display in the airport's first-floor lobby. "Welcome Race Fans" banners also are on display -- Injured IndyCar Series driver Airton Dare returned home to his native Brazil last week to continue therapy for the broken right arm and broken right leg suffered in a crash earlier this month during practice for the Bombardier 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. A therapist works with him twice per day, at least 30 minutes per session -- IRL Infiniti Pro Series rookie Paul Dana will speak about the benefits of ethanol fuel this week on the weekly national radio program "The Ethanol Minute." As part of a national education and outreach campaign called Ethanol Across America, "The Ethanol Minute" is a weekly radio broadcast airing on more than 400 stations nationwide and featuring various experts and authorities on ethanol-blended fuels. Dana drives the No. 24 Ethanol/Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone in the Infiniti Pro Series -- IRL IndyCar Series standout Robbie Buhl will visit patients at 10 a.m. (EDT) June 26 at Richmond Children's Hospital as part of his duties as national spokesperson for Racing For Kids.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Didier Theys , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Airton Daré , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Kenny Brack , David Donohue , Emerson Fittipaldi , Mike Borkowski , Paul Dana , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske