IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2004-10-05

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Oct. 5, 2004 Today's IRL headlines 1. Champions Have Much In Common 2. Post-Race Rewards For Castroneves 3. Matsuura Closes In On Rookie Title 1. Champions Have Much In Common: Though separated by almost...

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Oct. 5, 2004

Today's IRL headlines
1. Champions Have Much In Common
2. Post-Race Rewards For Castroneves
3. Matsuura Closes In On Rookie Title

1. Champions Have Much In Common: Though separated by almost 12 years, Tony Kanaan and Thiago Medeiros each achieved their goals at California Speedway in early October.

In the same weekend, the two Indy Racing League drivers from Brazil, each driving a No. 11 car, claimed their first IRL championships.

Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, clinched the IRL IndyCar® Series championship with a second-place finish in the Toyota Indy 400. The model of consistency, Kanaan has recorded 14 consecutive top-five finishes and became the second driver to clinch the title before the season finale.

Medeiros, driver of the No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone, claimed the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship by dominating the series. He has five wins and seven poles in 11 races.

Though each driver took separate paths to their titles, Medeiros followed a similar career path as Kanaan .

Both drivers hail from northern Brazil and started racing in go-karts in Sao Paolo an early age. Both honed their skills and trained extensively at Interlagos in Sao Paulo, the same track that prepared Brazilian drivers such as Emerson and Christian Fittipaldi, Rubens Barrichello, Cristiano da Matta and Helio Castroneves

"I pretty much followed in Tony's steps," said Medeiros, who like Kanaan raced in the Formula Chevrolet Series in Brazil after a successful go-karting career. "We came from the same country, not necessarily the same cities. We drove in the same series when we were learning about racing."

While Medeiros stayed in South America to race in Formula 3 before joining the IRL's development series, Kanaan went to Europe before joining Indy Lights in 1996. Roger Bailey, executive director for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, also oversaw Kanaan in Indy Lights.

"I think you can make comparisons between any of the guys, because the two series were so different," Bailey said. "I do think guys who win on this level go on to win in bigger levels. I think it's important for drivers to win at the Pro Series level before you move to a bigger level."

Both drivers, though successful in the United States, have struggled for recognition in their home country.

"I hope I get a little bit more famous there," Kanaan said. "(Winning the IndyCar Series title) is something that has never been done by a Brazilian. Hopefully, it will be good. It's amazing the response I got already from people back home, including good friends of mine. Rubens (Barrichello) called me, left me a message last night.

"I hope we can get some support from my country, because we have none. It's pretty sad. The TV package is not the way I want it. Not just me, but all of us. What can I say? (Brazilian TV executives) ask us to win to be able to make the product better, so I did it. Let's see what they're going to do about that right now. "

The title also means a lot to the career of Medeiros, who said the only drivers recognized in Brazil are Formula 1 drivers such as Barrichello and the late Ayrton Senna.

"Hopefully, it will give us a better shot at lining up some sponsors in Brazil that can help me get to the (IndyCar Series)," Medeiros said. "I've been exposed in the press in Brazil and we'll see how it goes from there."

Another link between the two drivers is Fernando Avallone, who currently serves as Medeiros' agent.

"I learned a lot from T.K.," said Avallone, who worked with Kanaan when he was represented by ReUnion. "He taught me a lot of what I know about racing in the USA. I was really more learning than teaching at the time."

Avallone also introduced both drivers to Fabio Rosa and Marcos Paulo Reis of MPR in Brazil, which gives physical training guidance to both drivers in their cycling programs.

***

2. Post-Race Rewards For Castroneves: Helio Castroneves earned $17,500 after sweeping both the Firestone Performance Award and Marlboro Lap Leader Award at the Toyota Indy 400 on Oct. 3 at California Speedway.

Castroneves earned $10,000 for leading Lap 102 of the 200-lap race. The award commemorates Firestone participation in every IndyCar Series event since the league's inception in 1996.

He also earned the $7,500 Marlboro Lap Leader Award for leading the most laps in the race. Castroneves will be honored during pre-race festivities for the Chevy 500k on Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway.

***

3. Matsuura Closes In On Rookie Title: Kosuke Matsuura will wrap up the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award if Ed Carpenter fails to win the Chevy 500k at Texas Motor Speedway.

Matsuura leads Carpenter by 35 points, and will clinch the title by finishing 11th or better, regardless of where Carpenter finishes.

***

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Chevy 500 at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series event is the Texas 100 on Oct. 16 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 17.

-irl-

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