Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Road to Chicagoland -- Helio Castroneves
2. Road to Chicagoland -- Jonathan Klein
3. Pair of teams joins Indy Pro Series
4. Wilson penalized for actions at Infineon
1. Road to Chicagoland -- Helio Castroneves: (Note: This week, we'll examine the season of each of the contenders for the IndyCar Series championship and how they became a title contender. Today, point leader Helio Castroneves.)
Helio Castroneves started the season at the top of the IndyCar Series point standings. He hopes to finish the year in the same position.
"From the beginning to the end, we have been extremely fast and that shows the work that we've done has paid off," Castroneves said. "Sam (Hornish Jr.) won the Indy 500 and we've won a lot of races combined. Hopefully, one of us can win the championship, as well. And I hope it's the No. 3 car."
Castroneves began the year as one of racing's hottest drivers. After a narrow runner-up finish in the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner won on the Streets of St. Petersburg and the 1.5-mile oval at Twin Ring Motegi. The dominating win in Japan remains Castroneves' favorite performance of the season
"At Japan, my car was incredible," he said. "Every time it went out, it was dominant. We didn't get to qualify, but in the race, my car was so fast. It was one of the best race cars that I've ever had. It was almost the perfect race car."
Castroneves also won races at Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway, but a midseason-slump, which saw him record poor finishes at Richmond, Kansas and Milwaukee opened the door for other championship contenders.
"The one (thing) that cost the most points was the flat tire at Richmond, but the race that everyone remembers was Milwaukee. Going out of the race track with a guy who was a lap down was really upsetting.
"I wasn't as frustrated about the accident. It was because I did everything I could to avoid the accident, and it still happened. I'm an emotional guy, and it showed. It's a good thing that Ed (Carpenter) was pitted so far down because it would have been something that would been shown over and over."
Still, the Brazilian holds a narrow one-point margin over his teammate, Hornish Jr., with Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon not far behind. Castroneves has been involved in close title races before, but doesn't intend on watching someone else celebrate this year.
"Since I've been in this circumstance before, I know what to do," he said. "I know what doesn't work, so I just won't do that again. It's different this time. It's going to be a race you can't predict. You just have to run strong so you can achieve the goals. Hopefully, we'll have a great ending."
2. Road to Chicagoland -- Jonathan Klein: (Note: We'll examine the season of each of the contenders for the Indy Pro Series championship and how they became a title contender. Today, second-place driver Jonathan Klein.)
Jonathan Klein entered the 2006 Indy Pro Series as a relative unknown, but may leave with the Firestone Firehawk Cup.
The 19-year-old rookie from Long Grove, Ill., joined Andretti Green Racing's two-car Indy Pro Series effort and quickly turned heads with a front-row qualifying effort in his debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Despite crashing out of the season-opener, Klein began to impress by driving like a much older driver. Consistently running at the front of the field, Klein rolled off a string of 10 top-six finishes, including a career-best second at Kentucky Speedway and a third-place finish at the Liberty Challenge on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Nashville Superspeedway, The Milwaukee Mile and Infineon Raceway.
He enters the season-finale at his home track, Chicagoland Speedway, eight points behind leader Jay Howard. He hop
"Well, my game plan, I cannot afford any mistakes. I have to run a perfect race at Chicago in a few weeks, make sure I finish the race," Klein said. "You know, if we win, I think that pretty much sums up the championship. If we come in second, it's going to be hard from there because of the points spread, the way that works. The pressure is on. It's going to be up to me to see if I can handle it and perform."
3. Pair of teams joins Indy Pro Series: Team KMA, a joint effort of Formula BMW teams Atlantic Racing and American Spirit Racing, and Andersen Racing, which competes in the Star Mazda Championship, will field cars in the Indy Pro Series^Ù in 2007, officials of the teams announced on Sept. 1.
"The addition of Team KMA and Andersen Racing marks a milestone in the six-year history of the Indy Pro Series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series. "These are the first teams to join the series from other current open-wheel series. This continues to demonstrate the growth the Indy Pro Series is experiencing as we look ahead to 2007."
Team KMA and Andersen Racing join IndyCar® Series team Panther Racing as new teams that have announced their participation in the Indy Pro Series in 2007. Panther Racing will return to the Indy Pro Series for the first time since winning the championship in 2003.
Team principals for Team KMA include racing veterans Ingo Stackerjan from Atlantic Racing and Jon Lewis from American Spirit Racing.
"Even though American Spirit has over 20 years of experience in several forms of top-level racing, this new operation with Atlantic Racing is without a doubt one of the most exciting of my career," Lewis said of the joint venture that will provide drivers in Formula BMW a stepping stone to the next level of open-wheel racing.
"Both Atlantic Racing and American Spirit have a lot of strength and experience in particular aspects of the sport," Stackerjan said. "Bringing together these strengths into one operation will provide Team KMA with a powerful operation that will, in turn, enable us to provide our drivers with a strong program in which to excel their careers and to actively compete for the Indy Pro Series championship."
Andersen Racing is headed by Dan Andersen, who co-founded the Formula Ford 2000 series in 1991 and guided it for 10 years.
"We are excited to be moving up the ladder as a team, and we believe we have the experience, the personnel and the work ethic to be successful," Anderson said.
Atlantic Racing Team started in Halifax, Nova Scotia as a local race team. Soon thereafter, endurance races on national and international levels became its main focus. After entering European and Canadian GT races, Atlantic shifted its operation towards Formula Ford, Formula 2000 and Formula Renault races. When Formula BMW USA was formed in 2003, Atlantic was one of the first teams operating multi-car entries. Since then, the team has continued to provide dedicated race and engineering services to drivers wanting to advance their racing career with the proper race knowledge.
American Spirit Racing has owned and operated teams and managed marketing programs in the Indy Racing League, American Le Mans Series, Trans-Am Series, IMSA Camel GT Series, Bridgestone Super Car Series and Exxon Supreme Series, including the entrant of the 2004 American Le Mans Series 12 hours of Sebring LMP2 class winner.
Andersen has a long history of preparing cars that win races and helping to develop drivers for careers as professional racers. The drivers who won the last three Indianapolis 500s - Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice - all competed in the U.S. Formula Ford 2000 series while Andersen was that series' administrator.
Last year, Andersen Racing fielded cars in the Star Mazda series for Graham Rahal and Jonathan Klein, among others. Klein is currently second in the 2006 Indy Pro Series point standings driving for Andretti Green Racing.
The Indy Pro Series is the premier ladder series for drivers, teams and sponsors striving to compete in the IndyCar® Series and the Indianapolis 500. The 12-race schedule in 2006 features six races on ovals and six races on road courses, including competing on both circuits at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams compete for $3 million in prize money in cars that generate 420 horsepower and speeds in excess of 190 mph. The races are telecast to more than 88 million homes in the United States on ESPN2.
4. Wilson penalized for actions at Infineon: The Indy Racing League penalized Indy Pro Series driver Bobby Wilson 5 driver points for improper advancement of his position during the Valley of the Moon 100 at Infineon Raceway on Aug. 27.
During the race, Wilson avoided a chicane in the course and drove through a tire barrier runoff area. In the process, Wilson, who was in second place, passed a lapped car and increased his lead over the third-place car.
Wilson remains in third place in the overall driver point standings, 24 points behind leader Jay Howard. He is one of four drivers eligible to win the championship in the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 9.
Wilson was penalized for violating Appendix C Rule 7.10.C (Method of Scoring) of the Indy Pro Series Rule Book. The penalty may not be appealed.
The final IndyCar Series event of the 2006 season is the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition concludes with the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN2's coverage of the Chicagoland 100 will be televised at 2 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 14.