IPS: IRL: Indycar Series news and notes 2008-08-22

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Sharp plans to do double duty at Infineon 2. Championship Quick Hits -- Infineon 3. Howard still after race wins not title 4. Two to debut at Infineon 1. Sharp plans to do double duty at ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Sharp plans to do double duty at Infineon
2. Championship Quick Hits -- Infineon
3. Howard still after race wins not title
4. Two to debut at Infineon

1. Sharp plans to do double duty at Infineon: Thanks to his father-in-law, Scott Sharp may have an extra advantage for the Aug. 27 Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.

Sharp, who will drive the No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone for Fernandez Racing, will share a Daytona Prototype with his father-in-law, veteran sports car racer Greg Pickett in the Grand American Road Racing Series event on Aug. 26.

"My father-in-law decided a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to run that race," said Sharp, who also drove with his father-in-law at Laguna Seca earlier this year. "It's his home track, and he's done a lot of testing up there, so I think he's got a pretty good setup on the car."

Sharp, a former SCAA Trans Am champion, has a best finish of ninth in the five previous IndyCar Series road races. Still he relishes the opportunity to get some extra seat time in a car during the race weekend.

"After not racing road courses for 10 years, I'm still looking to get as much road-course time as I can get," he said. "Even though I think driving a Daytona Prototype doesn't really transfer a lot of information for what you're going to do in an IndyCar, even at the same track, it's always good to run more laps."

Though how many laps may be in question.

"Thursday afternoon there's a pretty good chunk of time, and my father-in-law certainly has tested enough up there that he's not going to need it," Sharp said. "I'm hopeful that I can spend a lot of that time in the session getting accustomed to the car and comfortable with the car and then really not run it a whole lot more that weekend.

"I'll let him practice it and qualify it. I'm sure he'll start the car, and if it's anything like Laguna, I couldn't even get him out of the car. I got in with about 20 minutes to go. He only does a couple races a year, so it's good for him to do most of the race. If I can help him out a little, that will be great. That way it should also keep me fresh for Sunday's race."

2. Championship Quick Hits -- Infineon: Heading into the penultimate race of the 2006 IndyCar Series season, six drivers are engaged in one of the tightest point races in IndyCar Series' history. Here's a look at the title race with two to go:

Drivers still eligible for championship: 6

Key Championship statistic:

The six championship eligible drivers with two races to go are the most since 2000 when 18 drivers were still in contention for the championship. The 2000 schedule was made up of nine races compared to this season's 14-race schedule.

Three of the top four entrants in the 2006 championship have found victory lane on a road or street course in IndyCar Series competition. Marlboro Team Penske and Helio Castroneves visited victory lane on the Streets of St. Petersburg earlier this season. Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon brought his car home to a first place finish at Watkins Glen International in both of the IndyCar Series' visits to the historic facility. Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan won the inaugural race at Infineon last year and Dan Wheldon won the St. Petersburg event for AGR in 2005.

The only entrant in the top six to have not visited victory lane on a street or road course in IndyCar Series competition is Panther Racing, which finished second with Vitor Meira at Watkins Glen earlier this year.

Closest 1-2 point differential since: 2002 -- With two races left in the 2006 IndyCar Series season, first and second are separated by just seven points. This is the closest margin since 2002 when Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran were separated by a single point.

Closest 1-3 point differential since: 2003 -- The 24 points that separate positions one through three in the IndyCar Series point standings is the closest margin since 2003 when there was a 14-point difference.

Closest 1-5 point differential since: 2003 -- First through fifth in the standings are separated by 70 points. This is the closest the top five have been since 2003 when 41 points separated first through fifth.

Closest 1-6 point differential since: 2000 -- The 2006 IndyCar Series championship is shaping up with first through sixth in the standings separated by 79 points. This is the closest this margin has been since 2000 when there were just 33 points separating the top six.

Championship eligible drivers with strong results at Infineon Raceway: Currently sixth in points, Tony Kanaan returns to Infineon Raceway looking to repeat his winning performance at the 2.26-mile natural terrain course. Scott Dixon, who has won two of the five IndyCar Series road racing events, finished seventh at Infineon Raceway in 2005.

Championship eligible drivers with poor results at Infineon Raceway: Helio Castroneves looks to turn his Infineon Raceway misfortune around this year as he finished 21st in 2005. Points leader Sam Hornish Jr. finished 17th, with the third-place driver in the championship, Dan Wheldon, finishing 18th last year.

Who's hot in the championship:

The top-six drivers in this year's championship battle showed everyone why they are in the hunt for the 2006 IndyCar Series championship. The six drivers at the top of the point standings occupied the top-six positions of the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

3. Howard still after race wins not title: It may be the closest points race in Indy Pro Series history, but the lead is still Jay Howard's to lose.

The 25-year-old Englishman holds a 25-point lead over Jonathan Klein and has a 39-point lead on Bobby Wilson with three races remaining.

Howard, however, is not so much fixated on fending off the competition or even winning the championship as he is on accomplishing his personal goal -- win five races.

"I'm not very happy I haven't won five races already this year," said Howard, who has driven the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry into Victory Circle at Nashville and Kentucky. "That's my focus. You know, there's always going to be -- with that lead being a little bit bigger -- there's always going to be that little guy in the back of your head saying, 'Championship, championship.'

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm here to win every race and prove to everyone what I'm capable of and what Sam Schmidt's team is capable of. That's my focus; win every race. If I can't, as close to that as possible."

In addition to his two victories, Howard has recorded four additional top-five finishes in the season's nine races.

The next opportunity to not only win races, but also pad his lead in the race for the Firestone Firehawk Cup comes with a doubleheader race weekend at Infineon Raceway on Aug. 26 in the Carneros 100 and Aug. 27 in the Valley of the Moon 100.

The challenging part about sweeping a doubleheader, however, is that the winner of the first race starts sixth in the second race.

"Obviously, Infineon is going to be a big decider," said Howard, who finished third and second in the season's only other doubleheader weekend at St. Petersburg, Fla., in April. "If we go there and finish in the top two or three in both races, then I think that sort of secures the championship. We can go to Chicago, enjoy the race, no pressure at all and try to get it up to five wins total."

4. Two to debut at Infineon: Micky Gilbert and Ryan Justice will make their Indy Pro Series debuts this weekend in the two races at Infineon Raceway.

Gilbert will drive the No. 4 Guthrie Racing Gilbert Engineering entry, while Justice will be behind the wheel of the No. 38 Northwest Autosport Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.

Gilbert competed in the Star Mazda Championship in each of the past two seasons, while Justice ranks fourth in that series this season. Justice has three podium finishes this season, including a victory at Mid-Ohio earlier this season.

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 27 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live by ESPN 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 continues with the Sonoma 100 doubleheader on Aug. 26-27 at Infineon Raceway. ESPN2's coverage of the doubleheader races will be televised at 2 p.m. on Aug. 31.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Greg Pickett , Chip Ganassi , Ryan Justice , Bobby Wilson , Jay Howard , Jonathan Klein , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske