Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Dec. 6, 2004

Today's IRL headlines
1. Kanaan Relishes Chance At Race Of Champions

1. Kanaan Relishes Chance At Race Of Champions: IRL IndyCar® Series champion Tony Kanaan proved up to the challenge of racing at the all-star Race of Champions at Stade de France near Paris on Dec. 4.

In its 17th year, the Race of Champions-Nations Cup is an end-of-season international racing showdown. In the Race of Champions, rally and racing drivers competed in a series of knockout heats in equally prepared cars and on parallel tracks to determine the class champions. Then, in a shootout to determine the master of motorsport, the winners from the two classes met in a super final.

In the Nations Cup, the drivers competed on two-man teams in a bid to determine "The World's Fastest Nation."

Kanaan, the first IndyCar Series champion ever invited to compete in the 16-driver "Olympics of racing," filled the role of Team Brazil's "rally" driver because of a cameo appearance a few years ago in the Rally dos Sertoes in Brazil.

In the first round of the "Group Rally" competition, Kanaan defeated World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb to the line at the end of the two-lap sprint. But Kanaan was penalized for brushing the wall with his car, which gave the victory to Loeb.

"At the drivers meeting, they said that they would make a race director's judgment as to whether you took advantage of the hit with the wall," Kanaan said. "I didn't even feel it, so I couldn't have hit it very hard.

"But I'm not upset. I'm just happy to be here. It's really an honor to be a part of this group. I mean, how many drivers are there in the world? There were only 16 of us invited to be here. That says a lot. I've had a lot of fun. I'm here for the sport. My wife was more upset (about the penalty) than I was."

Kanaan's Team Brazil teammate Felipe Massa lost in the first round to Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher. Former IndyCar Series champion Kenny Brack, representing Sweden, also fell in the first round of the racing category.

Kanaan and Massa fared better in the Nations Cup competition. They defeated the German team of Schumacher and Armin Schwarz by 0.2848 of a second in the first round. But the French team of Loeb and Jean Alesi -- which went on to win the Nations Cup -- won the semifinal round by 4.4634 seconds.

"That was fun," Kanaan said. "I'd never driven a Rally car before and I beat a couple of guys. I did my job. I came here to have fun and I did."

Loeb, who hours earlier had fallen to Heikki Kovalainen in the "Champion of Champions" final, helped turn the tables on the Finn in the Nations Cup best-of-five title heat races. Loeb and Alesi defeated Kovalainen and Marcus Gronholm 3-2.

The 23-year-old Kovalainen, the World Series by Nissan champion, became the youngest winner of the "Champion of Champions" title in the 17-year history of the Race of Champions.

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The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.

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