Indy Racing League News and Notes -- 1/10/05
Today's IRL headlines
1. IndyCar Series Stars Test At Daytona
2. Colts Honor IRL Team Co-Owner
3. Lopes Joins AGR As Vice President
1. IndyCar Series Stars Test At Daytona: Several IndyCar Series stars tested Daytona Prototypes Jan. 7-9 in preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta, Scott Dixon, Darren Manning and Scott Sharp each recorded laps in the sports cars they will drive in the Feb. 7-8 endurance race.
"This is one of the few venues that you can get people from so many different motorsports and put them all together," Rice said. "I think that makes it exciting. It's fun for all of us. We know so many different people in different forms of racing. For us to all be able to run together is cool."
The Lexus-powered Riley shared by Dixon, Manning and former IndyCar Series driver Casey Mears and the Orbit Racing Pontiac Riley shared by Sharp, Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens and Guy Smith were among the fastest cars in each of the eight testing sessions.
"I think it'll be great to have all three Target drivers together in the No. 03 Target Lexus Riley," said Dixon, 2003 IndyCar Series Champion. "Both Darren and I have a little more experience now after the podium in the Rolex season finale last year at Fontana, and I know Casey is going to pick it up really quickly. This is going to be a really fun event, but it's also going to be ultra competitive out there."
Franchitti and Wheldon will share a Pontiac Crawford with Grand Am standout Milka Duno and Franchitti's younger brother Marino. The race will be the Franchitti brothers' first-ever race as teammates. Both expressed excitement for the opportunity and have been pleased with their progress in the Daytona Prototype thus far.
"This is the first time, and it's very special," Dario Franchitti said. "It's one of the reasons I wanted to come here and do the Rolex 24. It's going to be fun. We did the first session and Marino drove the car first and I drove the car second. We jumped out and we had a little bit of a moment, because we've been talking about it a long time."
In addition to the IndyCar Series drivers, several standouts from other forms of racing will compete in the event, including Mears and other NASCAR stars such as Jimmie Johnson and former Nextel Cup champions Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Bobby and Terry Labonte.
"It's always neat to have different people from different motorsports come over," Rice said. "Everybody's contracts are so different. This is one of the first times I've ever been able to come over here and do something like this, because the team I'm driving for promotes that. I think the more guys you get over here, the better it gets."
IndyCar Series Rolex 24 Participants:
No. 03 Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon and Darren Manning
No. 2 Citgo Howard Boss Motorsports: Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti
No. 39 Orbit Racing: Scott Sharp
No. 44 Doran Racing: Bryan Herta
No. 67 Krohn Racing TRG: Buddy Rice
2. Colts Honor IRL Team Co-Owner: Panther Racing co-owner Jim Harbaugh was inducted into the Indianapolis Colts' Ring of Honor at halftime of the team's playoff game at the RCA Dome on Jan. 9.
Harbaugh, head football coach at the University of San Diego, was part of the original ownership group when Panther Racing formed in 1998 and attends races as his schedule permits.
He became interested in auto racing when he played for the Colts from 1994-97. The team's car carries the No. 4 in honor of Harbaugh, who wore the number throughout his NFL career.
Harbaugh is the fifth member of the Colts' Ring of Honor, joining late owner Robert Irsay, former coach Ted Marchibroda, wide receiver Bill Brooks and offensive lineman Chris Hinton.
3. Lopes Joins AGR As Vice President: Andretti Green Racing announced Jan. 7 it has hired John Lopes to serve as vice president.
Lopes, a 15-year veteran of the motorsports industry, officially joined Andretti Green's Indianapolis-based operation on Jan. 10. In his role with the team, Lopes' primary focus will be business development, including new sponsor acquisition, special projects, administration and management services.
"To say that we're thrilled to have John join Andretti Green is an understatement," said Kevin Savoree, who co-owns the team along with partners Michael Andretti and Kim Green. "Michael, Kim and I have always had great respect for John and all the intangibles he brings with him. Personally and professionally, guys of John's caliber are very hard to find."
*** 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.