IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-09-26

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Sept. 26, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Well-Done: Championship puts an exclamation mark on AGR driver's year 2. Dixon sweeps post-race rewards 1. Well-Done: Championship puts an exclamation mark on AGR ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Sept. 26, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Well-Done: Championship puts an exclamation mark on AGR driver's year
2. Dixon sweeps post-race rewards

1. Well-Done: Championship puts an exclamation mark on AGR driver's year: As pints were being raised in tribute at the Bell & Bear opposite the Wheldon family home in Emberton, England, the four Andretti Green Racing drivers convened on the frontstretch of Watkins Glen International Sept. 25 for the first of many IndyCar Series championship celebrations.

Not as glamorous as Paramount Pictures Studio in Hollywood, where the Indy Racing League's Championship Celebration will be held Oct. 17, but satisfying nonetheless. As he kissed the IndyCar Series championship cup, the sun broke through the clouds to metaphorically highlight his season-long accomplishments. With one event remaining -- Oct. 16 at California Speedway -- Wheldon has:

* A series-record six victories

* Won the 89th Indianapolis 500

* Won four of the first five races

* Twelve top-5 finishes in 16 races

* Led laps in 14 races, tying 2003 champion Scott Dixon's record

* Points leader in 16 of the 17 races this season, and 16 in a row (one off Sam Hornish Jr.'s 2001-02 record)

* Series lap leader at 745 (almost double second-place Dario Franchitti and bringing his career total to 1,217 sixth all time)

Characteristically, Wheldon was loquacious and thoughtful in a post-race news conference/party extension, thanking everyone from his crew members to the janitor at the race shop in Indianapolis. He also was humbled by the accomplishment of being the first to win the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series title in the same season.

Driving in a highly-competitive series on high-banked ovals and road courses that test and stretch each participant's abilities over eight months has a way of doing that.

"Having won it is a big weight lifted off my shoulders," said Wheldon, who held off celebrating until after he officially clinched the inaugural Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix presented by Argent Mortgage. "Until you finally clinch it, I don't think you ever feel like you clinched it.

"To win both in the same year I think is an unbelievable achievement. I thought I might be capable of doing it in my career, but I didn't think I'd be able to do it this quick."

Others would agree. The Indy Lights upstart who conducted the first on-track test for the new Honda IndyCar Series engine Nov. 8, 2002, hooked up with Chevrolet-powered Panther Racing for the final two races that season. He debuted with Andretti Green Racing the next April, substituting for the injured Franchitti at Twin Ring Motegi.

"To think back three years ago, Dan was in our face, kept saying, 'Give me a chance, give me a chance,''' said team co-owner Kevin Savoree, who watched Wheldon notch nine top-10 finishes in 14 races to win the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year award.

"We put him in a mule car with Honda starting our development with the IndyCar Series. Dan did about 3,500 miles, never put a foot wrong. That satisfied the technical side of it. Then for Klein Tools and Jim Beam to step up the way they did three years ago really with an unknown race car driver, it's so special to reward them with a championship and an Indy 500 win.

"There's great competitors out here. To beat them just makes it that much more special. It's an incredibly special day."

Wheldon, 27, who was runner-up to series champion and teammate Tony Kanaan last year, has nine victories and 28 top-5 finishes in 48 IndyCar Series events. But more victories, more records are his goal.

"I've had a great year this year and I think I've achieved an unbelievable amount, but now you have to continue," he said. "When you set the bar high, you've got to continue to be as good, otherwise people are going to talk bad about you, and I don't like that.

"It would be nice to try to top this year. It's going to be very difficult. The competition in this series is unbelievable right now. I'm looking forward to continue and looking forward to get back to the Speedway."

As the reigning champion.

***

2. Dixon sweeps post-race rewards: Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon reaped all the benefits following the Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix.

As the race winner, Dixon was presented with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT Camera and an engraved Formula One timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Formula One timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.

The design of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 has been upgraded and redesigned from its original version. It features a titanium-coated steel bezel, protective bumpers, and the six legendary features that define a TAG Heuer sportswatch -- screw-in crown, unidirectional turning bezel, luminescent hands and hour markers, scratch resistant sapphire crystal, water resistance to 200m and a double safety clasp.

Dixon also collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 35 of the race (which represented the 119th mile), and posted the fastest race lap, as part of the season-long race for the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap Award.

Dario Franchitti clinched the season-long award with four fastest laps. Argent will award $25,000 to Andretti Green Racing for Franchitti's accomplishment.

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Toyota Indy 400 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast will also be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). ESPN2's telecast of the Corning 100 will be shown at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 29 The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the California 100 on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 20.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing