IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-10-10

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Oct. 10, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Wheldon hopes to run No. 1 next season 2. Elway to serve as California honorary starter 3. Tight championship fight reaches final round 4. Fernandez to be honored at ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Oct. 10, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Wheldon hopes to run No. 1 next season
2. Elway to serve as California honorary starter
3. Tight championship fight reaches final round
4. Fernandez to be honored at California Speedway

1. Wheldon hopes to run No. 1 next season: Newly crowned IRL IndyCar® Series champion Dan Wheldon hopes to run the No. 1 on his Klein Tools/Jim Beam Honda-powered Dallara in 2006.

As champion, Wheldon's team is entitled to the run the number, which has been reserved for champions by the IRL. Only four of the previous 10 champions in the IndyCar Series have run No. 1 as they defended their championship: Scott Sharp (Used No. 1 in 1997), Tony Stewart (Used No. 1 in 1998), Greg Ray (Used No. 1 in 2000) and Scott Dixon (Used No. 1 in 2004).

"In England, if you win the championship, that enables you to run the No. 1 the following year, and you do it because it somewhat takes the value of winning the championship away if you're not going to use the No. 1," Wheldon said. "That's how it's perceived certainly with the people I know in Europe. My intention would be to run it if I'm allowed. Certainly that's what I'm going to push for."

Though he considers himself extremely superstitious, Wheldon said he doesn't fear any "No. 1 jinx."

"I know it certainly didn't fare well for Scott Dixon, but I don't think that was through any fault of his own," Wheldon said. "That year, things didn't go their way. They had some bad luck. I don't think that was down to Scott."

***

2. Elway to serve as California honorary starter: Former Denver Broncos quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway will serve as honorary starter of the Toyota Indy 400 at California Speedway on Oct. 16.

Elway will wave the green flag to start the IRL IndyCar® Series's season-ending event, a 200-lap, 400-mile race broadcast live on ESPN (3:30 pm EDT).

"I am truly honored to be selected to wave the green flag this year at the Toyota Indy 400," Elway said. "It's great being back in Southern California, and I am looking forward to a very exciting race."

As quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Elway led his team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories (1998 and 1999) and five AFC Championships (1986, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 1998). He amassed 47 come-from-behind drives in the fourth quarter and recorded 4,123 completions (third all-time), 7,250 passes attempted (second all-time), 51,475 passing yards (second all-time) and 300 touchdown passes.

Elway was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of Super Bowl XXXIII (1999), a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and was league MVP in 1987. In 2004, in his first year of eligibility, Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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3. Tight championship fight reaches final round: With just days remaining before the final Menards Infiniti Pro Series race of the 2005 season, point leader Wade Cunningham is keeping his plans to close to the vest.

The 21-year-old Auckland, New Zealand native heads into the Oct. 16 finale at California Speedway with a 33-point lead over Jeff Simmons and a 41-point advantage over Travis Gregg.

Cunningham has his week planned out in detail, staying focused on winning the title by keeping silent. He is no stranger to championship chases, however, winning four karting titles from 1998-2003. Chief among those championships was the CIK-FIA World Karting title two years ago.

The plan for Cunningham should be simple -- do what he has done from day one in his rookie season in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, consistently run in the top five.

Cunningham has put the No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing car in the top five in 12 of 13 races, including seven second-place finishes. He rattled off four consecutive runner-up finishes in April, May and June as he and Gregg swapped the point lead three times.

Cunningham took over the point lead for good in mid-June after the Liberty Challenge on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gregg remained in second until the most recent race when Simmons won his fourth race in a six-race span.

Cunningham, who started the season as a roommate of 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, will win the Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship almost regardless of where he finishes on the 2-mile oval at California Speedway. Gregg will be eliminated as soon as the race starts. Simmons' only hope is to win the race and to have Cunningham finish 13th or worse (10th or worse if Simmons were to earn the bonus points for the pole position (1) and most laps led (2)).

That leaves Simmons focusing on one thing -- winning for the fifth time in seven races.

"We have a chance mathematically in the points, but I'm not thinking about the championship much," said Simmons, driver of the No. 25 Team ISI car for Kenn Hardley Racing. "I'm thinking about winning a race. Winning at California Speedway will be a huge challenge because I don't have a teammate, and I certainly won't have any friends out there, but Team ISI is up to it."

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4. Fernandez to be honored at California Speedway: IndyCar Series team owner Adrian Fernandez, who won the 2004 Toyota Indy 400, will be recognized in California Speedway's Walk of Fame this weekend.

In six open-wheel events at the 2-mile, D-shaped oval, Fernandez has five top-5 finishes, including two victories. Spectators can watch the ceremony at Gate 14 at 9:35 a.m. (PDT) Oct. 16. His footprints, signature and a bronze plaque with the race date and his likeness, will be placed in cement.

In 2004 IndyCar Series competition, Fernandez won three times despite missing the first race of the season, and finished fifth in the standings. The 0.0183-of-a-second margin of victory over series champion Tony Kanaan is a California Speedway record.

This year, Fernandez has concentrated on his ownership role in the Fernandez Racing and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing teams with Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura as the drivers.

***

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 also will be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the California 100 on Oct. 16 at California Speedway. The ESPN2 race telecast will also be available live on ESPN360.com. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 20.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Greg Ray , Scott Sharp , Adrian Fernandez , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Travis Gregg , Wade Cunningham , John Elway , Jim Beam