INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Nov. 22, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Patrick joins Hostess Race Diva Promotion
2. Patrick listed in "Who's Who"
3. Kanaan leads IRL podium sweep in Brazilian karting event
4. IRL drivers compete around globe

1. Patrick joins Hostess Race Diva Promotion: IRL IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick is one of three women drivers who have signed on to become Hostess "Race Divas" under a new sponsorship agreement with the snack cake brand.

Through the sponsorship program, which debuts in 2006, Patrick will be featured in a range of promotional activities, including special limited edition packaging and displays for Hostess Twinkies, Cup Cakes and Donettes.

"Having grown up with Twinkies and Cup Cakes, I am thrilled to have Hostess as a sponsor and to be part of the Hostess Race Divas program," Patrick said. "It's an exciting opportunity to bring together America's favorite brand of snack cakes with the country's favorite spectator sport."

The promotion will also feature NASCAR Elite Series driver Leilani Munter and NHRA drag racer Melanie Troxel.

"Interest in women in professional racing continues to grow, with Danica, Leilani and Melanie serving as excellent ambassadors for the sport," said Kevin Kaul, Hostess marketing manager. "We are pleased to sponsor these outstanding drivers as they pursue their dreams and inspire an even more diverse fan base, and, at the same time, leverage the opportunity to connect the iconic Hostess brand with the enthusiasm surrounding racing and women's increasing prominence in the sport."

2. Patrick listed in "Who's Who": What does IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick have in common with Nobel Prize winning physicists -- besides maybe an appreciation for the music of Nelly?

They are included in the 2006 edition of "Who's Who in America," featuring the most diverse group of achievers, leaders and superstars ever assembled in the 107-year history of Marquis "Who's Who in America."

The book contains more than 100,000 biographical profiles from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to Paris Hilton. Patrick, the highest female finisher in the history of the Indianapolis 500, is a first-time entrant along with rapper Kanye West, iPod designer Jonathan Ive and "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria.

Patrick, who started three races from the pole position during her first season in the IndyCar Series, had a high finish of fourth. She became the focus of worldwide media attention after becoming the first woman to lead laps in the 89th Indianapolis 500. Patrick was married this past weekend in Arizona.

"I am particularly proud of the 2006 edition," Marquis Who's Who CEO Gene McGovern said in a statement. "In this edition we have made ourselves even more exclusive by raising the bar on our standards of admission, while, at the same time, broadening our scope of coverage.

"In the past, we have tended to focus on more traditional fields of endeavor, featuring corporate leaders, university presidents, leading members of the medical community and other classical 'pillars of society.' In this volume, we have attempted to make the book more contemporary, bringing in individuals of more diverse backgrounds and experiences, while still maintaining the highest standards of admission."

3. Kanaan leads IRL podium sweep in Brazilian karting event: 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan and his teammates won the ninth annual Granja Viana 500 for the sixth time, leading a group of 12 Indy Racing League drivers who participated in the event.

Kanaan had qualified the No. 72 kart, with its 13-horsepower Honda engine, fifth in the 73-kart field, but the team fell back three laps in the early stages of the 12-hour race.

The race began at midnight Nov. 20 with the karts lined up single-file along the main straightaway and the drivers across the track. As the green flag dropped, the drivers sprinted across the track, jumped into the drivers' seats and raced towards Turn 1. Less than 45 minutes into the race, however, a heavy downpour forced officials of the 7/8-mile course at the facility owned by Felipe Giaffone and his family, to bring out the red flag.

"We definitely didn't expect to win this one," said Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion. "Like I said before, we had lots of problems, but during the night we were able to recover. Thank God for the rain. We just blew everybody away during that stint. That's where we made up the three laps that we were down."

While Kanaan's team, which also featured Giaffone, 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon and Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, benefited from the rain, not everyone else was as fortunate.

The Indy Racing League/Firestone kart, piloted by Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers Nick Bussell, Wade Cunningham, Chris Festa and Travis Gregg, along with 17-year-old Texan CR Crews, lost 24 spots.

Festa, who drove the first stint of the race, had improved the team's position from 59th to 37th when the rain started falling. After enduring the conditions for several laps, he joined a parade of karts into the pits to put on rain tires. While the team was in the pits, they lost laps to the karts still on the track. Just after Festa was able to go back on course, officials waved the red flag, which allowed the other teams to change tires without penalty.

"We got caught off guard by the rain, so we lost a bunch of laps and got out of sequence," said Cunningham, the 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion. "It just seemed like something went wrong in nearly every stint -- something pretty major."

The team also endured a brake problem, several crashes and bodywork problems, falling to as low as 61st. They rebounded to finish 45th.

The Indy Racing League also placed drivers in second and third place in the race. Vitor Meira was one of four drivers on the No. 15 kart which finished second after leading part of the race.

"It was good," said Meira, who recorded his best finish in his fourth Granja Viana 500. "I just hung on and tried to keep the hammer down. You push it all the time. It was a fun day, and that's the purpose of it."

The third-place kart, No. 71, featured Kanaan, Wheldon, Barrichello and 18-year-old Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver Marco Andretti. Andretti drove strongly for the team despite a stiff neck suffered during a spin and crash on the wet track prior to the rain delay.

Jaime Camara, Andretti, Giaffone and two Brazilians recorded a top-20 finish in the No. 73 kart, while Phil Giebler joined three other Americans for a top-30 finish in the No. 303 kart.

4. IRL drivers compete around globe: IRL IndyCar Series veteran Tomas Enge posted his first podium finish in the World Cup of Motorsports, finishing third in feature event at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

"The podium feels great especially after such a difficult weekend," Enge said. "We proved that our pace on used tires was not a trick, and I feel that we were quickest after the first two at the end of the race."

The other IndyCar Series driver entered, Team USA's Bryan Herta, finished seventh, though he felt he could have done much better.

"I felt that we had the potential to make the podium; however, we had some problems with the pit stop and start and ended up placing seventh," Herta said. "I do feel that we have made progress since the race in Australia and that we will continue to be successful going forward."

2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice also competed in a race over the weekend, teaming with ESPN broadcaster Cameron Steele to finish 15th in the Trophy Truck division of the Baja 1000.

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 26, 2006 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The fifth season of Menards Infiniti Pro Series competition also opens on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-irl-