IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-12-07

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Dec. 7, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Wheldon has memorable weekend 2. Patrick races to front in USSA Athlete of Year Voting 3. Carpenter trains with Lance Armstrong's coaches 1. Wheldon has memorable ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Dec. 7, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Wheldon has memorable weekend
2. Patrick races to front in USSA Athlete of Year Voting
3. Carpenter trains with Lance Armstrong's coaches

1. Wheldon has memorable weekend: Dan Wheldon has built a trophy case "that cost me an arm and a leg" to display his baby Borg Warner Trophy and his Indianapolis 500 championship ring in a place of honor in his St. Petersburg, Fla., home. After last weekend, though, he may have to add on.

Wheldon, the 2005 IRL IndyCar® Series champion accepted the British Competition Driver of the Year award during the annual Autosport Awards banquet at the Grosvenor House hotel in London on Dec. 4.

Hours earlier in Indianapolis, he was named winner of the Jerry Titus Memorial Award as driver of the year as selected by the American Auto Writers and Broadcasters Association.

The recognition capped a busy weekend for Wheldon. He competed in his first Race of Champions -- Nations Cup at Stade de France in Paris on Dec. 3, falling in the first round of the individual event, and picked up a Gold Star, the Richard Seaman trophy for success abroad and the Earl Howe award at the British Racing Drivers Club banquet.

"It was just a dream season and I'm very proud to accept this trophy that has such a storied history of winners," said Wheldon, who was presented the Autosport Award by 1992 Formula One Drivers Champion Nigel Mansell. "To win both the Indianapolis 500 and the series championship is just unbelievable. It's still overwhelming to me really.

"Winning the Indianapolis 500 certainly raised my profile, and to be able to follow in the footsteps of some great English drivers there is something special. It was a privilege to win. I never liked milk until the month of May, but I think I drink it every morning now."

The series of awards cap an incredible year for Wheldon, who recently signed to drive with 2003 IndyCar Series champion Target Chip Ganassi Racing in a Honda-powered Dallara in the 2006 season that starts March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His six victories were the most ever in the series, and he had 15 top-10 finishes, led laps in 15 of the 17 races and topped the series in laps led (752).

"There is a big presence of people here that are well-respected in the motorsports industry, and for me to stand on the stage and say that the Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race in the world just shows you the respect the race has around the world," said Wheldon, who won the autosport.com rookie award in 2003. "This also got me to realize how excited I am about next year. I'm very excited about driving for Chip Ganassi and everybody at the Target team. It will be different, but Chip's operation over the years has been very good."

2. Patrick races to front in USSA Athlete of Year Voting: IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick leads the voting for the United States Sports Academy' Female Athlete of the Year, which is run in conjunction with USATODAY.com.

Patrick, the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500, leads gymnast Nastia Liukin with WNBA player Yolanda Griffith in third followed by American swimmer Natalie Coughlin and LPGA player Annika Sorenstam.

On the male side, seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong leads tennis star Roger Federer. Swimmer Aaron Peirsol and NFL star Peyton Manning round out the leading votegetters.

In only its first week online, thousands of fans around the world have already voted. Votes will be collected online until Dec. 24.

3. Carpenter trains with Lance Armstrong's coaches: Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter is approaching the 2006 IndyCar Serues schedule by starting an off-track conditioning and endurance training from renowned coaches at Carmichael Training Systems in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The training program is part of Vision Racing's effort to improve every aspect of the team from equipment, to training, to personnel.

"This past year for Vision Racing was a learning year," Carpenter said. "This off-season we have beefed up our engineering department and expanded our shop in some other areas. We have been working extremely hard to secure funding for next season. We have taken the philosophy that you have to have all the tools in order to get a sponsor, you can't wait until you have the sponsor to go and get the tools. We are going out on a limb, expanding and doing the things we need to do to get better."

Carpenter spent Dec. 5-6 in Colorado undergoing a two-day evaluation with Carmichael Training System coaches. Among the athletes trained by Carmichael Training System are Lance Armstrong, 2000 Olympic Time Trial Silver Medalist and World Champion Mari Holden and Montreal Canadiens Captain Saku Koivu.

"I think Lance Armstrong is the best athlete that I have ever watched perform," Carpenter said. "I believe he is the most motivated person I have ever seen, and look forward to training with the same people who have helped make him great."

***

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-

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