IRL: Indy Racing League news and notes 2006-03-09

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 9, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. 2006 Sneak Peak: Fernandez hoping change for better in 2006 2. Herta hoping for win on home soil 3. Hornish to attend dinner 1. 2006 Sneak Peak: Fernandez hoping...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 9, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. 2006 Sneak Peak: Fernandez hoping change for better in 2006
2. Herta hoping for win on home soil
3. Hornish to attend dinner

1. 2006 Sneak Peak: Fernandez hoping change for better in 2006: (First in a series of team previews) Fernandez Racing's two-car IRL IndyCar® Series effort took opposite paths in 2005, but the team hopes subtle changes will put both Delphi Fernandez Racing and Super Aguri Fernandez Racing in championship contention.

For the first time, the team, which is owned by Adrian Fernandez and his partners Tom Anderson (Delphi Fenandez Racing) and Aguri Suzuki (Super Aguri Fernandez Racing), will use separate chassis. Scott Sharp will pilot a Honda-powered Panoz chassis backed by longtime sponsor Delphi, but Kosuke Matsuura and the Panasonic sponsorship will be featured in a Honda-powered Dallara chassis for the first time.

Despite the change, Sharp expects the competition to be tougher this season.

"The most competitive racing series in the world is probably taking a couple of steps more in that direction with Honda moving to be the universal engine supplier and the series, as a whole, becoming more equal," he said. "I am expecting the races that everyone said 'how do you run that close' to somehow find a way to get even closer."

While the chassis change is the most visible, there are also changes among key personnel of each team.

Simon Hodgson, who previously served as team manager for the Super Aguri Fernandez effort, takes on the role of team manager for both teams, while race engineers John Dick and Chris Finch and chief mechanic Don Lambert and Tony Leith have switched teams. Dick and Lambert will work with 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Sharp, while Finch and Leith will work with Matsuura.

"I felt the Delphi Fernandez team hit a great stride towards the latter half of the season last year," said Sharp, who finished fifth in the point standings and won the race at Kentucky Speedway. "Week in and week out we were always right around the top five, and I felt we reached a level of performance that if we would have been able to show in the first half of the season, certainly would have made us championship contenders." Matsuura, the 2004 Bombardier Rookie of the Year, hopes the potent combination and the experience he gained in his first two IndyCar Series seasons can lift him over the hump this season.

"I have learned a lot these past two years, even through the bad luck we had last season, and feel that we will be very strong in 2006," Matsuura said. "I am ready to challenge for not only race wins, but the championship as well."

DELPHI FERNANDEZ RACING: Car number: 8 Main sponsor: Delphi Chassis/engine/tire: Panoz/Honda/Firestone Race engineer: John Dick Chief mechanic: Don Lambert Team manager: Simon Hodgson

OWNER'S OUTLOOK FOR 2006:

Tom Anderson, Owner/Managing Director: "The Delphi Fernandez team had a great debut season in 2005 with Scott finishing fifth in the championship and scoring six top-five finishes and a win in Kentucky. We are looking forward to building on those results in 2006, and challenging for the championship."

Delphi Fernandez Racing 2005 IndyCar Series season
Starts 17
Victories 1
Top 5 6
Top 10 13
Poles 0
Laps led 60
Best start 3 (Motegi, Indianapolis)
Best finish 1 (Kentucky)
Running at finish 14
Points rank 5
Earnings $1,150,055

SUPER AGURI FERNANDEZ RACING
Car number: 55
Main sponsors: Panasonic, Autobacs
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone
Driver: Kosuke Matsuura, 26, of Aichi, Japan
Race engineer: Chris Finch
Chief mechanic: Tony Leith
Team manager: Simon Hodgson

MANAGING DIRECTOR OUTLOOK FOR 2006:

Tom Anderson: "We are excited to have Kosuke back for a third season. I have always been impressed with his natural driving ability and appetite for speed. With the experience he has gained on the ovals, he has everything he needs for success this season. I am looking forward to a great year."

Super Aguri Fernandez Racing 2005 IndyCar Series season
Starts 17
Victories 0
Top 5 0
Top 10 7
Poles 0
Laps led 2
Best start 7 (St. Petersburg)
Best finish 6 (Infineon, Watkins Glen)
Running at finish 9
Points rank 14
Earnings $893,105

***

2. Herta hoping for win on home soil: Bryan Herta says familiarity with the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit is a brief advantage. The Andretti Green Racing driver will represent Team USA in the inaugural A1 Grand Prix of Nations, California, this weekend.

"It helps a little, especially in the beginning of the session," said Herta, a two-time open-wheel race winner on the 2.238-mile, 11-corner course. "But those guys learn the track very quickly and I haven't been there for four or five years myself, so it isn't like I've been running around there lately.

"There will be more expectation on me because of the success I've had there and being the American in the U.S. round. I'm ready for that hoping I can bring a win to the U.S. team on home soil."

Twenty-five national teams race identical 520-horsepower open-wheel cars with no electronic driver aids. The penultimate race of the schedule received the final go-ahead March 6 from A1 Grand Prix officials, who had raised concerns about preparation of the facility because of recent heavy rains.

Two weeks ago in Monterrey, Mexico, Herta was leading the feature race by 28 seconds, but a late extended pit stop dropped Team USA to 13th place.

"We had good pace," Herta said. "I had been out of the car for awhile so it was a good warm-up for me going back to Laguna Seca. We had a top-three speed from the car, but unfortunately we had some problems on the pit stop and didn't get a result to match. Hopefully, we'll take some of the lessons we're learned and try to put the whole weekend together and get a good result."

It helps a little, especially in the beginning of the session, but those guys learn the track very quickly and I haven't been there for four or five years myself so it isn't like I've been running around there lately. There will be more expectation on me because of the success I've had there and being the American in the U.S. round. I'm ready for that hoping I can bring a win to the U.S. team on home soil."

Herta immediately set his sights on the United States A1 Grand Prix of Nations Round. "The Team and I are going to make adjustments before Laguna Seca," said Herta. "We believe we discovered a couple of things here which will help our results in the future."

Patrick Carpentier (Canada) and Tomas Enge (Czech Republic), who competed in the IndyCar Series in 2005, also will drive in this round.

***

3. Hornish to attend dinner: Sam Hornish Jr. will attend the Lincoln-Hayes dinner in Bowling Green, Ohio on March 11.

Hornish will attend the event and sit at the head table as a guest of U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor, the representative from Hornish's district, the Ohio 5th.

Other tables will be hosted by civic leaders including: Karl Rove, White House Deputy Chief of Staff/Chief Political Advisor to President Bush; Sen. Mike DeWine; Jim

Petro, Ohio Attorney General; Betty Montgomery, Ohio Auditor; Jenette Bradley, Ohio Treasurer; Mary Taylor, Ohio State Representative; Greg Hartman, candidate for Ohio Secretary of State and Bob Cupp, candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court.

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 at 3:30 p.m. (EST) on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition opens with the Miami 100 at 12:30 p.m. on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 1 p.m. on March 31 by ESPN2.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Enge , Scott Sharp , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Bryan Herta , Tom Anderson , Kosuke Matsuura , Aguri Suzuki , Sam Hornish Jr.