IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-07-12

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 12, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Penske drivers eye Nashville's unique prize 2. Foyt hires Bucknum 3. Home away from home 4. Of note 1. Penske drivers eye Nashville's unique prize: Marlboro Team...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- July 12, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Penske drivers eye Nashville's unique prize
2. Foyt hires Bucknum
3. Home away from home
4. Of note

1. Penske drivers eye Nashville's unique prize: Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. have three Indianapolis 500 wins between them, but each driver has a prize they covet almost as much as the "Baby Borg" trophy given to the winning driver.

Neither driver has won the hand-painted custom guitar given to the race winner at Nashville Superspeedway, but both have their eyes on the unique prize entering the Firestone Indy 200 on July 15.

"The Borg Warner (Trophy) is obviously the one that everyone wants to win -- because it comes with the honor of winning the Indy 500," Hornish Jr. said. "But the trophy you get for winning in Nashville is also one of those that is so unique, that I'd love to win it. The paint scheme is intricate and it's a guitar so there's no other trophy like it. It would make for an interesting conversation piece in my trophy case that people would definitely always ask me about."

The guitar, which was recognized by Sports Illustrated last year as one of the 10-coolest prizes in sports, is made by Nashville-based Gibson Guitars and hand-painted by noted motorsports artist Sam Bass.

"I think that every driver would like to add the Nashville guitar to their trophy collection -- myself included," Castroneves said. "It's one of the most unique trophies in all of racing. I don't know how to play, but I tried singing while in Nashville once, and I learned that I have absolutely no future in music. So while it would be great to win a guitar, I think I'd just keep it in my trophy case and stick to racing."

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2. Foyt hires Bucknum: Jeff Bucknum will drive No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Dallara/Honda/Firestone for the remainder of the 2006 IRL IndyCar Series season, team owner A.J. Foyt announced July 12.

Bucknum, the son of former Formula one driver Ronnie Bucknum, will replace Felipe Giaffone, who parted ways with the team on July 10.

Bucknum, who drove twice for Foyt last year at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International, will make his first oval track start for Foyt at Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway on July 15.

"We worked with Jeff a couple times last year, and he did a good job for us," Foyt said. "I know he hasn't got much experience on the ovals, but I think he can adapt to them. The next two ovals that we're taking him to are the hardest on the circuit, so if he can adapt to them, I think he can adapt to any oval. By the same token, I'm not expecting miracles. I told him to just go out and get some experience and try to come home clean."

Foyt will not be in Nashville this weekend because he is still recovering from knee replacement surgery. Noted race engineer Bruce Ashmore, who worked with the Foyt team at Indianapolis in May, work with Bucknum at the challenging 1.3 mile concrete track. Ashmore

Bucknum, who recorded his career-best finish of 10th with the Foyt team at Watkins Glen in 2005, has made three previous starts on ovals: Japan's Twin Ring Motegi in April 2005 and the last two Indianapolis 500s. He said he is up to the challenge.

"I don't have a lack of confidence when it comes to ovals," Bucknum said. "But I'm smart enough to know I need someone to tell me the things that I don't know because of my lack of experience. A.J. is one of the best when it comes to the oval tracks and teaching drivers to run the ovals. This is the best opportunity I could ask for. In the long run I think it will pay off for both of us."

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3. Home away from home: Though a native of Scotland, Dario Franchitti has made a home in Tennessee. Away from the track, Franchitti shares a house with his wife in the Middle Tennessee countryside.

"It reminds me of Scotland, only warmer," Franchitti said. "It's 60s to 70s on a good day in Scotland, but it's much warmer than that in Tennessee. I certainly love the area that we live in."

The defending winner of the Firestone Indy 200 makes his home about 55 miles from Nashville Superspeedway, making this weekend's IndyCar Series stop in Nashville a virtual home game.

"Without a race in Scotland, this is definitely my home track," Franchitti said. "Before that, we ran at Rockingham, England in CART. I always felt at home in the Canadian and Australian races. I had a real connection with the fans at those races. I feel that in Nashville, too."

But despite his close proximity to the track, Franchitti says logistics force him to stay at the track rather than take the short 15-minute helicopter commute to the track.

"I actually stay at the track because I don't want to gamble with the weather. If the weather is not very good, I would look pretty stupid so I stay at the track. It's 15 minutes by helicopter so it's a very short trip. If you are driving it from our home to the track it's about 55 miles."

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4. Of note: Race fan Mark Scranton of Decatur, Ill., will wave the green flag as honorary starter of the Firestone Indy 200. Scranton made the highest bid ($2,225) on an eBay auction held by Firestone for the opportunity. Firestone will donate Scranton's winning bid to the United Way of Metro Nashville. -- Sam Hornish Jr. is ranked No. 3 in this week's Speed Channel Driver Rankings. Hornish is the top-ranked North American driver in the poll which includes NASCAR Nextel Cup, Formula One, Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League competitors. -- Dario Franchitti will make an appearance at Nashville-based Mayer Electric on behalf of Klein Tools before joining other IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series drivers at Firestone's Americas Support Center during the annual employee day on July 13. Firestone employees and their families will have the chance to chat with the drivers and get autographs amid the other food and fun planned for the day.

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The next IndyCar Series event is the Firestone Indy 200 at 9 p.m. on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 15 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. on July 20.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Jeff Bucknum , Bruce Ashmore , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske