IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-07-17

Today's IRL headlines 1. Dixon's win tightens title chase 2. Mr. Hornish goes to Washington 3. Drivers reap post-race rewards 4. Banner day also benefits charity 5. Of note 1. Dixon's win tightens title chase: Scott Dixon was a key figure in...

Today's IRL headlines
1. Dixon's win tightens title chase
2. Mr. Hornish goes to Washington
3. Drivers reap post-race rewards
4. Banner day also benefits charity
5. Of note

1. Dixon's win tightens title chase:

Scott Dixon was a key figure in the 2003 points race with five events left, which resulted in an IndyCar Series championship for the New Zealander. He hopes the cards fall in similar fashion this year Dixon's win in the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway vaulted him into second in the standings with four ovals and one road-course events remaining. He trails Sam Hornish Jr. by five points (316-311) heading into the ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at The Milwaukee Mile on July 23. Helio Castroneves (310) is third with reigning IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon fourth (300).

The top four are the closest with five races left than any year since 2001 (from 1996-2000, there were fewer races and points payouts). The closest comparison is '03, when Tony Kanaan led with 357 points. Gil de Ferran was second (350), Castroneves third (347) and Dixon fourth (333). It went down to the final race -- at Texas Motor Speedway -- before Dixon claimed the title. This year's points race appears headed in the same direction.

"I think, for our team, it was definitely a big gain," Dixon said after recording his first oval victory since June 2003. "(Hornish) opened up a bit of a gap, nearly 40 points on us, I think coming into this race. It's always been nothing but looking towards the championship and trying to win the championship this year, and nothing's changed since. "But this definitely helps the situation a lot. Now we just need to make sure that both the 9 and the 10 car are very competitive and can try and win a few more of these next few races."

Hornish, a three-time winner this season, is the defending champion at The Mile. The pole sitter beat Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti, the 2004 winner, to the line. "Any time you make significant points on Sam, it's a good thing, because he doesn't normally give them away," said Wheldon, who didn't give anyone a chance in the championship race last year by winning four of the initial five races.

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2. Mr. Hornish goes to Washington:

Of all the prizes and benefits Sam Hornish Jr. has received so far from winning the 90th Indianapolis 500, meeting President George W. Bush will top the list Hornish, whose daring frontstretch pass of Marco Andretti in the May 28 classic garnered an ESPY Award nomination for "best championship performance," will join team owner Roger Penske, Marlboro Team Penske crew members and the Borg-Warner Trophy at the White House on July 18 for a formal photo opportunity and chat with Bush.

"I'm really excited to go to the White House; it's a great honor," said Hornish, a native of Defiance, Ohio, who resides in nearby Napoleon. "Not even every Indy 500 winner gets that opportunity. As much as I love being an American and living in this country and as much history as there is, I'd be just as excited to go even if I wasn't able to meet the president." Hornish, who has never visited the White House, and the group will gather in the Diplomatic Reception Room, with the meeting with the president held shortly afterward.

"Last year, I went to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument and that was pretty cool stuff, and this is going to be even neater," Hornish said. "It's been a great year for us." Hornish also will participate at noon (ET) in the "Ask the White House" chat (submit a question at www.whitehouse.gov/ask/question2.html and meet with U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor, who represents Hornish's district. Last month, Gillmor introduced a resolution to the House of Representatives to honor Hornish for winning the 500-Mile Race.

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3. Drivers reap post-race rewards:

Scott Dixon again reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event. As the Firestone Indy 200 race winner, Dixon was presented with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT Camera and an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event. The Aquaracer concept is founded on providing the accuracy that all water sports demand. Based on the design and features of the timeless 2000 series, launched in 1982, TAG Heuer's watchmakers and designers have created an original, prestigious sports watch that is water-resistant to 300 meters. Kosuke Matsuura collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 129 of the race and the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back, while Ryan Briscoe won the K&N Award and its $2,000 prize for being the highest-placed eligible finisher. Dan Wheldon won the Marlboro Pole Award and its $10,000 prize.

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4. Banner day also benefits charity:

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's first 1-2 finish in the IndyCar Series also paid off for its favorite charity. The team raised an addition $10,600 for St. Jude Children's Hospital and Target House thanks to Scott Dixon's win ($5,000), Dan Wheldon's pole position ($1,000) and a combined 184 laps led by the two ($4,600). This season, the team has raised more than $25,000 for the Memphis, Tenn. children's hospital and Target House, a home away from home for families with children receiving life-saving treatment at St. Jude Children's Hospital. The total has already doubled the total raised by the team in 2005.

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5. Of note:

Scott Dixon led more laps at Nashville (69) than he had in the prior eight races (61). -- Jeff Simmons finished a career-best seventh at Nashville, but only gained three points of Marco Andretti, who finished eighth. Andretti leads Simmons 196-109 in the race for the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award.

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The next IndyCar Series event is the ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) on July 23 at The Milwaukee Mile. 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 Milwaukee 100 on July 22 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. on July 27. ESPN2's coverage of the Sunbelt Rentals 100 will be telecast at 2 p.m. on July 20.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing