IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-03-01

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 1, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Rahal Letterman Racing embracing its role in spreading the ethanol message 2. Firestone continues to evolve track plans 1. Rahal Letterman...

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 1, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Rahal Letterman Racing embracing its role in spreading the ethanol message
2. Firestone continues to evolve track plans

1. Rahal Letterman Racing embracing its role in spreading the ethanol message: Rahal Letterman Racing has always maintained a high profile in the Indy car racing world. That attention and high profile has come with having won championships and the Indianapolis 500. It has come with having high-profile drivers such as Bobby Rahal, Kenny Brack, Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick, and it has come with having a ownership duo that is comprised of a Hall of Fame racer in Rahal and an American television icon who happens to be one of the country's most avid motorsports enthusiasts, David Letterman.

As Rahal Letterman Racing moves into the 2007 season, the team's role as Team Ethanol is pushing it to the forefront of the national debate on the benefits of ethanol-enhanced fuel. Rahal Letterman Racing and the IndyCar Series' use of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol have created a number of national media stories, including a recent appearance by President George W. Bush with the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Honda/Dallara/Firestone in North Carolina.

In February, Bobby Rahal was the keynote speaker at the Renewable Fuel Association's National Ethanol Conference in Tucson, Ariz. In addressing the crowd of more than 2,000 that attended the annual event, Rahal spoke of the responsibility that everyone associated with the ethanol industry shares -- the task of spreading the message. Rahal underscored the significance of the ethanol industry's partnership with the IndyCar Series and Rahal Letterman Racing.

"The ethanol partnership with IndyCar has been a sound strategic decision," Rahal said. "Open-wheel racing has always been the most technologically advanced form of racing in North American motorsports, and the sport has always prided itself on being in the forefront of automotive innovation. From early automotive innovations like the rear-view mirror to recent safety innovations like the SAFER Barrier, the willingness of the sport to embrace the future technologies has been well-documented. Thus the IndyCar Series is the perfect live case study to showcase that ethanol is in fact a high-performance fuel. After all if (Rahal Letterman Racing drivers) Jeff Simmons and Scott Sharp can turn laps at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen running on ethanol, then surely the fuel is effective and sufficient to pilot your mini-van to the mall, the market and back."

No one at Rahal Letterman Racing has worked harder in the last year spreading the message of ethanol than Simmons, driver of the Team Ethanol entry. For Simmons, the last year has been a blur as he has adjusted to stepping up to the IndyCar Series from the Indy Pro Series and as he acclimated himself to being one of the most visible spokesmen for the ethanol industry.

"When I became the Team Ethanol driver, I assumed the legacy that Paul Dana had established," said Simmons. "The passion of the ethanol industry to make a difference in the energy needs of our country is amazing. The fact is we can make that difference in our country's energy consumption and still benefit the environment with a clean-burning, renewable fuel all while utilizing a high performance fuel as an added bonus. There have been a lot of exciting opportunities that have come our way, but nothing will compare with what will happen here in the next few months when the IndyCar Series starts the 2007 season running 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol and then at Indy when the entire 33-car field runs on ethanol. To be part of motorsports history is thrilling, but to be so closely involved with ethanol and to realize what this means in the bigger picture is unbelievable."

The message is being spread by the rest of Rahal Letterman Racing's staff as well. At the recent IndyCar Series test at Daytona, four documentary crews followed the Team Ethanol and Patron Tequila entries compiling features on ethanol and its use in the IndyCar Series. Frequently Rahal Letterman Racing engineers have been called on to discuss the series move to ethanol and the benefits of the renewable fuel source.

"While we at Rahal Letterman Racing run the 'Team Ethanol' entry in the IndyCar Series, the reality is everyone associated with the ethanol industry is who really comprises Team Ethanol," Rahal said. "Everyone working in some capacity with ethanol is carrying the cause of this wonderful product. When I talk about ethanol, a high-performance, environmentally friendly, domestically produced energy source, it is hard to fathom, in this day and age with the issues that face our country, that there could be opposition, but as you know all to well there is always opposition to change. It is up to each member of Team Ethanol to do their part to spread the word and the virtues of ethanol."

2. Firestone continues to evolve track plans: Al Speyer, motorsports executive director for Firestone Racing, said compound or construction of the Firestone Firehawk racing radials will be different from 2006 for at least eight of the 17 IndyCar Series events.

Additionally, there has been a stagger change for the IPS cars on the ovals.

"We have a new tire for Homestead, basically the same construction as we used last year, but a new compound for improved grip," Speyer said of the tire that will be used on the 1.5-mile oval that will host the season opener March 24. "Most importantly, we have a new tire for Indianapolis. That tire actually goes back to a construction we used in the time period from 2003 to 2005. But the Indy tire also has a new left-side and right-side compound.

"We also have new tires for Nashville, the concrete track. That's a new right-side compound for us."

Speyer noted that a tire compound/construction for first-time IndyCar Series venues Iowa Speedway (June 24) and Belle Isle (Sept. 2) has not been determined.

"We've got several other things under development," he said. "Iowa has been a challenge for us so far. We've been there twice and still not found the tire we want to use there. We're still looking at the tire we're going to use at Belle Isle and also thinking about possibly making a change for the tires we have at Chicagoland.

"In a nutshell, at least eight of the 17 races on the 2007 IndyCar Series schedule will have a new tire for that track. We've done some work in the Indy Pro Series as well -- adjusted the stagger (size of right-side tires is changed to aid in turning) a little bit and changed one of the compounds that we'll be using to make a little more drivability.

"For the rest of our season, everything will be very similar to what has been seen from Firestone in the past. We'll continue to be the title sponsor at both the Nashville and Michigan races. We're very close to working on a major supporting role at an additional IndyCar Series race this year."

***

The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (EDT) 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 and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast on at 5 p.m. (EDT) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice , Jeff Simmons , Paul Dana , Danica Patrick