IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-03-07

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 7, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. If You Missed It: Danica Patrick on today's teleconference 2. Marty Reid to lead ESPN, ABC IndyCar Series coverage 3. IndyCar Series Sneak...

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 7, 2007

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. If You Missed It: Danica Patrick on today's teleconference
2. Marty Reid to lead ESPN, ABC IndyCar Series coverage
3. IndyCar Series Sneak Peak: AGR veteran, newcomer expect to win
4. Season Preview: Super Aguri Panther Racing
5. Rice joins Racing for Kids lineup

1. 2005 IndyCar Series Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick and two-time Indy Pro Series race winner Alex Lloyd were guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.

Patrick discussed expectations for the 2007 season resulting from her move to Andretti Green Racing.

Q. How pivotal is this season for you? How different does this season feel compared to the first two?

DANICA PATRICK: "You know, I will say honestly that I feel, as the races go on, and of course the seasons go on, I feel more pressure to do well, to perform, but I know there's also circumstances that come into it, as well.

"If it was as simple as one more season should give you better results, then that should have happened from season one to season two. But the circumstances were that we had an engine advantage the first year. We had a chassis advantage in certain places the first year. The team was in much better condition than it was the second year.

"You know, all those things play into your results. While I drove better and more flawlessly and more aggressively and with more knowledge, it didn't translate as much because of all of those circumstances.

"So when everything is right, when the season comes together with a good car, a good engine, a good team, good everything, good me, then the success will come. But there's just so many moving parts in racing."

***

2. Marty Reid to lead ESPN, ABC IndyCar Series coverage: Veteran ESPN motorsports commentator Marty Reid will lead the network's coverage of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 in 2007, his second season as lead announcer. The season will begin with a live primetime telecast from Homestead-Miami Speedway March 24 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Booth analyst Scott Goodyear and pit reporter Jack Arute will also return to the coverage team this season, with pit reporter Vince Welch returning to a fulltime role after working selected races the past two seasons. Joining the team as pit reporter will be Indianapolis native Brienne Pedigo.

ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN on ABC will have coverage of all 17 events on the IndyCar Series schedule, and ABC will cover the Indianapolis 500 for the 43rd year on May 27, extending the second-longest relationship in television history between a sporting event and television network.

Goodyear, who has been analyst for the IndyCar Series on ESPN and ABC since 2002, will join Reid in the booth for all telecasts this season, while Arute, who has worked auto racing telecasts and other sports for ESPN and ABC since 1984, will lead the pit reporter team. Welch has covered races on both radio and TV for the IndyCar Series since its formation in 1996.

Pedigo will be in her first year as a member of the IndyCar Series team for ESPN and ABC. Her sports television experience includes working as a pit reporter for The Outdoor Channel's telecasts of USAC sprint and midget car racing as well as a reporter for CBS Sports' coverage of the NCAA Final Four. She also worked as a segment writer for ESPN's coverage of professional bowling. An actress, singer and dancer, Pedigo grew up in a racing and sports-oriented family and has been performing since age two.

Rusty Wallace, who was an analyst last season with Goodyear, and pit reporter Jamie Little, both working on ESPN's NASCAR coverage this season, will re-join the IndyCar Series team for the Indianapolis 500.

The races will be produced for ESPN by Shawn Murphy, Neil Goldberg and Rich O'Connor. Patrick McManus will direct the telecasts all season.

***

3. IndyCar Series Sneak Peak: AGR veteran, newcomer expect to win: Dario Franchitti is the longest tenured driver at Andretti Green Racing. Danica Patrick is the team's newest driver. Both have the same goal, win races and contend for the IndyCar Series championship.

"Andretti Green Racing worked very hard during the off-season, and we are really anxious and ready to get the 2007 season underway," team co-owner Kevin Savoree said. "We've seen some big changes in our organization, and we're really looking forward to going racing."

The biggest change is the addition of Patrick, the 2005 Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year. Patrick, who joins the team after two seasons at Rahal Letterman Racing hopes the offseason move pays off in her first win.

"I'm excited about my move to Andretti Green Racing and the No. 7 Team Motorola car," she said. "Nobody else has won more than them, and they were the only team last year to beat the red cars (Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing) at two races."

Patrick will work with veteran engineer Martin Pare and the crew that prepared cars for Franchitti the last two seasons. Team co-owner Kim Green, who previously called races for Tony Kanaan, will serve as Patrick's race stategist. Patrick, though, is looking forward to being part of the camaraderie of the four-driver lineup.

"I'm also really excited about my teammates, just how much they can help me," she said. "I've never really been in a situation before where I've had people that I can lean on, that can help me. That's going to be a really nice thing for me, to just not only have helpers but friends."

While Patrick is new to the team, Franchitti has been with the team for nearly a decade. But with much of his crew moving to Patrick's Team Motorola entry, Franchitti's car has assumed the crew that previously worked with Bryan Herta.

Still, Franchitti is optimistic about how the Canadian Club car will perform this season.

"I haven't been this excited to get back into a race car in quite a long time," said Franchitti, who has driven for the team since 1997. "We had some very good race cars last season, and I expect to be contending for race wins.

"With Canadian Club continuing as the major sponsor on my car, it gives the team some continuity and chemistry to build on that should help produce results on the track."

ANDRETTI GREEN RACING
Car numbers: 7 (Patrick), 27 (Franchitti)
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone
Drivers: Danica Patrick, 25 (on March 25), of Roscoe, Ill., and Dario Franchitti, 33 of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Race engineers: Martin Pare (Patrick), Allen McDonald (Franchitti)
Chief mechanic: Dave Popielarz (Patrick), Jeff Grahn (Franchitti)
Team managers: George Klotz and John Anderson

***

4. Season Preview: Super Aguri Panther Racing: Leading up to the season-opening Miami 100 on March 24, we'll preview the teams and drivers that will compete in 2007 for the Indy Pro Series' Firestone Firehawk Cup. Today, is Super Aguri Panther Racing.

CAPSULE LOOK
Owners: John Barnes, Doug Boles, Mark Driscoll, Susan Driscoll, Mike Griffin, Jim Harbaugh, Courtney Jones and Kevin Wall
Driver: Hideki Mutoh (No. 55)
Team Manager: Ron Catt
Chief Mechanic: John Worth

Overview: Panther Racing returns to the Indy Pro Series for the first time since their championship-winning season in 2003. That year, Mark Taylor won seven races en route to the Firestone Firehawk Cup. This year's effort is in conjunction with Aguri Suzuki to put rising Japanese driver Hideki Mutoh in the driver's seat. Mutoh impressed team members in several private off-season tests, then showed the rest of the series what he can do when he topped the speed chart on the first day of the Open Test on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mutoh came back two days later to rank seventh on the oval.

Watch For--Godzilla: Mutoh's crew members have nicknamed his No. 55 car 'Godzilla.' The number 5 is pronounced 'go' in Japanese, and the crew referenced a Blue Oyster Cult song that includes the lyrics, 'Go go Godzilla.' The team decorates the Dallara chassis with stuffed Godzillas while working on it in the garage area.

Watch For--Mentoring: Mutoh has much in common with countryman Kosuke Matsuura, one of Panther Racing's IndyCar Series drivers. Matsuura, the 2004 IndyCar Series Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year, won Japan's Formula Dream title in 2000 while Mutoh captured the title in 2003. The two live in the same apartment complex in Indianapolis and spend a lot of time together.

Watch For--Bonus Tests: Panther Racing can earn up to five bonus test days for its IndyCar Series program with its return to the Indy Pro Series. This will increase their competitiveness in the IndyCar Series while also allowing Mutoh the opportunity to gain seat time in an IndyCar Series car.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

John Barnes, co-owner: "As a team, we're very excited to get back into the Indy Pro Series. We haven't run in the series since we won the championship in 2003, but our driver Hideki Mutoh is an amazing young talent. I'm happy Super Aguri has given us this opportunity and shown the confidence to let us be an integral part of the Honda Formula Dream project. I think we're going to be able to pick up right where we left off."

Hideki Mutoh, driver: "First of all I just cannot wait for the upcoming season. I don't want to concentrate too much on winning the series championship from the start of the season. I want to do my best in each race and show my speed to people. If I could win the series championship by keeping my goal then that would be the best."

***

5. Rice joins Racing for Kids lineup: 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice has joined the Racing For Kids team of celebrity drivers that will visit sick children in hospitals across the country during the 2007 racing season, according to J. Patrick Wright, RFK executive director.

Racing For Kids (www.racingforkids.org) is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to use motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the healthcare needs of children. In 2006, Racing For Kids visited 2,200 sick children at 24 hospitals around the United States and in Japan and donated more than $200,000 to children's hospitals across the country, raising its total annual donations to close to $5 million.

"This is my first work with Racing For Kids," said Rice, who will drive the No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry. "But anything I can do to put a smile on the face of a sick child and bring the excitement of my sport to their bedside will be time well spent." Rice will be joining teammate Sarah Fisher on the 2007 Racing For Kids team roster. Team co-owner Robbie Buhl is the charity's national spokesman.

Rice's first Racing For Kids hospital visit will be Thursday, March 29 at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida.

***

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 at 5 p.m. (EDT) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Scott Goodyear , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Chip Ganassi , Aguri Suzuki , Alex Lloyd , John Anderson , Hideki Mutoh , Jamie Little , John Barnes , Shawn Murphy , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing