IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2004-09-21

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Sept. 21 Today's IRL headlines 1. Maia Conducts First Road-Course Test For Menards Infiniti Pro Series 2. Brack Has Successful Return To Racing 3. Foyt Runs Well In Supermodified Debut 4. Wheldon, Rice Earn...

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Sept. 21

Today's IRL headlines
1. Maia Conducts First Road-Course Test For Menards Infiniti Pro Series
2. Brack Has Successful Return To Racing
3. Foyt Runs Well In Supermodified Debut
4. Wheldon, Rice Earn Votes For Third-Quarter Award

1. Maia Conducts First Road-Course Test For Menards Infiniti Pro Series: Leonardo Maia turned the first laps on a road course in Indy Racing League history on Sept. 21 when he lapped the 2.21-mile course at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù car.

The private test at Homestead-Miami was the first opportunity for Menards Infiniti Pro Series officials to evaluate the components needed for the cars to race on road courses in 2005.

Maia, the only driver to participate in the test, drove 106 laps in the No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Maia had more than 230 miles of testing on the 13-turn course, including a 30-lap run at end of the day.

"It's incredible. I couldn't be happier," Maia said. "The car is working really good. I think the transition from oval to road racing will be a lot easier for (the Menards Infiniti Pro Series). To be honest, there's nothing we really need to change on the car. It's working really well.

"The big issue I was concerned with was the brakes and the ducting for the brakes, but that seems to be working a little too well. It takes quite a bit for the brakes to start working really good. We're trying some different brake ducts. The second set that we put in was really good. It bites really good at the initial braking.

"Firestone did a really good job with the tires they brought. I didn't think that we'd be able to see that much of a difference in the tires. They all worked really good. The lap times didn't show the difference quite as much as I would expect, but inside the car it was a noticeable change."

Roger Bailey, executive director of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, was pleased with the way the series' spec-Dallara chassis adapted to changes in the suspension, powertrain and tires. Changes to the suspension include modified wishbones on the front of the car and a change of uprights on the left side of the car. The powertrain changes from a spool differential to a limited-slip differential.

"I'm very excited about what's happened today," Bailey said. "The car has proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that it's suitable for what we want to do. It's been very reliable. At lunch time, we stripped down the gearbox, had a look in there. Everything seemed to be fine and dandy in there. The car is responding in a manner that we want it to respond. Every time we change the tires, the construction of the compound, he can tell there is a difference. It's a sensitive car, and I think eventually it's going to be a very, very good road-race car."

***

2. Brack Has Successful Return To Racing: After almost a year away from racing, Kenny Brack made his return to competition on Sept. 18-19.

Brack, the 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1999 IRL IndyCar® Series champion, competed in a Porsche Carerra Cup event in Sweden. It was the first time he had raced since sustaining serious injuries in an accident last October at Texas Motor Speedway and his first race in Sweden since 1992.

Driving a "guest car" in the race at Mantorp Park, Brack recorded the fastest Carrera Cup lap on the circuit in the Friday practice session. The Rahal Letterman Racing driver was two-tenths of a second quicker than the track record set in the spring Carrera Cup race at Mantorp.

"It was fun but too much hype around the event about me," said Brack, who was the subject of many of the stories throughout Sweden during the weekend. "There were press and people everywhere. I actually feel quite drained today."

Rain fell in qualifying for the Sept. 18 race, but Brack was a second faster than the closest driver. Late in qualifying, three drivers went to dry tires and bettered Brack's time, pushing Brack to fourth on the grid. In the race, Brack moved to third at the start, but his car lost its front wing and developed an understeer. He fell back to fifth at the finish.

Brack started fifth in the Sept. 19 race and moved to fourth before his car was knocked off the track by another car. Brack's car became loose, and he had to settle for fifth for the second straight day.

"It's quite difficult to come in at the end of the championship when everybody has had a full year to prepare," Brack said. "I never could get the car to handle like I wanted. But it was fun to race again and that's the main thing."

After his performance on the track, Brack joined in for the "season end" party for all of the Swedish racers and jumped up on stage to play his guitar with some of Sweden's top rock bands.

"I joined in and played guitar with one of my best friends, Jan 'Flash' Nilsson, some of Sweden's top music artists and even the (Swedish) King's son, Prince Carl Philip, another good friend, and it was great fun," Brack said. "But it was very busy for me. It was just nice to get back and race again."

***

3. Foyt Runs Well In Supermodified Event: A.J. Foyt IV finished fourth in the Supermodified Racing League's Harvest Classic at Madera Speedway in Madera, Calif., on Sept. 18.

Foyt, the grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt and driver of the No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, made his series debut in a car normally driven by Ken Hamilton, the father of IndyCar Series veteran Davey Hamilton. It was the first time Foyt drove a car fielded by someone other than his grandfather.

"I had a lot of fun, everyone treated me really good and I'd like to do it again," said Foyt IV.

Foyt tied SRL points leader Troy Regier for fastest qualifier honors with a lap of 12.49 seconds on the .33-mile oval and finished fourth in his eight-lap heat race despite spinning early.

In the 40-lap feature, Foyt started eighth and despite spinning on the way to the green, steadily worked his way into the top five. He took over fourth, five laps from the finish, finishing behind series regulars Jim Birges, Regier and Bobby Dalton.

"The car was pretty loose," said Foyt IV. "It was the first time the team had raced at the track all year, so we had some challenges with it being my first race. It was hot during the day when we practiced, but it cooled down pretty good at night and that changed the track a lot. We tried to compensate in our setup, but the car was still loose in the feature. I couldn't drive up off the corner, so it was pretty hard to pass," said Foyt IV. "But I had a lot of fun. It was over pretty quick. I wish the race was longer."

Foyt IV's grandfather was not present, but he received reports on how his grandson fared.

"I heard that he ran a really good race," Foyt said. "I think it was good for him to run a different type of race car on a different type of track because he can learn from that experience which I'm sure he did. It's hard to go into someone else's backyard and run against them. He did a good job and I'm proud of him."

***

4. Wheldon, Rice Earn Votes For Third-Quarter Award: IndyCar Series drivers Dan Wheldon and Buddy Rice finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in third-quarter voting for the Speed Channel Driver of the Year Award.

NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Jeff Gordon was the runaway winner in the voting, earning 15 of the 17 votes from the media ballot. In all, 21 drivers earned points in the third-quarter voting.

The quarterly driver of the year voting is determined by a vote of 18 leading journalists from across the U.S. and a fan vote on speedtv.com. A separate vote will determine the 2004 Driver of the Year at the end of the season.

***

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Indy 400 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 3 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series event is the California 100 at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 2 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 7.

-irl-

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