IRL: Indy Racing League's News and Notes 2006-11-09

Today's IndyCar Series headlines 1. Sharp, Patrón join Rahal Letterman Racing 2. Wyoming company to provide ethanol to IndyCar Series in 2007 3. Andretti nominated for rookie award 1. Sharp, Patrón join Rahal Letterman Racing: 1996 IndyCar ...

Today's IndyCar Series headlines
1. Sharp, Patrón join Rahal Letterman Racing
2. Wyoming company to provide ethanol to IndyCar Series in 2007
3. Andretti nominated for rookie award

1. Sharp, Patrón join Rahal Letterman Racing: 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp will drive for Rahal Letterman Racing in 2007 the team announced on Nov. 9. Sharp whose No. 8 Honda-powered Dallara will be backed by The Patrón Spirits Company, will join Jeff Simmons who will return to pilot the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda-powered Dallara. "The addition of Scott Sharp gives Rahal Letterman Racing an experienced driver to team with Jeff Simmons," said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing. "Scott has demonstrated over the years to be one of the most consistent drivers in the IndyCar Series and he is a proven race winner and someone who will be an outstanding representative for our organization and for Patrón Spirits. As an organization we are fortunate to be able to pair this driver combination with two world-class corporate partners giving us a foundation for a successful 2007 season and beyond."

"Scott Sharp is a winning veteran, and the perfect compliment for a talented young driver like Jeff Simmons," added RLR co-owner David Letterman. "It's exactly what Rahal Letterman Racing needs. The men and women of RLR have been working hard in the off-season to prepare the team for an exciting, competitive 2007." Sharp, a consistent performer who has finished nearly 75% of his races in his 14-year career comes to RLR as the career leader in IndyCar Series starts (129) and with nine wins and 35 top-five starts to his credit. Sharp, the only driver to compete in each of the previous 11 IndyCar Series seasons, and has posted eight top-10 championship results in his career. "I'm very excited to join Rahal Letterman Racing," Sharp said. "The team has been at the front of the open wheel scene ever since it's inception and has proven to win races with different drivers, chassis and series. I can't wait to work with Bobby, the entire team, and with Jeff. I expect us to be a formidable combination. I'm equally thrilled to represent Patrón and expose their highest quality tequila to a very ripe fan base. It should be an exciting year both on and off the track."

Patrón is the world's #1-selling ultra-premium tequila and is imported and marketed by the Las Vegas-based Patrón Spirits Company. This will be Patrón's second season in the IndyCar Series, but its first as the primary sponsor. "At Patrón, we're motivated every day by the desire to be the very best at everything we do," said Ed Brown, president and CEO of The Patrón Spirits Company. "From producing our top-selling tequila, to sponsoring and supporting high-profile organizations and events, nothing short of perfection will do.Scott Sharp and Rahal Letterman Racing share this same goal, and we're proud to put the Patrón tequila name on their IndyCar (Series car)."

Simmons, who started 12 races for the team in 2006, will return for his first full season in the IndyCar Series. The Hartford, Conn., native finished second in the Bombardier Rookie of the Year competition, collected a team best four consecutive top-10 results and finished 16th in the championship. "I came to RLR under difficult circumstances, but the team has been extremely supportive and I think as a team we started to come to grips with the Dallara towards the end of the season," Simmons said. "I am looking forward to starting on equal footing with the rest of the field and entering the season with a full winter of testing. The addition of Scott [Sharp] in the Patrón car is a real plus for RLR. Scott brings a lot of experience and that is another great resource for me to draw on as we prepare for the 2007 season."

"Jeff Simmons has great capabilities on and off the track," said Tom Slunecka, executive director of the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC). "As a driver, he took the Team Ethanol car to six top-10 finishes in the last seven races in his rookie year. As a spokesperson for Ethanol, he has the ability to communicate the values of ethanol to all types of consumers. We're proud to have him demonstrating the extreme performance that ethanol can deliver to drivers across this country."

2. Wyoming company to provide ethanol to IndyCar Series: A worldwide racing first, the IndyCar Series is poised to open its 2007 season on March 24 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway with the debut of the new 3.5-liter Honda Indy V-8 engine fueled by 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol. The ethanol industry is proud to be involved in the most significant racing fuel change in recent history. The cutting-edge technology developed for this series has performed flawlessly in extended testing. The combined efforts of the ethanol industry and the IndyCar Series have helped drive consumer awareness of ethanol and its performance and environmental benefits.

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) is responsible for providing the fuel and has contracted Renova Energy, based in Torrington, Wyo. to supply ethanol to the IndyCar Series throughout the 2007 season. "At the highest level of auto racing, ethanol proved safer and faster and has proved what auto enthusiasts have known for years," said Tom Slunecka, executive director of EPIC. "Renova Energy produces ethanol the same way, whether for an IndyCar Series car speeding around the track at 220 or a family sedan traveling 25 mph on Main Street."

Several IndyCar Series engineers worked with Dan Schwartzkopf, senior vice president of Renova Energy, who not only oversees his plant's ethanol production process but also races several dragsters that are fueled on E85, 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. "The process of transitioning to100 percent fuel grade ethanol has been seamless from the beginning" said Les Mactaggart, senior technical director for the IndyCar Series. "EPIC, Honda and Renova have been true partners during the process that culminated with successful tests at Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway in September and October."

The Ethanol-IndyCar Series partnership dates back to 2005 and has advanced from ethanol being a team sponsor to working with the league to introduce an ethanol-methanol blend in 2006 to next year's introduction of 100 percent fuel grade ethanol. The 17-race 2007 IndyCar Series schedule opens in March, runs through September and includes the Indianapolis 500 on May 26. IndyCar Series drivers Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Kanaan, Vitor Meira and Jeff Simmons each had an opportunity to try out the new 3.5-liter Honda Indy V-8 engine-100 percent fuel grade ethanol combination during the post-season testing sessions. "There's a difference, and it's all been positive so far," Simmons said. "It's great to be one of the guys to have the chance to run the new motor next year with the 100 percent ethanol. It seems to me, so far, we've got a broader power band. We're going through the corners better. It allows us to do some things with gearing whereas you had to be really precise with the gearing last year. We're able to pull some really good speed even if we're a little off on the gearing." Renova Energy currently produces 10 million gallons of ethanol per year with construction start-up for a 20 million gallon plant in Heyburn, Idaho. Renova Energy Idaho will be online for production in the fall of 2007. "The Renova Energy Racing team has been using ethanol as a high performance race fuel for more than a decade with great success," said Schwartzkopf, senior vice president of Renova Energy. "We are very excited about our partnership with EPIC and the IndyCar Series and we see this as an excellent platform to promote the use of ethanol as a motor fuel to the wider public."

3. Andretti nominated for rookie award: 2006 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Marco Andretti is among the contenders for the RACER Rookie of the Year Award which will be awarded during the inaugural SPEED Performance Awards. Nominees for the inaugural RACER Magazine Rookie of the Year include Andretti, Colin Braun (Grand Am), Dan Clarke (Champ Car), Bryan Clauson (USAC), Denny Hamlin (NASCAR) and Robert Kubica (F1). "We're excited that the Rookie of the Year presented by RACER will be an important part of the inaugural SPEED Performance Awards," RACER editor Andy Hallbery said. "RACER magazine prides itself in having its knowledgeable readers vote auto racing's rising stars into the spotlight. The 2006 season has given us some amazing rookies across a wide variety of championships, and when the votes from RACER's readers and SPEED's viewers are in, we know the winner will be truly deserving."

The RACER Rookie of the Year winner will be featured in the April edition of the magazine. Beginning the week of Nov. 20, SPEED will air nominees for the fan-vote categories, allowing SPEED viewers to vote for their favorites at SPEEDtv.com. The winners will be announced as part of a 60-minute special in February.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Bobby Rahal , Tony Kanaan , Colin Braun , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Robert Kubica , Denny Hamlin , Bryan Clauson , Sam Hornish Jr. , Dan Clarke , Vitor Meira