Indy Racing Notebook
Yasukawa eager to race in IRL; Penske working with new Dallara.
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002 -- Roger Yasukawa, the newest young American driver in the Indy Racing League, knows that stepping up to America's premier open-wheel series will be a challenge.
But he thinks he's up to it, thanks to his new team and his oval experience.
Yasukawa, a Los Angeles native who lives in West Hollywood, Calif., was named Dec. 10 as the driver for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, a new IRL team formed by CART standout Adrian Fernandez and former Formula One driver Aguri Suzuki. Yasukawa, 25, will drive the Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone for the full, 16-race IRL season in 2003.
"I am very excited to be part of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing," Yasukawa said. "This new program is going to be a big challenge for all of us, but I am confident about the whole package, and I know I will learn a lot from the team. I will put 100 percent effort into bringing good results."
Good results on ovals are nothing new for Yasukawa. He won a Toyota Atlantic round in 2002 on the Milwaukee oval in just his second career start in the series. He also scored more points on ovals than any other driver in the series last season.
Yasukawa also raced on ovals in the Barber Dodge series, in which he was Rookie of the Year in 1999.
"The IRL is the 'big boy' series for me -- the first time that I will be racing against people such as Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr. and Sam Hornish Jr.," Yasukawa said. "I have experience on the ovals from the Atlantic and Barber Dodge series, and I had good oval results this year. The IRL itself is a great series, and I think it is going to be very competitive next year. I am looking forward to it."
Chassis chores: Marlboro Team Penske took delivery of its new 2003 Dallara chassis this week in preparation for the upcoming IRL season. But before the car turns a wheel, there is a lot of work to be done to prepare it for its maiden run.
The car was flown from the Dallara factory in Parma, Italy. It was sent in separate parts, including the tub, the front and rear suspension, the front and rear wings, the gearbox and the wheels.
Once the car arrived at the race shop in Reading, Pa., the first step was for the team to reassemble it so that the painters can create the 2003 paint scheme and the mechanics can run a series of checks to be sure the body fits together properly. In addition, the team's electronic engineers take this time to plan their instrumentation layout for all the electrical components, including the telemetry.
Once this is complete, the team then disassembles the chassis and conducts a thorough examination and cleaning of each and every piece. The chassis is then reassembled so the painters can paint it and the electronic engineers can install the electronics.
After just a couple of days, the new 2003 Dallara chassis is almost ready to be tested on the track. The only thing remaining is for the drivers to be fitted for their seats.
"At first glance, Dallara has changed the car dramatically from the 2002 chassis," said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, Inc. "Although it is always a challenge to come to grips with new equipment, we are looking forward to the opportunity to compete under the new IRL technical specifications. It seems that the series will be more competitive than ever, and I feel we will be ready to contend for the championship once again."
IRL announcer Sullivan earns national award: Pat Sullivan, who shares track-announcing duties with Brad Dickison at nearly IRL event, earned the prestigious Non-Winged Media Member of the Year Award at the National Sprint Car Poll Awards ceremony Dec. 5 at Indianapolis.
Sullivan, from Carmel, Ind., writes about non-winged sprint-car racing for Elbows Up! newspaper and Sprint Car & Midget and FlatOut magazines in addition to announcing at IRL races and many Indiana short tracks.
The awards ceremony is an official program of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum Foundation, Inc., based in Knoxville, Iowa, home of the prestigious Knoxville Nationals.
Hot laps: Tickets for the Belterra Casino Indy 300 IRL race on Aug. 17 at Kentucky Speedway are on sale at the 156 Meijer stores in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. Meijer recently became the Official Supercenter of the track -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is featured in the December issue of Movieline Magazine, available on newsstands. He is profiled in the "Visions of Luxury" section in which five celebrities give their idea of luxury. Castroneves, who chose a night on the town as his luxury, was photographed in early October at Tao Restauarant in New York for the story -- Valerie Bettenhausen, the wife of Indianapolis 500 veteran Tony Bettenhausen Sr. and mother of Indy veterans Gary and Tony Bettenhausen, died Dec. 5 at age 81.