IRL: St. Pete: Vision Racing preview

MOMENTUM ON SIDE OF VISION RACING HEADING INTO HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG TEAM LOOKS FORWARD TO NEXT RACE AFTER SCORING A PAIR OF TOP TENS IN SEASON-OPENER INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 29, 2007) -- In a race that appeared to be and was ...

MOMENTUM ON SIDE OF VISION RACING HEADING INTO HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

TEAM LOOKS FORWARD TO NEXT RACE AFTER SCORING A PAIR OF TOP TENS IN SEASON-OPENER

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 29, 2007) -- In a race that appeared to be and was dominated by Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon last Saturday evening under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway, quite a different story was developing just behind him. Two Vision Racing machines powered by drivers Ed Carpenter and Tomas Scheckter battled for position amongst the top-five, even reaching the second and third spots, respectively. And by the time the checkered flag dropped on the 2007 IndyCar Series season-opener, the team secured a pair of top-ten finishes and showed that in 2007, they plan on being a part of the IndyCar Series' lead-pack.

Of course, there's no time to celebrate the achievement, as the team must prepare for the Streets of St. Petersburg as the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will get underway this Sunday afternoon, April 1. The 1.8-mile street course provides a different challenge than that of last weekend's 1.5-mile oval affair, but the team is eager to solidify another top-ten performance and move up to the top-five.

The team has two previous attempts on the Streets of St. Petersburg occurring in 2005 and 2006. In 2005 Driver Ed Carpenter started 19th in the team's IndyCar Series debut and finished 19th due to an accident. It was Carpenter and Vision Racing's first attempt at a road/street course.

Just last season, Carpenter missed the event due to injury sustained in the morning warm-up in the previous race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Roberto Moreno served as Carpenter's substitute along side Scheckter.

Scheckter started the 2006 race in eighth and was running in fourth position with just three laps left before suffering contact with Buddy Rice. The accident ended Scheckter's race and left him in the 12th spot. Moreno also showed a promising start before retiring early on the street course. He started 11th and mixed it up in the top-ten before making contact with Vitor Meira and finished 18th.

The team's best finish on a road or street course is sixth scored by Carpenter at Watkins Glen International, last season. That finish marks Carpenter's best-ever IndyCar Series finish on a road/street course as well.

Not to mention, Carpenter carried the Vision Racing banner last weekend as he moved through the field, ran as high as second and finished sixth. The jump in positions gave Carpenter the biggest move in the field of 20 drivers and gave he and the team a career-high points standing (sixth).

The run also allowed Carpenter to pick up right where he left off in 2006. In the season-finale last year, Carpenter finished a career-high fifth in the No. 20 Vision Racing/Dallara/Honda/Firestone at Chicagoland Speedway, another 1.5-mile oval.

Carpenter said, "It is great for myself and the team to start the season out on a positive note. It sets the tone for what we are trying to accomplish all season long and that is to run up front just like we did in Homestead. If we continue to put ourselves in a position at the front of the pack, eventually we will get that first victory that we are looking for."

Yet, in spite of a sixth-place run at Watkins Glen International last year, Carpenter's strength has not been road/street racing. He noted, "I have said all along this off season that I am expecting more out of myself on the road courses. St. Pete is one of two street courses for this season, and I am looking forward to getting back to St. Pete after missing last season's race. I want to have a good pace, stay out of trouble and I have no doubt that we will be in a good position at the end of the race. It is important to get a solid finish and collect more points to keep the momentum up getting back on the oval in Motegi."

Perhaps just keeping close tabs on his teammate is all Carpenter will need to do this weekend in order to get the hang of the tricky 14-turn course. In his two previous starts at the track, Scheckter has started eighth both times and was running in the top-five last year before being knocked out with just a few laps to go.

In addition, Scheckter joined Carpenter in the top-ten last weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway by passing Helio Castroneves on the last lap to take eighth position. That puts Scheckter and the No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone in the eighth spot in the championship point standings heading into the weekend.

"I was pleased with last weekend's race and our team performance," Scheckter said. "I had a good car, and while I think we could have done even better, it was still a good way to start the season. Now, we've got a new challenge ahead of us at St. Pete and a lot of pressure to keep things pointed in the right direction. We had a good set-up there last year and I hope we can find that again this year. If so, that will put me and the team in a good finish and we'll leave the state of Florida with some great results."

The newest and third entry, the No. 22 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, driven by A.J. Foyt IV got the opening weekend started off in great fashion. Foyt led his teammates in qualifying and started the race in the ninth spot. He was driving a solid race before being collected in an accident initiated by Jeff Simmons. The unavoidable collision ended his race on lap 92 and left him in the 18th position.

Foyt is determined to regroup and achieve better results at St. Petersburg. Knowing he has the tools to have a great season, he's determined to not let another race slip away. He said, "We had a good car at Homestead, so it was a shame we got collected in that accident. My guys worked hard to give me a good racecar and I know they will have something good for me this weekend too, so I want to be sure and take advantage of that. It's great to be with Vision Racing and I know we can do some great things this year. We've just got to take it one race at a time, stay out of trouble and finish races."

All three Vision Racing drivers plan on finishing this weekend's race, but not only that, finishing within the top-ten and above is the true goal. Perhaps no one doubts their chances after last weekend's impressive team performance.

"I think the team is in a great position, Carpenter pointed out. "We were very competitive running up front with the leaders, which is exactly where we need to be. I think everyone will be seeing us there all season long. That is what I expect anyway. I think it is just important to keep up the momentum and moving things forward and looking for that first win."

The 100-lap, 180-mile Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg gets started amidst the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon, April 1st.

-credit: vr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Roberto Moreno , Dan Wheldon , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing