Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. IndyCar Series drivers ready to start testing 2. Doornbos to drive for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing 3. Youthful group of Firestone Indy Lights drivers heads to Homestead-Miami 1.
Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. IndyCar Series drivers ready to start testing
2. Doornbos to drive for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
3. Youthful group of Firestone Indy Lights drivers heads to Homestead-Miami
1. IndyCar Series drivers ready to start testing: One hundred seventy days after Scott Dixon was crowned the IndyCar Series champion at Chicagoland Speedway, teams and drivers will re-fire their Honda engines and begin on-track preparations for the 2009 season.
Drivers and teams are scheduled for 10 hours of testing Feb. 24-25 on the 1.5-mile, variable-banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rookies will receive an additional five hours of testing on Feb. 23.
"Testing is always important, one just to get back on track," said Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter, who recorded two top-five finishes last season. "That test used to be a little bit more urgent, because that track was also our first race. Now we'll be testing there and not going back until the end of the year, so I think it may change the test a little bit, because you're not going to be testing as specific, getting ready for the event.
"Either way, it's time to get going again. The teams have all probably made minor changes, personnel, different things on the car. It's always exciting to get out and test new stuff and get going again with the guys."
While Carpenter, Dixon and Andretti Green Racing drivers Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh are among those returning to the same team in 2009, the test will provide valuable time for acclimation for drivers such as Vitor Meira, Mario Moraes, Will Power and Dan Wheldon, who are moving to different teams.
"It's definitely important for me and Panther Racing in particular, because we've got to figure out where we need to improve as a group so when the season starts we're very, very strong," said Wheldon, the 2005 series champion, who joins Panther Racing after three seasons with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. "Those first few races for points are very, very important. We're not taking it lightly by any stretch. We're going to work very hard to make sure we come out of the blocks swinging."
Another driver champing at the bit is 2007 series champion Dario Franchitti, who did not compete in the series in 2008.
"When I broke my back (in 2003), I was out of the car for the same kind of time that I was when I went to NASCAR (in 2008), said Franchitti, who will be teammates with Dixon in 2009. "It was easier to get back into the car having driven nothing than driving something else and getting a feel for the car and all that. Testing time is going to be really important."
The Open Test at Homestead-Miami will mark the third consecutive season the IndyCar Series has tested there under the lights in preparation for the start of the season. The series will also conduct on Open Test on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park March 22-23 prior to the season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 5.
2. Doornbos to drive for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing announced today that Dutch driver Robert Doornbos, 27, will join the team for the 2009 IndyCar Series season. Details of the sponsorship will be announced at a later date.
While competing against NHLR in the Champ Car World Series in 2007 as a rookie, Doornbos finished on the podium five of the first six races including a win in Mont Tremblant, Canada. He went on to finish third in the season standings. Most recently, Doornbos competed in the China and New Zealand rounds of the 2008/2009 A1GP series and finished on the podium twice in the four races.
"I'm very happy and proud to get this chance to race with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing," Doornbos said. "Racing in the IndyCar Series has been my biggest dream and especially to do it with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. The history of the team and the big success they have had in the past really attracted me, and it makes me proud to become part of this winning team. Racing on the ovals should be very exciting. It will be tough, but I'm training as much as possible and am in good condition and ready to achieve results. I'm also excited to race in the legendary Indy 500. I really want to thank Mr. Haas and Mr. Lanigan for giving me this chance. I'm looking forward to the first race."
Doornbos initially pursued a professional career in tennis but once he was exposed to racing he changed vocations. He spent four seasons in various ladder series in Europe before he became the 2004 Rookie of the Year in the FIA International Formula 3000 series and finished third in the series standings. That success led to becoming a test driver for two Formula One programs and he eventually made 11 Formula One starts during the 2005-06 seasons for Minardi and Red Bull Racing, respectively, before he moved to the Champ Car World Series in 2007.
"Mike and I are excited to add Robert to our lineup," said Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. "He was a fierce competitor in Champ Car, and we are hoping for the same in the IndyCar Series. He was able to quickly adapt to the new challenges in Champ Car, which should bode well for the learning curve we will face in getting him acclimated to oval racing."
3. Youthful group of Firestone Indy Lights drivers heads to Homestead-Miami: Winter private tests have been held and lap times have been debated. Now it's time to find out who really has the car to beat in 2009.
Firestone Indy Lights teams will get their first indication when the series conducts its first Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Feb. 24. As many as 14 newcomers will kick off the test with a day dedicated to rookie tests on Feb. 23.
"The key to the test for all drivers is teach them to hold their line around the track," said Firestone Indy Lights race director Tony Cotman, who will observe the rookie drivers alongside four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, who returns as the series' driver coach for the eighth-consecutive season.
"Some drivers may need more help than others, so it's really more an extra day on track with Rick available to lend his expertise."
The roster of drivers expected to participate in the test come from a mix of drivers who hail from around the world. Each is hoping to follow in the footsteps of 2008 Firestone Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos, IndyCar Series race winner Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter in the IndyCar Series field.
"I am looking forward to the first Open Test of the year and seeing our drivers get ready for the season," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Firestone Indy Lights. "This has been an exciting offseason for us, and we hope to set the stage for an exciting 2009 season with this opening test."
The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg.