Series news and notes 2009-02-26

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Open Test valuable measuring stick for 2009 2. Wheldon, Panther raise more than $130,000 for foundation 1. Open Test valuable measuring stick for 2009: The first of two ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines


1. Open Test valuable measuring stick for 2009
2. Wheldon, Panther raise more than $130,000 for foundation

1. Open Test valuable measuring stick for 2009: The first of two IndyCar Series pre-season Open Tests concluded Feb. 25, providing teams and drivers the opportunity to see how offseason developments made in the teams' shops translated to performance on the racetrack.

The 10 hours of testing on the 1.5-mile, variably banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway allowed teams to prepare for the 10 oval races on the 2009 schedule and provided a measuring stick of the competition. The verdict: 2009 promises some of the closest on-track action in the history of the series.

The field of 21 cars was separated by just 0.7196 of a second after 4,698 incident-free laps. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who finished fifth in the championship last year, recorded the fastest lap at 25.1984 seconds, 212.156 mph, while reigning champion Scott Dixon was second, just 0.0394 of a second behind (25.2378, 211.825 mph).

"I'm really happy with the way our only pre-season oval test went this week," said Briscoe, who earned two victories last season, including on the 1-mile oval at Milwaukee. "We were able to work on a lot of different things and I'm satisfied with what we were able to accomplish. I think that what we learned here at Homestead will help us on all the 1.5-mile ovals this season starting with Kansas and moving forward. I think we're in great shape, and now we're one step closer to the beginning of the season."

Andretti Green Racing drivers Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, respectively, on the time chart, showing that the team that won three of the last five championships will once again be a contender.

"I'm really happy," Andretti said. "We were able to test different setups that are going to benefit the Meijer car and the entire AGR team. It definitely has been a productive couple of days. I'm so confident in the setup we found that I wish we were racing tonight or tomorrow. We had a decent time, but that aside, I think we are strong overall."

Dario Franchitti, returning to the IndyCar Series as Dixon's teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing after a year absence, was fifth, while 20-year-old Mario Moraes, who earned three top-10 finishes as a rookie in 2008, was sixth in his first test since moving to KV Racing Technology.

"Both days we were not worrying about speed," Moraes said. "We were concentrating on finding a good setup on the No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Votorantim car for the races. It was great to be back in a race car after five months and to be with KV Racing Technology. I felt very comfortable with the team, and it was fantastic to work with such an experienced group. From the engineering to the preparation of the car to the pit stops, I could not have asked for anything more. I learned a lot and I am pleased with what we achieved."

Four rookies participated in the test, paced by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Mike Conway, who was ninth-fastest overall.

"It's all about learning each time I go out - learning about running with traffic, how the tires come in, just things with setup like aero changes, mechanical changes," Conway said. "They all feel quite different. I've really got a feel as to what the car is doing and how it's reacting to each change. I've been learning how to run in different lines and how to react in traffic.

"Each day was another positive step. I have to thank the Dreyer & Reinbold guys for the hard work and great job they've done in getting me acclimated to everything. I can't wait to get back on the track again."

After analyzing data from the test at Homestead-Miami, teams will begin preparing for the road course Open Test March 22-23 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. That test will help teams prepare for the seven road and street events on the 2009 schedule including the season-opening races at St. Petersburg April 5 and Long Beach April 19.

***

2. Wheldon, Panther raise more than $130,000 for foundation: Dan Wheldon's absence Feb. 24 from the first night of the Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway wasn't cause for alarm. The 2005 IndyCar Series champion, who joined Panther Racing during the offseason, was in Washington, D.C., for the National Guard Foundation's Youth ChalleNGe Champions Gala.

Wheldon and Panther Racing raised more than $130,000 for the program by donating ticket packages to the Indianapolis 500 and by autographing a painting commissioned for the event.

Georgia Youth ChalleNGe graduate Cadet Clarence Jones sat next to Wheldon during the event, and the former Indianapolis 500 champion invited Jones to be his personal guest at this year's Indianapolis 500. At the conclusion of the event, Jones spoke to the crowd of over 1,000 guests and told his story of being involved in gangs his entire life before Youth ChalleNGe changed his life. He is now enrolled in flight school in Colorado with his sights set on becoming a commercial airline pilot.

"The Youth ChalleNGe Champions Gala was, in my career, by far the best appearance I've done in terms of how rewarding and inspiring it was. To be in a room with so many great people and as a representative of the National Guard was truly an honor. It was particularly inspiring to sit next to (Youth ChalleNGe graduate) Cadet Clarence Jones and learn his story. Sometimes a lot of people in our business, to a certain degree, take their life and upbringing for granted, but to hear his story and the direction his life has gone is unbelievable. It was actually pretty emotional for me, and to be able to bring him to the Indianapolis 500 this May is, in my opinion, the least I could do. I think he'll very much enjoy the race, as he's enrolling in flight school in Colorado and definitely has the need for speed. So now we're looking forward to getting him to enjoy it on four wheels and without the wings."

Wheldon flew to Homestead-Miami Feb. 25 for the final evening of testing and recorded the eighth-fastest lap of the 21 drivers on track.

***

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.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway , Mario Moraes
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology