Series news and notes 2009-04-09

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Versus to feature more than 30 hours of Indy 500 coverage 2. Teams test on ovals 3. Celebs prepare to race at Long Beach 4. Across the Atlantic 1. Versus to feature more than...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Versus to feature more than 30 hours of Indy 500 coverage
2. Teams test on ovals
3. Celebs prepare to race at Long Beach
4. Across the Atlantic

1. Versus to feature more than 30 hours of Indy 500 coverage: VERSUS, the exclusive cable television home of the IndyCar Series, will show more than 30 hours of live coverage of practice and qualifying for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 and will air a live post-race show featuring in-depth trackside analysis immediately following the race on May 24.

VERSUS kicked off the 2009 IndyCar Series season with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5. The network's first race garnered a .3 national HH rating and peaked at a .4 during the race's final laps. The network's race coverage was seen by more than two million viewers, while all of the IndyCar Series telecasts surrounding the first event of the 2009 season reached 3.4 million viewers.

VERSUS' live May programming will include start-to-finish coverage from noon-6:30 p.m. (EDT) for each of the Indianapolis 500 qualifying days: Pole Day on May 9; Second Day Qualifying on May 10; Third Day Qualifying on May 16; and Bump Day on May 17. The network will also feature five hours of uninterrupted and continuous coverage of Miller Lite Carb Day from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT) on May 22. The network's Carb Day coverage will feature the final one-hour practice for the 33-car Indianapolis 500 field, the annual Pit Stop Challenge and the Firestone Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race.

"When we announced our partnership with the Indy Racing League, we vowed to give motorsports fans the most in-depth coverage of the IndyCar Series," said Marc Fein, Executive Vice President of Programming, Production and Business Operations for VERSUS. "With more than 30 hours of live practice and qualifying coverage as well as a post-race show, we're living up to that promise by delivering wall-to-wall coverage surrounding the league's premier event."

"We couldn't be happier with our opening week of race coverage on VERSUS," said Charlie Morgan, president & COO for IMS Productions. "VERSUS' commitment was to 'super-serve' IndyCar Series fans and based on the response we have seen from our fans they are thrilled with the amount and quality of coverage available to them throughout the weekend."

In addition to live coverage of qualifying and practice, the network will celebrate the rich history and excitement of the Indianapolis 500 with daily programming during race week including: Danica: Five Years Running (May 18); IndyCar Series: Top 10 Closest Finishes (May 19); IndyCar Series: Crashes and Conflicts (May 20); Top 10 Indy 500 Moments (May 21); Indy 500: Foyt, Mears & Unser (May 22); and highlights from the 53rd annual IPL Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade and a 30-minute preview show (May 23).

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2. Teams test on ovals: IndyCar Series teams are busy preparing for the series first visit to the streets of Long Beach, but they're also looking ahead to the race at Kansas Speedway on April 26, the first of 10 races on ovals in 2009.

Five teams used a portion of their allotment of private test days to test on ovals this week. Danica Patrick, rookie Mike Conway, Dan Wheldon and Ryan Briscoe tested at Kansas Speedway on April 8, while rookie Robert Doornbos tested at Texas Motor Speedway.

"I was very happy to go testing straight away after a race weekend," said Doornbos, who ran more than 100 trouble-free miles. "St. Pete is behind us now and we have to focus on a lot of things coming up and the first was the test at Texas Motor Speedway. It went really well in my opinion. It was the first time for me to drive on such a banked oval. We were up to speed very quick; a lot faster than I got up to speed in Homestead, so I am getting the hang of the ovals. We found some good things about the setup so the engineers did a great job testing new items. The mechanics worked really hard to turn the car around from a street course car to an oval one. It was sunny but at the end of the day the wind kicked up and driving was a bit tricky; I had some small moments."

Firestone Indy Lights driver J.R. Hildebrand also ran laps in Patrick's car at Kansas as part of the bonus test program.

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3. Celebs prepare to race at Long Beach: Keanu Reeves, Adrien Brody and Raven-Simone are among the stars that will get behind the wheel to participate April 18 in the annual Pro/Celebrity Race for charity on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit.

The celebs, who will compete against pros including two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., have trained at the Danny McKeever Fast Lane Racing School at Buttonwillow Raceway near Los Angeles, but April 7 was their first opportunity to drive on the 1.97-mile Long Beach temporary street course. ESPN's Jamie Little won in 2008.

"Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek told reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon that he wasn't used to driving on city streets at high speeds. Dixon was taking part in a media day at the venue.

"I've been driving for 35 years, and I've never gotten a speeding ticket," Trebek said. "So this is taking a lot to get used to."

The "Jeopardy" clue crew will be taping IndyCar Series answers during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend April 17-19.

The festival kicks off April 16 with Tecate's "Thursday Thunder on Pine" from 6:30-9 p.m. in downtown Long Beach, featuring freestyle motocross, BMX, live music and the Tecate Light Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach pageant.

The first IndyCar Series practice session starts at 10 a.m. April 17.

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4. Across the Atlantic: IndyCar Series drivers Marco Andretti and Robert Doornbos and Firestone Indy Lights driver Ana Beatriz will cross the Atlantic Ocean this weekend to compete in the A1GP event in Algarve, Portugal.

Andretti will make his fifth start for Team USA, while Doornbos will make his third start for Team Netherlands. Beatriz is the rookie driver for the practice sessions for Team Brazil.

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues April 19 with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, Calif.. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 126. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be telecast at 6 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 19 at Long Beach. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 20 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Mike Conway , J.R. Hildebrand , Jamie Little , Ana Beatriz , Alex Trebek , Keanu Reeves , Adrien Brody , Danica Patrick