Series news and notes 2009-05-28

1. Briscoe returns to Milwaukee 2. Scheckter joins Dreyer & Reinbold for Milwaukee 3. Retweet: Shaq vs. Danica? 4. Another Texas sellout for Helio 5. TomTom for Franchitti at Milwaukee 6. Practice makes perfect at Milwaukee 1. Briscoe returns to...

1. Briscoe returns to Milwaukee
2. Scheckter joins Dreyer & Reinbold for Milwaukee
3. Retweet: Shaq vs. Danica?
4. Another Texas sellout for Helio
5. TomTom for Franchitti at Milwaukee
6. Practice makes perfect at Milwaukee

1. Briscoe returns to Milwaukee: Ryan Briscoe expected a breakout IndyCar Series season with the full-time move to Team Penske in 2008.

Initially, the breaks didn't go his way. No top-five finishes in the first five races despite three top-five starts, including a front-row perch for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. That might have been the most difficult to swallow -- 23rd place after a pit lane incident involving Danica Patrick's car (and her subsequent brief march toward Briscoe's pit stall that was a YouTube sensation).

A week later, though, Briscoe's fortunes changed at The Milwaukee Mile in the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225. Starting 11th in the No. 6 Team Penske car, he persevered through 225 laps on the crowded oval to earn his first IndyCar Series victory and the 300th in motorsports for team owner Roger Penske.

Post-Milwaukee, Briscoe earned eight top-10 finishes (including a victory at Mid-Ohio) in 11 races and three pole starts. He finished fifth in the championship standings. Briscoe also won the non-points race at on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia, in October - claiming the cycle of winning on an oval, permanent road course and temporary street circuit.

"I can pretty much say my season began in Milwaukee last year," said Briscoe, who has continued to post impressive results this season. "Everything prior to that, I just kept running into trouble, just couldn't have a thing go right for me. But after Milwaukee, things really turned around for me.

"We were able to get a couple more wins and move myself up from, I don't know what I was before Milwaukee, 18th or 19th in the standings, and worked my way up to fifth in the standings. So it was great.

"Milwaukee had been a very tough track for me in the past. To come back with Penske and get that win was just so special."

Briscoe, a preseason series title contender, kicked off '09 with a victory on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and a fourth place at Kansas Speedway. After starting in the middle of the front row and leading his first laps at Indianapolis on May 24, he settled for 15th place.

Briscoe is third in the standings, eight points behind leader Dario Franchitti, heading to Milwaukee.

"I was surprised my first win in the IndyCar Series came on an oval," Briscoe said. "It was definitely the turning point in my season last year and I'm excited to go back."

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2. Scheckter joins Dreyer & Reinbold for Milwaukee: Tomas Scheckter will drive the No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car in the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 this weekend at The Milwaukee Mile.

Scheckter is coming off a s 12th place in the Indianapolis 500 in a Dale Coyne Racing entry.

"We are excited to have Tomas join our team," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "We have talked to him on a number of occasions about doing something together and this opportunity came up to pair him with Mike (Conway) for the weekend. We feel like we are going into Milwaukee very strong as a team."

Scheckter has competed at The Mile four times in IndyCar Series competition, with a high of third (in 2005 with Panther Racing and '06 with Vision Racing). Milka Duno drove the No. 23 CITGO entry in the Indianaoplis 500, finishing 20th.

"I've been talking to Dennis and Larry Curry, who I have had a relationship with, for a while and we have been in and out of here a couple of times," Scheckter said. "For us to put this together is great and I'm really looking forward to it. It will be good working with some people that I have worked with before."

***

3. Retweet: Shaq vs. Danica?: Could "The Diesel" be the heading to IndyCar Series racing?

NBA star Shaquille O'Neal, who has used "The Diesel" among his many nicknames, sent the following message to IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick via social networking site Twitter recently:

O'Neal: "vroom vrooom I challenge u to a race, vroom$ vroom, naaa good luk, u r a true legend, I'm proud of u u r da best"

Patrick, the first female to win an IndyCar Series race responded: "I will race you! I think I have a slight weight/height advantage so I feel confident! Haha."

The race isn't the only connection to the IndyCar Series for O'Neal, who also issued a challenge to race Lance Armstrong (a former Indianapolis 500 Pace Car driver) via Twitter.

O'Neal recently joined forces with Luczo Dragon Racing to raise money and awareness for charity throughout the 2009 race season and will be a guest of the team at Texas Motor Speedway in June.

***

4. Another Texas sellout for Helio: Thanks to Helio Castroneves and Texas Motor Speedway, 850 fans will watch the Bombardier Learjet 550k on June 6 for a greatly reduced price.

On May 28, the speedway offered 550 (race length) frontstretch tickets for $3 each (in honor of Castroneves' three Indianapolis 500 victories and his car number). The ticket promotion sold out in 23 minutes.

Earlier this month, the track offered "Helio's Blue Plate Special," in which the price of 300 tickets was to be determined by Castroneves' starting position in the Indy 500. He won the pole.

"Helio has brought some great deals to our race fans and I know he will have a huge following next Saturday during the Bombardier Learjet 550k," Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said. "It's great to see the fans respond to this promotion as well as the previous one we did with Helio. It offers new fans the opportunity to get a taste of the exciting racing in the IndyCar Series at an unbelievable price."

Castroneves visited Fort Worth on May 27 as part of the 500 Victory Tour. During a luncheon, Gossage presented Castroneves - who's won twice at Texas Motor Speedway - a cowboy hat. The tour, which also included several media stops in New York, continued to Chicago on May 28.

The "Blue Plate" promotion was linked to his visit to the Dallas/Fort Worth area on May 18, where he received some cooking tips from world-renown chef Stephan Pyles at his restaurant.

***

5. TomTom for Franchitti at Milwaukee: It would have been a lot more fun for Dario Franchitti to drive the No. 10 TomTom car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing at, say, Toronto or Edmonton - multi-turn temporary circuits where he hasn't competed in some time - than at The Milwaukee Mile.

A portable navigation system isn't necessary at The Mile, which hosts the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 this weekend. The oval road course (because of its relatively low banking) is flat out on a pair of quarter-mile drag strips with four turns.

TomTom also will be the primary sponsor of the No. 10 entry for the June 21 race at Iowa Speedway. Franchitti, who enters the race with a five-point lead over Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves in the IndyCar Series standings, has a pair of runner-up finishes (to Sam Hornish Jr. in 2005 and then-Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan in '07) in three visits to The Mile in IndyCar Series competition.

"We look forward to a successful partnership in 2009, and to seeing our drivers navigate themselves into the winner's circle all year," Chip Ganassi Racing Teams president Steve Lauletta said.

***

6. Practice makes perfect at Milwaukee: Sometimes a test can make a big difference come race weekend. AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing teammates J.R. Hildebrand and Sebastian Saavedra hopes the extra practice makes perfect at Milwaukee.

The two drivers were among a group of Firestone Indy Lights drivers that headed to the famed Milwaukee Mile earlier this month to prepare for this weekend's Husar's House of Fine Diamonds 100 Presented by Charter.

Hildebrand, who finished fifth at Milwaukee a year ago, is one of five drivers with prior experience at the track. He heads into the race with a five-point lead over Saavedra.

"I'm really looking forward to heading to Milwaukee this weekend," Hildebrand said. "We had a great test there a couple weeks ago and have worked on a few things since then that I think will make us even more competitive. It's going to be tough, but I think we're up for the challenge."

Saavedra got his first look at Milwaukee's layout at the test and is looking to continue the momentum which has him leading the Mesco Building Products Rookie of the Year standings.

"I think we are on top of our game, we are working hard and our efforts are paying off," Saavedra said. "From now on it's on us to keep up the good work and show how good we are. We are 'one-two' in the driver point standings and it gives us a boost on what to aim for the rest of the season. We tested in Milwaukee and we learned a lot. Hopefully we will bring home more victories."

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 31 with the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Husar's House of Fine Diamonds 100 on May 31 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. on June 1 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Milka Duno , Tomas Scheckter , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske , Sebastian Saavedra , J.R. Hildebrand , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , Dragon Racing