Series news and notes 2010-03-10

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Gearing up: IZOD IndyCar Series 2010 season preview 2. Drivers pick champion, top rookie, next winner, biggest surprise 3. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A - March 10 4.

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Gearing up: IZOD IndyCar Series 2010 season preview
2. Drivers pick champion, top rookie, next winner, biggest surprise
3. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A - March 10
4. Lloyd joins Coyne in Brazil
5. HVM to field Firestone Indy Lights entry with Strous

1. Gearing up: IZOD IndyCar Series 2010 season preview: The start of every IZOD IndyCar Series season begins with high expectations, but the 2010 season may be one of the most anticipated.

With 17 races across three continents, 12 teams competing over an extended race calendar. This season seems to have it all: new title sponsor, fast ovals, historic road courses, tricky street circuits, new venues, fresh teammate combinations, young drivers and returning champions. All could add up to another unbeatable season.

With the first practice session now less than three days away, the season is just beginning to build to what could be another final race crescendo.

THE BIG STORIES:

IZOD Enters First Year of Entitlement

The 2010 season marks the first year of IZOD's title sponsorship of the IZOD IndyCar Series. The partnership marks the series' first entitlement in nearly a decade.

In Novemeber 2009, Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. announced a six-year agreement with the Indy Racing League for the IZOD brand to become the title sponsor of the newly renamed IZOD IndyCar Series.

Over the past two years, both entities have seen pieces fit to mutual benefit. Speed, competition, athleticism meets vibrant and well-known lifestyle apparel brand appealing to the entire family.

"Our relationship with the IZOD brand has been on the fast track since the day we began our partnership in 2008, and we are thrilled they have taken a bigger and more vital role in our sport," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League.

League officials have been seeking to align with a company that would expand the scope and demographic as the IndyCar Series title sponsor (its first since 2001) through activation beyond race markets. IZOD's proven that repeatedly.

"Their strong marketing skills, national retail partnerships and ability to bring fresh eyes to the sport have already proven powerful in our short time together," Angstadt said. "We're confident that we have found a partner with a strong brand, a bright future and a vision for growing the IZOD IndyCar Series that will benefit fans, drivers, teams, owners and tracks."

Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. knows a thing or two about marketing and positioning itself with brands that make a statement. It's the world's largest shirt and neckwear company and markets a variety of goods worldwide under its own renowned brands (Van Heusen, Calvin Klein, IZOD, ARROW, Bass, and G.H. Bass & Co.) and licensed brands such as Nautica, Timberland and Tommy Hilfiger.

"Our involvement with the IRL began shortly after the unification of U.S. open-wheel racing and, despite the recession, we have seen growth and sense the potential for even greater opportunity as the sport is re-energized on the American sports landscape, as well as abroad," said Allen Sirkin, president and COO of Phillips-Van Heusen.

Randy Bernard named CEO of Indy Racing League

Randy Bernard, longtime CEO of Professional Bull Riders, Inc., was named CEO of the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, on Feb. 2. He began his new duties March 1.

"Randy is the right person at the right time to head the Indy Racing League," said Jeffrey Belskus, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, the home of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and owner of the Indy Racing League.. "He brings a superb sports marketing and promotion background, proven CEO skills, energy and enthusiasm at a time when the IZOD IndyCar Series is positioned for growth."

"I truly believe I can make a difference with the Indy Racing League, and I see tremendous potential," Bernard said. "The IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights have intense action, high-stakes competition, extreme athletes, a diverse international schedule, great sponsors and a very passionate fan base."

Bernard, 43, produced one of the eight PBR events in its inaugural 1994 season while with the marketing and entertainment department of the California Mid-State Fair and "fell in love with the sport." He was named CEO in 1995 and worked with the PBR founders in the succeeding years to develop and expand the brand, events and the popularity of the sport worldwide.

Under Bernard's leadership, PBR's Built Ford Tough Series regular-season attendance increased 12 percent in 2009, and ratings with television partner VERSUS increased nearly 30 percent last year. The PBR was quick out of the chutes in 2010 with attendance up 23 percent in its first five weeks of competition.

Familiar faces in new places:

* Will Power, who competed in six races with Penske Racing in 2009, will be a full-season entrant in 2010 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. He'll join forces with Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Ryan Briscoe, who placed third in the 2009 series championship.

It will be the first time since the mid-90s that Penske Racing will field three full--time cars in Indy cars (Paul Tracy, Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr.).

* Ryan Hunter-Reay will compete with Andretti Autosport with Phillips-Van Heusen's IZOD brand as the primary sponsor of the No. 37 entry. Hunter-Reay will open the season in Brazil and also compete at St. Petersburg, where he finished second last year for Vision Racing.

Hunter-Reay moved to A.J. Foyt Racing in June as a replacement for the injured Vitor Meira, posting a best finish of fourth at Mid-Ohio. He'll join Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan at the team.

* FAZZT Race Team joins the IZOD IndyCar Series for 2010 with veteran driver Alex Tagliani, who competed in six races last season with Conquest Racing. The team announced a partnership with Bowers & Wilkins, the world's leading producers of reference quality hi-fi and home theater speakers, as the primary sponsor for the season opener in Brazil.

* Justin Wilson, who won at Watkins Glen International and finished ninth in the '09 standings with Dale Coyne Racing, will compete in 2010 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as a teammate to second-year driver Mike Conway. Also in a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car for the Brazil opener is Ana Beatriz, who competed the past two seasons in Firestone Indy Lights. She recorded one victory each year - becoming the first female to win a Firestone Indy Lights race (2008 at Nashville).

* Hideki Mutoh, the rookie of the year in 2008, will drive the No. 06 car for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. He had competed the past two seasons with Andretti Autosport.

* Mario Romancini, who won two oval races in 2009 in his first Firestone Indy Lights season, has jumped to the No. 34 Conquest Racing entry.

* E.J. Viso, who drove for two seasons with HVM Racing, moved to KV Racing Technology in the No. 8 car.

* Jay Howard, the 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion, will compete in five IZOD IndyCar Series races with Sarah Fisher Racing (starting with the Indianapolis 500). "Since 2008, I've been pretty driven," said Howard, who competed in five races with Roth Racing that year. "I have a lot of confidence going into it. I think Sarah Fisher Racing as a team will raise some eyebrows this year."

* IZOD IndyCar Series veteran Davey Hamilton will compete in three races with Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports - the Indianapolis 500, at Texas Motor Speedway the following week and another event to be determined.

* For the second consecutive year, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing will team up to compete in the Indianapolis 500. The No. 99 SSM/CGR entry with primary sponsor Herbalife will be driven by IZOD IndyCar Series veteran Townsend Bell of San Luis Obispo, Calif. He finished fourth in the 2009 race for KV Racing Technology.

New Rules and Regulations: * Removal of the four-position fuel mixture switch. The Honda overtake assist system will remain and receive almost a doubling of horsepower boost (it was between 5 and 20 horsepower in 2009 depending on fuel position). The "yellow" position will remain - to be used during caution periods if the driver chooses.

"Teams and drivers can still save fuel because they can develop their own fuel strategy, but instead of having a mechanical device to achieve it they can use their right foot," Indy Racing League senior technical director Les Mactaggart said. "It will allow the drivers more strategy during the event."

* A reverse gear supplied by promotional partner Xtrac will be incorporated for the nine road and street course races and be available to drivers through the paddle shift system. Drivers will retain six forward gears, and the kit won't be required for the eight oval events.

"It doesn't make any of the parts obsolete; you just add the new kit," IZOD IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch said. "It's on the drop gear side, so when the crew is making gear changes it doesn't interfere. It just stays in the car the whole time."

* Honda Performance Development will incorporate a refueling lockout device on IZOD IndyCar Series cars in an effort to further reduce the possibility of fuel spills and fire during pit stops. A sensor next to the refueling coupling behind the driver's shoulder will recognize the proximity of the fuel probe and prevent the driver from shifting into gear (from neutral) until it has cleared the pre-set distance.

The system will receive testing during the Open Test on May 4 at Kentucky Speedway. It is scheduled to be added following the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, according to HPD technical division manager Roger Griffiths.

* A "floating back" headrest configuration that has been researched and tested by Indy Racing League director of engineering Jeff Horton was recommended for implementation by teams. Horton developed the "floating back" to curb the disparity in G forces between the car and head in rearward crashes. The Kevlar skin of the headrest is attached to the front of the foam and the sides are allowed to float, "so the driver only feels the effect of the foam during impact," according to Horton.

THE DRIVERS: The Champions: The four drivers who have combined to win six of the last seven IZOD IndyCar Series championships return to the series in 2010. Target Chip Ganassi Racing features a pair of two-time champions with Dario Franchitti (2007 and 2009) and Scott Dixon (2003 and 2008). Andretti Autosport features 2004 champion Tony Kanaan, while Panther Racing features 2005 champion Dan Wheldon.

Race winners: In addition to the four series champions, seven drivers who have won at least one race winners return to the series in 2010. Team Penske and Andretti Autosport feature three race-winning drivers in their lineups (Penske has Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Will Power. Andretti Autosport has Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Danica Patrick). Justin Wilson (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) is the other returning race winner.

THE SCHEDULE The 17-race calendar features two new additions to one of the most diverse schedules in motorsports. The season kicks off on a temporary circuit in South America's largest city. (Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 14) and ends in on an oval in South Florida (Homestead-Miami, Speedway, Oct. 2). In between drivers will be challenged by a mix of seven superspeedways, including the 2010 Indianapolis 500 (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 28) a short oval, five temporary circuits and four permanent road courses.

In addition to the race on the 2.6-mile, 11-turn circuit in the Anhembi section (north-central) of São Paulo, on April 11, both the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights will have races for the first time at the 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

PRE-SEASON TESTING In the only pre-season open testing session at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Team Penske set the bar as the team to beat. Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves set the fastest times and have clearly established that they will be the drivers to beat.

The top 14 cars of the 21 that participated in the test were separated by 0.8399 of second. Last season produced another competitive championships in recent history, with the points lead swapping hands 15 times over the course of 17 races and the championship once again coming down to the final race of the season.

***

2. Drivers pick champion, top rookie, next winner, biggest surprise: Using an unscientific survey, several returning IZOD IndyCar Series drivers were asked to pick their choice for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, the driver who will be the next first-time winner and biggest surprise of the season. Below are their results:

Champion:

Most of the drivers agree that Target Chip Ganassi Racing's two-year reign atop the championship standings will end, but the driver to take title was open for debate, though the top three vote getters all came from the same team - Team Penske.

The Team Penske's triumvirate of Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Will Power drew 75 percent of the vote with second-year driver Mike Conway and two-time champions Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti splitting the remaining 25 percent of the vote.

Castroneves was mentioned the most of the Penske drivers with five votes, while Briscoe and Briscoe had four votes and Power had three.

Drivers Poll
1. Helio Castroneves 5
2. Ryan Briscoe 4
3. Will Power 3
4. Dario Franchitti 1
    Scott Dixon 1
    Mike Conway 1

Rookie of the Year:

The drivers were unanimous in their pick for the series' top rookie in a class that features four drivers graduating from developmental series and a Formula One veteran. Japanese driver Takuma Sato, who will compete with KV Racing Technology, was the overwhelming selection receiving all votes in the poll of drivers.

Drivers Poll
1. Takuma Sato 12

Next winner:

The drivers were split in their pick for the series' next first-time visitor to Victory Lane with five drivers receiving votes.

E.J. Viso, who switches to KV Racing Technology for 2010, received the most votes in the survey with four. 2009 Rookie of the Year Raphael Matos and Mike Conway were the only other drivers to receive multiple votes, each securing two.

Takuma Sato and Vitor Meira were also mentioned as potential first-time winners by the drivers surveyed.

Drivers Poll
1. E.J. Viso 4
2. Raphael Matos 2
    Mike Conway 2
3. Vitor Meira 1
    Takuma Sato 1

Biggest Surprise:

Another category that drivers were split on was their pick for the series' biggest surprise with six drivers receiving votes and most drivers opting to abstain.

Takuma Sato, received the most votes in the survey with three, with his teammate E.J. Viso among the other five drivers receiving one vote based on his "speed." Ryan Hunter-Reay, Danica Patrick, Mario Romancini and "one of the rookie," also received votes in the poll.

Drivers Poll
1. Takuma Sato 3
2. E.J. Viso 2
3. Mario Romancini 1
    Ryan Hunter-Reay1
    Danica Patrick 1
    Takuma Sato 1
    "One of the rookies" 1

***

3. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A - March 10: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves participated in a Q&A session to discuss the Sao Paulo Indy 300, the opening race of 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Below are select quotes from his interview. The complete transcript and audio MP3 file are posted at www.indycar.com/media.

Helio Castroneves

· 34-year-old native of Sao Paulo, Brazil will compete in his 10th season in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2010.

· Will drive the No. 3 Team Penske car after finishing fourth in the IZOD IndyCar Series point standings in 2009.

· Won the Indianapolis 500 for the third time in 2009, becoming the ninth driver to win the famed race at least three times.

· Became a father in the offseason, after his daughter Mikaella was born in Dec. 29 2009.

Q. You're one of the several Brazilians racing in the series in 2010. How exciting is it for you to be racing in your home country for the first time in almost 10 years?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's great to give the opportunity to the Brazilian fans to see am IndyCar (Series) race right there, going right past by them. It's been 10 years that the Indy car has not been in Brazil, but there are people that are really fans (of the sport). They follow on TV, but the general public sometimes doesn't know about it. Now it's a great, great opportunity to show them what American fans are able to see. It's been great. And I'm excited to be racing close to my home fans.

Q. How much of a little bit of incentive is there amongst the Brazilian drivers to win this race on their home territory? There's always a little bit of rivalry between you and T.K. (Tony Kanaan)You throw in the Vitor (Meira), I'm sure this would be a big victory. Talk about that a little bit.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: You're absolutely right. In fact, the guy that wins here, or the girl, we have Ana Beatriz, the first Brazilian woman to be in (the) IndyCar (Series), no question, for every Brazilian here right now, it will be exciting to win because everybody will know this person.

It happened in the past with Andre Ribeiro when he won in 1996. He became a big star of Indy car over here. Like I said, we're talking about 14 years ago. But certainly it would be huge. It would be great. I'm sure we're going try everything we can to have one of the Brazilians win the race. Hopefully it will be a Brazilian. If it's not, it's OK.

Q. After the up-and-down year of 2009, how has becoming a father helped you get past that and lay those emotions to rest?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it's a great experience. So far I've been very fortunate to experience the life that I have. And I can't wait. I cannot wait to be on the podium with my daughter. That's going to be my biggest goal this year to have that experience. In the future one day, she can see that she was there with me. That will mean the world to me.

Q. You've won the Indy 500 three times, you've done just about everything there is to do in the sport except win a championship. How important is it for you to have a championship before you retire from the sport?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Like I said before, I'm always going out there to win as many races as I can, to do the best I can. That's what I love to do.

Now, the rest of it, it's a matter of putting all the chips together. You know, if it does not happen, it's will not because of a lack of preparation, but it just wasn't meant to be.

So if that does not happen, no, I won't regret it because every time I went out there, I did everything is possible to make it the way it's supposed to be. So I'm very fortunate what I've accomplished already. Sure I'm going to continue working four times harder to achieve that. Hopefully this year will be the year.

But I won't get frustrated. I won't get disappointed. I won't be upset because I didn't win the championship, no. I enjoy what I love to do. As long as I'm competitive, I'm going to pursuing my goals.

***

4. Lloyd joins Coyne in Brazil: Dale Coyne Racing announced that 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion Alex Lloyd will drive the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car in the season-opening Sao Paulo Indy 300 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Lloyd, a 25-year-old native of Manchester, England, will make his first IZOD IndyCar Series start on a road course after making three oval appearances over the past two seasons.

Lloyd, who dominated the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights season and made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the 2008 Indianapolis 500, started two IZOD IndyCar Series in 2009, finishing a career-best eighth for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

***

5. HVM to field Firestone Indy Lights entry with Strous: HVM Racing will participate in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season with a car driven by Junior Strous, with the intention of progressing the Dutch racer to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The 23-year-old driver won two races and led the series point standings in 2009, will pilot the Shell/HVM Racing car, beginning with the series-opening event on the Streets of St. Petersburg on March 28.

"I'm now closer to reaching my ultimate goal and that's racing the big IndyCars," Strous said. "If I have a chance to improve my position, I'll always go for it. The HVM partnership offers me good opportunities both for the short and long term in my racing career. HVM is the place to be to achieve my goals."

HVM Racing team principal and owner Keith Wiggins recognizes the benefits of a ladder system to develop drivers for the premier-level IZOD IndyCar Series and welcomes the opportunity to work with the young driver.

"Junior is a proven talent," Wiggins said. "He's won races, so we know he has good skills behind the wheel. We will start him in a (Firestone Indy) Lights car and plan to do some testing with him in the (IZOD IndyCar Series) car at some point this season also. I have no doubt that with continued development he will be in an IZOD IndyCar Series car in the future."

Strous will run with sponsorship from Shell and the European-based Car Channel Television Network. Car Channel has acquired the live television broadcasting rights for the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights in the Netherlands.

"The IZOD IndyCar Series has a large fan base in Europe," said Etienne Marijnissen, CEO of Car Channel. "Junior driving for Keith Wiggins and HVM is a great development for European televisions viewers, who will get a better understanding and feeling for the fast and exciting Indy Racing League. We will follow Junior and the team on and off track. It will be an exciting racing season in the highest level of motorsports."

HVM Racing currently fields the No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing entry, driven by Simona De Silvestro, in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

***

The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season begins March 14 with the Sao Paulo Indy 300 on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season opens with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 28 on the streets of St. Petersburg. The race will air live on indycar.com.

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Takuma Sato , Justin Wilson , Sarah Fisher , Al Unser Jr. , Davey Hamilton , Helio Castroneves , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Emerson Fittipaldi , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Mike Conway , Will Power , Junior Strous , Jay Howard , Andre Ribeiro , Hideki Mutoh , Dale Coyne , Ana Beatriz , A.J. Foyt , Mario Romancini , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Andretti Autosport , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , HVM Racing , FAZZT Race Team , Dragon Racing , Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing