Series news and notes 2010-03-16

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Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Inside the numbers: Brazil 2. No rest for Hunter-Reay 3. Brazil race draws improved ratings 4. Rookie De Silvestro impresses in her debut 5. Team PBIR Forms Race Academy To...

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Inside the numbers: Brazil
2. No rest for Hunter-Reay
3. Brazil race draws improved ratings
4. Rookie De Silvestro impresses in her debut
5. Team PBIR Forms Race Academy To Test Drivers

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1. Inside the numbers: Brazil: Numbers to note following the Sao Paulo Indy 300, the season-opening race in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

5 - Different leaders, including rookie Simona De Silvestro, who became the first driver since Graham Rahal to lead while in an IZOD IndyCar Series debut race.

6 -Teams represented by the top-six finishers.

6th and 7th - The finishing positions of Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. In 2009, Target Chip Ganassi placed at least one car in the top five in 15 of 17 events. Ironically, in those two events - Indianapolis and Kentucky - the Ganassi pair finished sixth and seventh.

7 - Lead changes during the race, including three on-track passes for the lead in the final 10 laps.

8 - Consecutive appearances in Firestone Fast Six qualifying for Dario Franchitti since his return to IZOD IndyCar Series racing in 2009. Franchitti also made Firestone Fast Six qualifying at the non-points Nikon Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise in 2008.

13 - Positions improved by Vitor Meira and Dan Wheldon, the highest number of positions gained by any driver.

14 - Cars on the lead lap, two short of the series record.

33 - Consecutive top-10 starts for Scott Dixon - an IZOD IndyCar Series record.

95 - Total passes for position during the 61-lap race. More than half the passes occurred at Turn 11, the final turn on the 2.6-mile temporary circuit.

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2. No rest for Hunter-Reay: How do you spend an off weekend from the IZOD IndyCar Series? If you're Ryan Hunter-Reay, you compete in a classic endurance sports car race.

Hunter-Reay, fresh from his runner-up finish in the Sao Paulo Indy 300, will join Level 5 Motorsports for the 12 Hours of Sebring. He previously raced with Level 5 in the Grand Am Rolex Series at Daytona International Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hunter-Reay will join Scott Tucker and James Gue in the No. 95 Level 5 car in the LMP Challenge class, which debuts this weekend. J.R. Hildebrand , the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, is also competing in the class with Genoa Racing.

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3. Brazil race draws improved ratings: VERSUS' live coverage of the Sao Paulo Indy 300 on March 14 garnered a .4 national household rating, the third-highest rated IZOD IndyCar Series race on the fast-growing sports cable network.

The race peaked at a 0.6 household rating between 2:15 -2:30 p.m. (EDT) and averaged 411,000 viewers, up 30 percent from the 2009 season average (315,000) and up 76 percent from the 2009 season-opening race (233,000).

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4. Rookie De Silvestro impresses in her debut: Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing rookie Simona De Silvestro was disappointed, yet upbeat after her debut on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Swiss driver qualified 11th in her No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds/HVM car and narrowly missed the five-car wreck at the start. But her car suffered a flat right-rear tire after running over debris during the full-course caution.

She re-entered in 13th, and, by Lap 18, had been relegated to the 17th spot, as she had a full load of fuel to contend with. Her fortune would change when another yellow flag came out, allowing De Silvestro to gain the lead with the call to stay out.

She was the first to lead in a debut race since Graham Rahal at St. Petersburg in 2008. De Silvestro soon found herself fighting with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti for the lead.

Their battle came to an end when the skies over Sao Paulo opened up, forcing all drivers back to their pits for rain tires. De Silvestro stayed out, but unfortunately the pits would close for another full-course caution, which forced De Silvestor to stay out on the racetrack for six laps.

After the half-hour red flag period, De Silvestro came back out but was once again bitten by bad luck. She began to experience rear suspension problems causing her to take a trip back to the pits for lengthy repairs. After losing three laps, she returned to finish in 16th place.

"Despite the rear braking problems and the different things that happened during the race, it was a real good experience," said De Silvestro. "I think we can be pretty competitive during the year. Now we just have to continue to work real hard and I'm sure we'll go in the right direction."

Team principal Keith Wiggins was satisfied, while sharing his driver's disappointment with the result.

"We started off pretty good, obviously, and we got into a pretty good position and looked very strong," he said, "but it went a bit against us when the rain came and the pits closed. It went downhill from there. It's a bit of a disappointing finish considering she was doing such a fantastic job."

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5. Team PBIR Forms Race Academy To Test Drivers: Team PBIR announced March 16 that it will conduct a driver academy to assist drivers into the full time world of motorsports.

Beginning this week, the team will host six drivers - five Americans and an Irishman - helping them with everything from media skills and driver presentation to evaluating their skills behind the wheel of Formula BMW and Firestone Indy Lights cars at Putnum Park near Indianapolis. The drivers will also get a fitness program lecture from Jim Leo of PitFit, which provides fitness training for drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights.

"I am delighted to be able to do this for these drivers this week and provide an opportunity for them while the team readies itself for the opening round of the Firestone Indy Lights Championship at St Petersburg on March 28," said team co-owner Ron Dixon.

The 2010 Team PBIR Academy drivers are:
Ben Jopling, Tampa, Fla.
Race Johnson, Portland, Ore.
Nic Le Duc, Novato, Calif.
Steve Lewandowski, Phoenix.
Naill Quinn, Meath, Ireland.
Jonathan Summerton, Kissimmee, Fla.

***

The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues March 28 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by ABC. 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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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS