Series news and notes 2010-03-30

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Power ready for season-long battle 2. Inside the numbers: St. Petersburg 3. City estimates increase in Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg attendance 4. Junqueira joins FAZZT Race...

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Power ready for season-long battle
2. Inside the numbers: St. Petersburg
3. City estimates increase in Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg attendance
4. Junqueira joins FAZZT Race Team for Indianapolis
5. Solid debut for Yacaman, Cape Motorsport w/ Wayne Taylor Racing

***

1. Power ready for season-long battle: Just in case Will Power wasn't cognizant of the calendar, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Justin Wilson - and a host of other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers - will quickly remind him that the 2010 season is a marathon, not a sprint.

There are still 15 races to be contested (eight ovals and seven road/street courses).

Power followed up his victory in the opener March 14 in Brazil with a 0.8244-of-a-second win in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29. The Verizon Team Penske driver leads the IZOD IndyCar Series standings by 44 points over the second-place trio of Franchitti, Hunter-Reay and Wilson.

Power became the first driver since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001 to emerge victorious in the first two races. He'll attempt to match Scott Dixon (2007, Watkins Glen-Mid-Ohio), Dan Wheldon (2005, St. Petersburg-Indianapolis) and Kenny Brack (1998, Charlotte-Atlanta) for a series-record three consecutive wins in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union on April 11. He'll enter the event as a favorite after topping the time charts during an Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park last month.

"I'm just aware that it's only race two of 17," said Power, who picked up the three bonus points at St. Pete by earning the PEAK Performance Pole Award and leading the most laps (50 of 100). "To win a championship doesn't matter if you win two races and then have a heap of bad ones. You've got to win as much as you can. You've got to go into every race thinking, 'OK, I've got to win.' But if you can't, you have to make the most of it, and that's my thinking."

Power's teammate, Ryan Briscoe, maintained a similar thought process in '09 - in which he had three victories and a series record-tying eight runner-up finishes - and it led him to the championship-deciding race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Briscoe, who started 19th (his lowest ever on a street/road course) charged through the field to finish third in the No. 6 Team Penske car. Teammate Helio Castroneves was fourth.

"He's got a good lead but it's early and there is a lot of racing to go," Briscoe said. "There are lots of different tracks to come, obviously. At Penske, he's got a car that's going to be strong at all of the races this year, and it's going to take a lot to catch him."

Team Penske has finished either first or second in the past 13 street/road course races (since Mid-Ohio in 2008).

"Obviously, it was a great result overall for Team Penske," Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said. "Will has really come out of the box well in the Verizon car. To have three out of the top four spots puts us in a good position to challenge for the championship early on in the season. But we have to take it one race at a time and continue to execute when opportunities are there."

Wilson finished second, Franchitti was fifth and Hunter-Reay wound up 11th at St. Pete. Raphael Matos followed his third place in Brazil with an eighth-place effort - after starting 23rd - and is 47 points back of Power. Five teams are represented in the top five.

"I think (the championship is) wide open, and obviously Will had a great start to the season," Wilson said. "But the field is so deep this year. You've got to race the whole way."

***

2. Inside the numbers: St. Petersburg: Numbers to note following the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the second of 17 races in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

2 - Drivers who have won the first two races of an IZOD IndyCar Series season: Will Power (2010) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2001). Hornish went on to win the championship.

5 -Teams represented in the top five of the series point standings.

8 - Different leaders, tying the record set in 2008 for most leaders at St. Petersburg

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

15 - Cars on the lead lap, one short of the series record for most cars on the lead lap in an event.

16 - Positions improved by Ryan Briscoe, the highest number of positions gained by any driver. Raphael Matos and Danica Patrick gained 15 and 14 positions, respectively.

34 - Consecutive top-10 starts for Scott Dixon - extending his IZOD IndyCar Series record.

***

3. City estimates increase in Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg attendance: City of St. Petersburg officials are "extremely pleased" with attendance of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg despite an extra day of activity to contest the thunderstorm-delayed IZOD IndyCar Series event.

"The city's Police, Fire and Special Events staff are taking a look at the daily crowd estimates for the four days of the event and have not released a figure yet," said city Grand Prix Coordinator Kevin Dunn. "We are confident with the additional day of racing we met or exceeded the city-estimated attendance of 160,000 from last year."

City stormwater crews began work early Monday, clearing the track of standing water to make it suitable for racing. Dunn credits the exceptional efforts by city departments, the Grand Prix and Indy Racing League officials, to give the race the green flag.

City officials originally estimated downtown streets affected by the race would be back to normal by April 9, with all other areas open by April 18. Because of the unusual circumstances, motorists and pedestrians could see scheduled road re-openings delayed up to 24 hours. Crews are also optimistic about meeting the previously scheduled reopening of the airport runway on April 1.

***

4. Junqueira joins FAZZT Race Team for Indianapolis: Alex Tagliani didn't forget Bruno Junqueira's gracious act at last year's Indianapolis 500, and the Brazilian driver will compete for a starting berth this May in a second FAZZT Race Team car.

Junqueira qualified a Conquest Racing car on Bump Day in the 30th position. But he stepped out of the entry for Tagliani, who had failed to make the field because of a crash in qualifications.

"Because we have enough sponsorship to run a second car at Indianapolis, we felt it important to give that chance to Bruno," said Tagliani, who is competing full time in the IZOD IndyCar Series with the first-year FAZZT Race Team. "Last year, with Bruno as the second driver in the team I was at, he let his spot in the field go after I had a mishap in qualifying. And it turned out, I had a pretty good race at the Indy 500 so it is nice way to say thank you to Bruno for what he did for me last year."

Tagliani started 33rd and finished 11th, earning Chase Rookie of the Year honors. In two IZOD IndyCar Series races this season, he has finished sixth (St. Petersburg) and 19th (Brazil, started second but was involved in contact early).

Junqueira, a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, started from the pole at Indy in 2002 and has led 52 laps.

"I am thrilled with the opportunity to compete for the FAZZT Race Team at the Indianapolis 500," said Junqueira, who has competed in the race five times and will drive the No. 33 entry. "The team will give me the resources and support to compete in a car that has the capabilities of winning at the Indianapolis 500. To win at Indianapolis has always been a dream of mine.

"I've had some very competitive opportunities at Indianapolis and in each year I've led laps and scored two top-five finishes at the Speedway. I hope that in 2010 I am able to complete my dream of a win at Indianapolis since I have been so close in the past."

Tagliani, Jim Freudenberg, Andre Azzi and Jason Priestley are co-owners of FAZZT Race Team.

"When we formed the FAZZT Race Team, we had a few goals in mind," Freudenberg said. "One of those goals was that if we had the opportunity to field a second entry at Indianapolis that we wanted to put Bruno in that car. Bruno is an extremely talented driver and is the perfect complement to our current program.

"We are also excited that Bruno will be piloting the No. 33 car at Indianapolis as that is the car number he drove to the pole position in 2002, and we are hoping that number will serve him well again in 2010."

Opening Day at the Speedway is May 15.

***

5. Solid debut for Yacaman, Cape Motorsport w/ Wayne Taylor Racing: Gustavo Yacaman could describe his debut with Cape Motorsport with Wayne Taylor Racing as a wet and wild race.

The Colombian finished fifth in the opening round of Firestone Indy Lights on the streets of St. Petersburg after making two separate charges to the front. Yacamán started 10th and was able to avoid an incident on the first lap and found himself near the front of the field when the first full-course yellow flew on Lap 1.

After the restart, he claimed second place by Lap 4 and remained there until he missed a turn going into 4 on Lap 15 and was forced onto the run-off area. He quickly recovered and worked his way back into the field, ultimately finishing fifth.

"It was a really hard and long race," said Yacamán. "I had a good start on the outside, and I was able to make up some positions. I was really cautious on the restart, but I was able to move up to second place before they stopped the race due to conditions. From then on, it was a really long race. I made a couple of mistakes going into Turn 4 that cost us a podium finish. But at the end of the day, I kept it off the wall and a finished a solid fifth. I really want to thank all my crew for their support and determination during the weekend. They did a great job."

***

The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues April 11 with the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3 p.m. (ET) 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 continues with the Grand Prix of Alabama April 11 at Barber Motorsports Park. The race will air live on indycar.com.

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Kenny Brack , Wayne Taylor , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Jason Priestley , Will Power , Gustavo Yacaman , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , FAZZT Race Team , Conquest Racing , Wayne Taylor Racing