Series news and notes 2010-12-01

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Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Road to Indy headlines: 1. Ganassi honored with first IMIS Achievement Award 2. Yacaman joins Team Moore for 2011 3. Newman/Haas to test Servia, Hinchcliffe 4. Meijer links up with Team ...

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Road to Indy headlines:
1. Ganassi honored with first IMIS Achievement Award
2. Yacaman joins Team Moore for 2011
3. Newman/Haas to test Servia, Hinchcliffe
4. Meijer links up with Team Penske
5. Franchitti, Ganassi nominated for Economaki award

1. Ganassi honored with first IMIS Achievement Award: Championship-winning team owner Chip Ganassi's 2010 keeps getting better and better.

Ganassi, whose Target Chip Ganassi Racing team has won the last three IZOD IndyCar Series championships , received the first-ever International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS) Achievement Award on Nov. 30 during the IMIS welcome reception at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Chris Paulsen, owner of C&R Racing and one of the founders of IMIS, presented the award to Ganassi, who scored two championships and numerous high-profile race wins throughout the 2010 season as an owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, IZOD IndyCar Series and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.

"What Chip was able to accomplish as a car owner this season was incredible," Paulsen said. "To have the amount of success he did across three completely different racing series was amazing, and it will be tough for any owner to repeat what he did in 2010. It was a no-brainer for us to award him the first-ever International Motorsports Industry Show Achievement Award. Our show is for hardcore racers and no one is a better example of a hardcore racer than Chip Ganassi."

Ganassi's incredible statistics speak for themselves:

* Became the first owner to win both of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's marquee events in the same year. In May, Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500, while Jamie McMurray captured the Brickyard 400 in July.

* Won two championships in the same season for the second time (2008) by winning the IZOD IndyCar Series (Franchitti) and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series (Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas) titles.

* Claimed first-ever weekend sweep Aug. 7-8, winning races in all three of the major touring series (NASCAR Sprint Cup, IndyCar and Rolex Series) in which Ganassi's teams compete. Pruett and Rojas won the Rolex Series event at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Juan Pablo Montoya picked up a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen, and Franchitti completed the hat-trick with an IZOD IndyCar Series win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

* All five teams (two IndyCar Series, two Sprint Cup and one Rolex Series) and all six of his drivers (Scott Dixon, Franchitti, McMurray, Montoya, Pruett, Rojas) won races during the 2010 season.

* Captured fourth Indianapolis 500 victory as an owner: Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989 (co-owned team with Pat Patrick); Montoya in 2000; Dixon in 2008; and Franchitti in 2010.

* Won his first Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, both with McMurray.

* Rolex Series and IZOD IndyCar Series titles were the 11th and 12th overall for his teams (eight Indy car, and four Rolex Series).

"Everybody wants to talk about how we won the Daytona 500, the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400, the sports car championship and the IndyCar championship," Ganassi said. "What's most gratifying to me, and you're going to think I'm nuts, is that every one of our drivers won races. You've got all your different personalities and cars and people. Yet somehow, every one of our guys found victory lane. That's the best barometer of success for me. Granted, if we did all that and didn't win the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Brickyard 400, it wouldn't have been as great a year. You wouldn't dare dream about the kind of year we've had.

"I sit there and look at how many great teams and drivers in the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) that barely have been mentioned all year. The last time they got a mention is when they got in the Chase. I'd much rather have the races we won. I'm not bad-mouthing NASCAR or the Chase, but I'll take the Daytona 500 win any day over not winning the Chase. It's also rewarding to get the monkey off our back about, 'You guys should be winning in NASCAR like you do in all these other series.'"

The Indianapolis-based IMIS show was founded by Paulsen, Tom Weisenbach, executive director of the Indiana Motorsports Association (IMA), Jeff Stoops, president of Stoops Freightliner, and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. All four are residents of Indiana.

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2. Yacaman joins Team Moore for 2011: After two seasons in Firestone Indy Lights, Gustavo Yacaman feels like he can contend for the Firestone Firehawk Cup.

He's found the team he thinks can bring him wins and the championship.

The 19-year-old Colombian announced Dec. 1 that he has signed with Team Moore Racing for the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season where he will be team with noted race engineer Lee Dysktra.

"I believe with all that I learned last year, I am ready to take on the championship," Yacaman said. "Lee Dykstra will be a very important piece this year. (Both my dad and I) believe he is one of the best, if not the best engineer out there, in combination with Team Moore Racing being one of the neatest and most detailed teams in the field. I am looking forward to testing in January and to start working on a really good car to make it as close to perfect as we possibly can."

Despite being the youngest driver in the field in each of his two seasons in Firestone Indy Lights, Yacaman has shown the potential to be a front runner. He scored his first podium in the series at Toronto in 2010 and scored twice as many top-five finishes (four) than he had as a rookie.

We are very happy to sign Gustavo to our team," said team co-owner Tom Wood. "He has really matured as a race car driver in the last couple of years in the Firestone Indy Lights. We feel this will be his year to be a contender for the championship."

Dysktra, who returns to Team Moore Racing for a second consecutive season, has scored wins in Firestone Indy Lights with Frank Perera, James Davison and James Hinchcliife. Under his tutelage, Davison and Hinchcliffe notched runner up finishes in the championship. He said he's looking forward working with Yacaman.

"TMR is well organized and ready to build on the season we had in 2010," Dykstra said. "Having a car and driver capable of winning on both oval and street circuits is a bonus. Working with Gustavo is another opportunity to provide engineering for a maturing young driver. He has the ability to be a serious contender this year."

Team Moore Racing co-owner Mark Moore said the signing of Yacaman is the first piece in building the foundation for a championship-winning organization in 2011.

"We have an extensive preseason testing program planned and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us before we compete on the streets of St. Pete in March," Moore said. "Having Gustavo on board and everyone in place this early with the same common goal is a huge advantage, which we plan to capitalize on throughout the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season."

***

3. Newman/Haas to test Servia, Hinchcliffe: Firestone Indy Lights championship runner-up James Hinchcliffe and Indy car veteran driver Oriol Servia will test with Newman/Haas Racing on Dec. 13-14 at Sebring International Raceway.

Servia, a native of Catalonia, Spain, has made 15 starts for NHR in CART/Champ Car and the IZOD IndyCar Series (one victory, seven top-three, 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes). In 2005, Servia replaced NHR driver Bruno Junqueira, who suffered a season-ending injury at the Indy 500 on May 29, and then went on to finish second to teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the Champ Car standings. Servia returned to NHR in 2009 for four races with a season-best finish of fourth at Twin Ring Motegi.

"I am obviously very excited, not only to be back in a race car but to be back in a Newman/Haas car," Servia said. "Every time I have driven a Newman/Haas car we have been able to make improvements and deliver results. They have some of the best engineers and the team members are among the hardest working in the sport. It's the situation every driver wants; to just focus on making improvements with the car."

Hinchcliffe, 23, of Toronto, will test an IndyCar for the first time with NHR. He posted 2010 victories in Firestone Indy Lights at Long Beach, Edmonton and Chicagoland and poles at St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Watkins Glen and Edmonton. In total, he earned eight podium finishes in 13 races. Hinchcliffe progressed through the ranks of the Rotax (2002), F2000 (2003), Formula BMW (2004), Star Mazda (2005) and Atlantic series (2006-08) before joining Firestone Indy Lights in 2009. He also competed in a season of A1GP competition (2007).

"I can't express how excited I am to get my first test in an IndyCar," he said. "I grew up watching Indy cars and always dreamed of one day driving one so this really is a dream come true. And to get my first taste of this car with a team the caliber of Newman/Haas Racing is really special. Their record speaks for itself and to get to work with them is a real privilege. It will certainly help me tackle the job of getting up to speed.

"For sure this test is just the first step for me toward racing full time in the IZOD IndyCar Series. I will simply try to learn as much as I can and do the best job possible for the team."

The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season opens March 25-27 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Newman/Haas Racing earned its first IZOD IndyCar Series victory in 2008 with Graham Rahal behind the wheel.

"This test will give us a great start to prepare for 2011," said Brian Lisles, general manager of Newman/Haas Racing. "And we look forward to introducing James to the IZOD IndyCar Series, and renewing our long and successful relationship with Oriol."

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4. Meijer links up with Team Penske: Penske Racing announced that Meijer will join Team Penske as a sponsor of its three-car IZOD IndyCar Series program, beginning with the 2011 season.

Coca-Cola will play an integrated role in this sponsorship as it is a key supplier to Meijer and a sponsor with Penske Racing. Meijer, which operates almost 200 retail stores in the Midwest, will be a major associate sponsor on the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car driven by Will Power next season.

"I'm excited to welcome Meijer to Team Penske and I look forward to representing their brand," said Power, who produced series-high five wins and a series-record eight pole positions while finishing second in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. "I've always enjoyed shopping at Meijer stores since I came over to the U.S. from Australia. Now, I'll be doing my best to get Meijer to Victory Lane with Team Penske."

Meijer also will be an associate sponsor with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.

"Meijer is thrilled to work with Team Penske, the most successful team in the history of Indy car racing," said Hank Meijer, co-chairman and CEO of Meijer. "We hope to be a part of many race wins and championships with Will, Helio and Ryan and we know they and the Penske team will be great ambassadors for Meijer and all of our associates."

Both Meijer, which opened its first store in 1934, and the Penske Corporation are based in Michigan. Under a multi-year agreement, both organizations will work together for future success on the racetrack and on the retail floor.

"Meijer is a terrific company and we are proud to represent such a premiere organization," team owner Roger Penske said. "We are excited to develop this new relationship and we believe Meijer will be a key partner for Team Penske, beginning in 2011."

***

5. Franchitti, Ganassi nominated for Economaki award: Three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti and his team owner Chip Ganassi are among the 11 finalists for the Economaki Champion of Champions award.

The award is annually given to the North American racing champion judged to have had the best season on and off the track. It is named after legendary motorsports journalist and publisher Chris Economaki who began editing National Speed Sport News in 1950. National Speed Sport News is often and accurately described as "The bible of Motorsports." Itis the weekly must-read for serious fans, drivers and crew, and industry leaders alike.

Ganassi is the first team owner nominated for this award after his cars won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. As well, he claimed the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with Franchitti and the Grand Am Rolex Series crown with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.

Joining Ganassi and Franchitti as nominees are NHRA champions John Force and Larry Dixon, NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Grand Am Rolex Series champions Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas, Short track champions Tim Shaffer (O'Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions), Jason Meyers (World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series) Scott Bloomquist (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series), Levi Jones (USAC Sprint Car, Silver Crown Series) and Bryan Clauson (USAC Mopar National Midget Series).

-source: indycar

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS