Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Kanaan joins de Ferran Dragon Racing for 2011
2. Beatriz wins Brazilian all-star kart race
3. Star Mazda joins INDYCAR weekend at Barber
1. Kanaan joins de Ferran Dragon Racing for 2011: de Ferran Dragon Racing president Gil de Ferran announced Dec. 20 that the team has signed 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan to compete in the 2011 season - its third in the series.
Kanaan will drive the No. 2 car with the sponsorship package to be announced in the new year.
"This is a great signing and a major coup for de Ferran Dragon Racing," said de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and two-time CART champion. "He is a proven champion and brings with him a great record of success on the track. Tony has consistently placed at the sharp end of the field for more than a decade and shows no signs of letting up. I am sure his contribution to the team, both in terms of speed and experience, will be invaluable to our development and future success.
"Tony's presence is also a significant vote of confidence for our young and developing team. This news certainly clarifies that we are serious in our intention to become a major force in the series."
Kanaan, who turns 36 on Dec. 31, made his first start in the series in the 2002 Indianapolis 500. He joined Andretti Green Racing for the full 2003 season, providing the team its first pole start and victory in its second race. In 2004, Kanaan set an unrivaled record by became the first driver in major auto racing history to complete every lap of every race for an entire season on his way to winning the series title.
Kanaan has finished in the top six of the championship standings in each of his eight full seasons in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"I am really excited to be working with de Ferran Dragon Racing," said Kanaan, a native of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. "I have a great deal of respect for Steve Luczo, Jay Penske and, of course, Gil, who I have known for many years both as a driver and now as a team owner. I know that the owners have a passion for the sport and a dream of being among the best in the series and will assemble all the right skills to turn this team into something really special.
"There is no doubt we have a lot work in front of us, but the energy I've felt from this team for becoming a top player and winning convinced me that this is a team where I can truly contribute and make a difference through my years of experience. One thing is for sure, 2011 is going to be a great journey for us all."
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season starts March 27 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
2. Beatriz wins Brazilian all-star kart race: Ana Beatriz surprised herself by winning the second race of the International Challenge of Go-Kart Champions on Dec. 19 in Florianapolis, Brazil - a charity event promoted by Ferarri Formula One driver Felipe Massa.
Beatriz, who competed in four IZOD IndyCar Series races in 2010, overtook pole sitter Rubens Barrichello in the closing turns to win by 1.361 seconds over the Formula One driver. Felipe Giaffone finished third and Tony Kanaan was fourth. Also, Vitor Meira finished 12th and Helio Castroneves was 19th.
"I never dreamed about overtaking a driver like Barrichello in a race," said Beatriz, who started 11th on the grid.
Lucas di Grassi won the Dec. 18 race, with Beatriz finishing 11th. Kanaan was fourth and Meira seventh.
3. Star Mazda joins INDYCAR weekend at Barber: The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be part of INDYCAR's event weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., on April 9-10.
Star Mazda teams will join Firestone Indy Lights and the IZOD IndyCar Series on the race schedule during the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama on April 10 as well as INDYCAR's spring training event at a road course to be named.
It will be the first of many opportunities during the season for drivers and teams to build relationships around INDYCAR's Mazda Road to Indy program.
"These announcements, along with several yet to come, mark a major step toward the creation of a fully integrated, fully-functioning development program for open-wheel racing in North America," said Star Mazda founder and CEO Gary Rodrigues. "I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this a reality and to encourage young drivers around the world to pay close attention to the unique and exciting opportunities that Star Mazda and the Mazda Road to Indy will offer in 2011 and beyond. Any driver serious about making a professional career in open-wheel racing needs to be a part of this program."
Star Mazda is one of four series that make up Mazda Road to Indy, which will provide scholarship funding for champions at each level to move up and compete in the next level of the sport.
The 2011 champion in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda will receive a scholarship to race a full season in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. The 2011 Star Mazda champion gets a full-season scholarship to compete in the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights series. And the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion will move up to race in the IZOD IndyCar series in 2012.
Star Mazda teams and drivers will share the racetrack with the IZOD IndyCar Series seven times during 2011; spring training plus six race weekends on two road circuits (Barber and Infineon), two street courses (St. Petersburg and Baltimore) and two ovals (Milwaukee, and Iowa).