Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Barrichello samples IZOD IndyCar Series with KV Racing
2. Wilson helps Shank team win Rolex 24
1. Barrichello samples IZOD IndyCar Series with KV Racing: What began as a pick-me-up message from Tony Kanaan two weeks ago has developed into serious consideration by Brazilian Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello to join the IZOD IndyCar Series for the 2012 season.
"We'll see," said Barrichello, who drove a second car prepared by KV Racing Technology. "I don't have anything else (competitive driving), so we'll see."
Kanaan, who sent the note to his good friend after Barrichello was replaced by Bruno Senna at Williams F1, welcomed Barrichello with a dinner attended by Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Oriol Servia ("he noticed the atmosphere; how we all get along") on Jan. 29. Kanaan was happy to have Barrichello accept the invitation to join him at Sebring.
"Over the winter we talked about it, but it became serious when I was testing (at Sebring) and they announced that he wouldn't be with Williams, and I tweeted a picture of my car saying 'It's ready for you,'" said Kanaan, who is godfather to one of Barrichello's sons and vice versa with his son, Leonardo. "Then I called him up and said, 'Hey, you want to come test at the end of the month?' And he said yes, so I called Jimmy (Vasser).
"It's great to have a guy I can call a brother with us. (His future) is in his hands. Right now, it's just an invitation for him to help us out as far as his feedback. Nineteen years in Formula One, the guy has so much knowledge we need to take advantage of . What goes beyond that, it's up to him.
"Knowing Rubens, his timeline will be pretty short. By the time he gets out of the car (Jan. 31), he'll have a pretty good idea what he wants to do. Right now, we don't have anyone signed for the other two cars. You can tell by his face he's having a lot of fun."
Barrichello, who has recorded 11 wins, 68 podiums and 14 pole positions in F1, is not ready to hang up the helmet. He was joined at the facility by his family, who were greeted by INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard.
"If Rubens joins the IZOD IndyCar Series, it continues to strengthen the caliber of drivers that we're attracting," Bernard said. "His record alone is the type of excitement that we want to build within the series and give our fanbase. When you look at the history of Indy car and the greats such as Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi, it only helps the stature of Indy car. If there is a transition, I want him to know that we're here to help him."
Servia (in the Lotus development car), Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), JR Hildebrand (National Guard Panther Racing), and the Team Penske trio of Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves and Power also were on the track Jan. 30 preparing for the 2012 season, which kicks off March 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing), who co-drove the winning entry in the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 29, Mike Conway (A.J. Foyt Racing), Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing) and Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing) join them Jan. 31.
2. Wilson helps Shank team win Rolex 24: Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson teamed with AJ Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew to win the 50th anniversary endurance race in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian. The entry won by 5.198 seconds over the Starworks Motorsport team anchored by Ryan Dalziel.
Michael Shank Racing's previous best finish in the event (second place) came in 2006 with Wilson, Allmendinger, Negri and Mark Patterson co-driving. Overall, six Daytona Prototype teams with INDYCAR drivers finished in the top 10.
A second Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Daytona Prototype entry, with Firestone Indy Lights drivers Gustavo Yacaman and Jorge Goncalvez among the co-drivers, finished third as the only other car on the lead lap (761) in the twice-around-the-clock race on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn course.
Wilson was competing for the first time since early August when he suffered fractured vertebrae during a practice incident at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which forced him to miss the final six IZOD IndyCar Series events.
"We all managed to comprise enough to get by between all four of us in being comfortable and being able to push the limit every single lap, because this was a tough race," said Wilson, who will be returning to Dale Coyne Racing for the 2012 season that begins March 25 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
A day to recuperate and it will be back behind the wheel for Wilson, who'll be able to stretch his legs in the new Dallara DW12 chassis at Sebring International Raceway. A dozen other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers will join him on the short course, including Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon of the fourth-place Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates car in the Rolex 24.
Shank also will have few hours to revel in his first Rolex 24 victory in nine attempts before he focuses on wrapping up details of entering the IZOD IndyCar Series with MSR Indy and likely Paul Tracy as the driver.
"We are so close to being able to run our car at St. Pete and I'm not giving up," Shank said before the green flag. "This is about passion for me and business. First passion, then business. We have a great relationship with Ford and the Grand Am series and I could make a living here just fine. But it's been my dream and my intention since I was 7 years old to get in the Indianapolis 500, so when there's opportunity - like I believe there is in INDYCAR right now - we decided to go for it.
"In a perfect world, I could announce (now) what I'm doing. We're going to work as hard as we can to make it happen. The interest has been great and we have a lot of new fans."
Tracy, who confirmed he's working with Shank to finalize a deal, was among the drivers of the Doran Racing car that finished seventh overall - one spot behind the 2011-winnnig Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates car co-driven by Graham Rahal.
"We need to put together an engine program this week and tie up a couple of other lose ends of some other contractual stuff, and if we can do that, then we'll get the car put together and try to get to Sebring to test," Tracy said following a twilight stint.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who looked to be out of the endurance race when sponsorship for a second Starworks Motorsport car fell through five days earlier, rejoined the team before the initial practice of the weekend and then qualified ninth.
More last minute was the addition of Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay's teammate at Andretti Autosport, to the driver lineup. Andretti was granted a late license (he had never driven a Daytona Prototype) and fared well, though he became dehydrated.
Another Andretti Autosport teammate, James Hinchcliffe, co-drove a SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 that finished seventh in the GT class and 16th overall.