IPS: Indianapolis: Round four preview

WHAT: Freedom 100, fourth race in 12-race 2006 IRL Indy Pro Series season. WHERE: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2.5-mile oval WHEN: 12:30 p.m. (EDT), Friday, May 26 DISTANCE: 40 laps/100 miles CARS: Dallara chassis; Firestone...

WHAT:
Freedom 100, fourth race in 12-race 2006 IRL Indy Pro Series season.

WHERE:
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2.5-mile oval

WHEN:
12:30 p.m. (EDT), Friday, May 26

DISTANCE:
40 laps/100 miles

CARS:
Dallara chassis; Firestone tires

PREVIOUS RACE WINNERS:
2005 -- Jaime Camara
2004 -- Thiago Medeiros
2003 -- Ed Carpenter

TV:
ESPN2, 3 p.m. (EDT), May 27

PRE-RACE NOTES:

* Camara first Freedom 100 winner to defend title: Jaime Camara is the first Freedom 100 winner to return to defend his title. Camara won the pole for last year's race and led 33 of 40 laps en route to the victory for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Camara returns this year with Andretti Green Racing. The Brazilian has developed a strong friendship with AGR IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan.

* Cunningham returns to defend series title; returns from appendectomy: Wade Cunningham is the first Indy Pro Series champion to return to defend his series title. Cunningham won the season finale at California Speedway in 2005 and had 10 podium finishes en route to the Firestone Firehawk Cup. He missed the two St. Petersburg races this March after undergoing an emergency appendectomy race week.

* $300,000 up for grabs: The Indy Pro Series announced numerous enhancements during the offseason as the series continues to grow. Most notably, the series tripled the total prize purse for the season to $3 million, spreading the payout throughout the field. The biggest race purses are for the Freedom 100 and Liberty Challenge at Indianapolis - $300,000 will be divided among the field with the winner taking home $40,000 and the 18th-place finishes pocketing $10,000. The series also introduced a balanced schedule of six oval races and six road-course races, a testing policy which rewards IndyCar Series teams with bonus test days if they also participate in the Indy Pro Series, and a dual shock system on the front of the race car, making it more similar to an IndyCar Series car.

* Eight graduates entered in Indy 500: In just its fifth season, the Indy Pro Series has put eight graduates into the Indy 500 field in 2006. Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, P.J. Chesson, Jon Herb, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Thiago Medeiros, Marty Roth and Jeff Simmons all competed in the Indy Pro Series.

* They'll be back: The Indy Pro Series is the only series to conduct races on both the oval and road-course circuits at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Futaba Freedom 100 is May 26 on the oval. The Liberty Challenge is July 1 on the road course.

* Dodge, Knoxville Nationals program to debut at Indy: A unique partnership between Knoxville (IA) Raceway and the Indy Pro Series has given sprint car driver Geoff Dodge the opportunity to compete in the Indy Pro Series in 2006. Dodge ranks 11th in points heading into the Freedom 100. He moved to Speedway in January and lives within blocks of the track.

* Like father, like son: Eighteen-year-old Sean Guthrie is the youngest driver in the Indy Pro Series and will be making his series debut in the Freedom 100. Guthrie is the son of 1997 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Jim Guthrie. The elder Guthrie competed in three Indianapolis 500s, with a best finish of 18th in 1996.

* Abbott makes second run at Indy glory: Mishael Abbott, the first woman to compete in the Indy Pro Series, returns for her second Freedom 100. Abbott finished 11th in last year's race. Abbott moved to Indianapolis last year and is studying sports marketing at the University of Indianapolis.

* Sam Schmidt serves as inspiration: Indy Pro Series team owner Sam Schmidt continues to serve as an inspiration to many in the paddock. The former IndyCar Series driver was paralyzed in a practice crash in 2000. He formed his own race team and won the Indy Pro Series championship in 2004. The largest fundraiser for his foundation, the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation, will be May 15.

* Guidance of Rick Mears, four-time Indy 500 winner, invaluable to Indy Pro Series drivers: Rick Mears is the driver coach for the Indy Pro Series. He observes and instructs the young drivers in the series.

* Butch Meyer continues family tradition at Indianapolis: Butch Meyer, technical director for the Indy Pro Series, is the third generation of Meyers to compete at Indianapolis.


    * Grandfather Louis Meyer competed in 12 Indy 500s and was the first three-time winner of the event.


    * Family purchased the Offenhauser plant in the early 1940s, and for 20 years built the "Offy" engine which dominated open-wheel racing.


    * Father Sonny was an engine builder for 15 Indy 500 winners.


    * Butch began working on engines at age 8.


    * Built engines for Patrick Racing, Granatelli Racing and Team Menard.


    * Won the 1982 Indy 500 with Gordon Johncock.


    * Won two IndyCar Series championships and 23 pole positions in 52 races with Team Menard.

RACE NOTES:

* Bussell looks to extend record: Nick Bussell, who ranks fourth in points, has been running at the finish in 17 consecutive Indy Pro Series races, establishing a series record. He'll look to push the streak to 18 at Indianapolis. Bussell also leads the series with 13 consecutive top-10 finishes. He's three shy of the record held by 2004 Freedom 100 winner Thiago Medeiros.

* Herb to take over consecutive starts lead: Jeff Simmons leads the Indy Pro Series with 20 consecutive starts, but with that streak coming to an end, Jon Herb will be the Ironman. The Freedom 100 will be Herb's 20th consecutive race.

-irl-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Jon Herb , Jim Guthrie , Tony Kanaan , Sam Schmidt , Rick Mears , Mishael Abbott , Marty Roth , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Nick Bussell , Gordon Johncock , P.J. Chesson , Wade Cunningham , Jaime Camara , Sean Guthrie , Geoff Dodge , Ed Carpenter , Thiago Medeiros , Arie Luyendyk Jr.