Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-08-21

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Matos tops Firestone Indy Lights Open Test at Infineon Raceway 2. Infineon hasn't been kind to IndyCar Series points leaders 3. Cindric discusses damage due to fire on Team Penske ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Matos tops Firestone Indy Lights Open Test at Infineon Raceway
2. Infineon hasn't been kind to IndyCar Series points leaders
3. Cindric discusses damage due to fire on Team Penske transporter
4. Select quotes from Danica Patrick media availability
5. Team Moore Racing picks Klein for rest of season

1. Matos tops Firestone Indy Lights Open Test at Infineon Raceway: With 105 points possible in the Carneros 100 and Valley of the Moon 100 Aug. 23-24 at Infineon Raceway, the drivers in contention for the Firestone Indy Lights title know anything can happen.

Raphael Matos, who trails Richard Antinucci by four points, put the other contenders on notice during an Open Test Aug. 21 on the 12-turn, 2.245-mile circuit, with a fast lap more than a second better than anybody else.

Matos lapped the course in 1 minute, 23.4281 seconds, 99.377 mph, while J.R. Hildebrand, who is sixth in points, was second with a lap at 1:24.4535, 98.170 mph.

"I think people will catch up to us throughout the weekend," said Matos, who tested an IndyCar Series car at the track last week. "The car was really strong from the beginning of the test. It was really good right out of the trailer. The AFS/Andretti Green crew did a fantastic job and I just have to thank them for that. I think we'll improve a little bit more, but I think everyone else will improve as well. Hopefully we can maintain the advantage that we have so we can fight for the pole be in good shape for the race and the championship."

Hildebrand, a Bay Area native who won at Kansas in April, hopes to narrow his 71-point deficit.

"I feel really good," said Hildebrand. "We had a really productive test day last week that I almost wish we had earlier on in the season because we found a lot of stuff. And this being my home track, I have a lot of track knowledge. I think we're looking pretty good. I think that's a pretty competitive time. I think some of the other guys used an extra set of tires and we didn't - we just used one (set) throughout the day. I think we'll be looking pretty good for tomorrow."

Antinucci, who is aiming for Sam Schmidt Motorsports' third consecutive driver's championship, was fifth quick.

"Having a lead does help your confidence, but there's a long way to go so we have to take it one weekend at a time, looking race-by-race," Antinucci said. "I've won Cup races before, big titles like a F3 FIA world championship, one-off event or two events. So far I've never won a long-distance championship - but I've watched people do it before, and they take it race-by-race and be as humble as they can. I have no choice but to be humble because I'm not exactly running away with a 200-point lead."

Antinucci also brings in the confidence of having won the SWE Pole Award and the Valley of the Moon 100 a year ago.

***

2. Infineon hasn't been kind to IndyCar Series points leaders: As the IndyCar Series prepares for its fourth visit to Infineon Raceway, championship contender Scott Dixon hopes the course is friendlier to him than it has been to past points leaders.

Dixon, who brings a 78-point lead over Helio Castroneves into the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County on Aug. 24, won last year's race to take over the points lead from Dario Franchitti, who finished third.

In 2006, Sam Hornish Jr. entered race weekend as the points leader and left trailing Castroneves after finishing ninth. In 2005, points leader Dan Wheldon finished 18th at Infineon.

"I'm happy to be back here in Sonoma," said Dixon, who has a record-tying six victories this season. "It's a big race for us. Last year, it was definitely a turning point for us chasing for the championship. We came up a bit short, but this year is looking a lot better so far. Coming back here, having done so well here last year, we're definitely looking forward to that."

Castroneves knows it won't be easy to cut into Dixon's lead.

"We're going to do everything we can to finish ahead of Dixon, hopefully as far ahead of him as possible," said Castroneves, who has finished second seven times in 2008. "We've been trying to do that all season. We're looking good. Infineon is a place where we feel comfortable."

The task has turned a bit more difficult for Castroneves, whose primary car was damaged by a fire on the team's transporter en route to the track.

"If there's a team that can rebound from something like this, it's Team Penske," Castroneves said. "They've done it before, and we're going to do it again. It's tough because you have some small bits, seats for example, I loved the seat that I had, and I'm going to have to use the spare one. Little details - the car was prepared for here. My guys are going to do what they can. We're going to go out there, put that behind us, and hopefully that will give us even more motivation to go out there and do well."

***

3. Cindric discusses damage due to fire on Team Penske transporter: Tim Cindric, president of Penske Performance Inc., met with media at Infineon Raceway to discuss the fire on one of the team's transporters en route to the track. Select quotes are below:

On the amount of damage: "It really comes down to the amount of work that has to be done. The material things aren't easy and everybody has to write checks, but the difficult part is the amount of time and effort that goes into the customization of the race cars and the trailer and the pit equipment and that type of thing. That's where the biggest loss really is - it's time. From a financial perspective it's never easy and never fun, but you run a similar risk every weekend when you crash a race car."

"The transporter is about $350,000 or $400,000 along with the contents. Obviously you have two race cars. At the end of the day you can say they're $400,000, you can say they're $600,000, but who knows. There are certain parts of the car that are going to be salvageable and certain parts that aren't. Total estimate is probably more than one (million dollars) and less than three (million dollars)."

On what was salvaged: "What we brought here today are very small things, very unique tools, things you can't buy, I'll put it that way. Customization-type things. Things that will come tomorrow on the straight truck are basically the things that we see are somewhat unscathed and easily utilized."

On whether the back-up cars will be as good as the primary cars: "I'm confident that with the quality of our people anytime we bring a backup car to the racetrack, that backup car should be prepared as if it's going to become a race car, otherwise we shouldn't really have it here at the level we participate at. The question will really be, if we need to go to a back-up car, at what state the back-up car is going to be in for the weekend."

On whether either driver will be at a disadvantage: "It's our goal to be sure that they're not. But that chance is probably more so than what it would be on a different given weekend."

On Roger Penske's response: "Roger goes right into the technical whys and wherefores of how does that happen. What happened? What's the extent of the damage? The first question he asked was if everybody is OK, but beyond that it becomes more of a methodical process. With Roger, there's usually not a lot of emotions on anything. Roger's pretty much to the point with what the process is going to be and how are we going to be sure that this doesn't affect the outcome of Sunday's race. That's the game."

On doing without: "I've called races before where we basically just had a computer and a radio, so the things you get used to and what's necessary and what's a luxury are kind of two different things. You kind of go back to your roots a little bit and say, ‘OK, it's not all that bad.'"

***

4. Select quotes from Danica Patrick media availability: Andretti Green Racing driver Danica Patrick met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway. Select quotes are below:

On her history at Infineon: "It's been uphill for me here at Infineon so that's good. I look forward to coming back here more and more every year. I think as I mature as a driver I understand a little bit better what I need out of the car and am able to do, what I need to do on the track to go fast. I'm slowly but surely learning. I'm excited to be here again."

On the track modification: "There's always one area of the track that's a very slow corner. I don't think it's going to make much of a difference. I didn't test here a week or two ago, Marco (Andretti) did. I think it's definitely made it a very clear hairpin (turn) now. I know that there was ability to pass there before with the way the track was set up, but maybe with it being even slower now there will be even more. So we'll just have to see how it goes. No matter what, it's still going to be the same great Sonoma with just a hint of a change."

***

5. Team Moore Racing picks Klein for rest of season: With an eye towards 2009, Jonathan Klein has been named the driver of the No. 2 car for Team Moore Racing for the remainder of the season. Klein replaces Jeff Simmons, who agreed to stand down from the driver's seat after seeing his championship hopes dwindle following a mechanical issue that dropped him from contention at Kentucky.

"This was an extremely difficult decision for us," said team co-owner Mark Moore. "Jeff (Simmons) has done a great job for us this season. He had us in the championship hunt even though he didn't compete in the first race of the season.

"At this point in time, Tom (Wood) and I have decided to take the opportunity to have a look at Jonathan's road course ability in preparation for the 2009 driver line-up, with talks continuing with Pablo Donoso. This race will give us the chance to look at how they work as teammates."

Simmons went into the race at Kentucky on Aug. 9 still in the points chase. While running in seventh position, a piece of debris from a crash punctured the oil cooler. Simmons was forced to come into the pits on Lap 40, ending his day in 23rd position.

"I am very thankful for the opportunity to drive with Team Moore Racing this year and proud of my performance and the contributions I was able to make in the development of the car," Simmons said. "I knew from the very first event we did together that it was going to be race-to-race. One of the main goals was to attract good drivers with sponsorship funding behind them to the team. We were able to do that and I hope that will put the team in a stronger financial position to be competitive."

Klein last raced on a road course during last year's doubleheader at Infineon Raceway, posting a pair of top-10 finishes. His best road course finish came at St. Petersburg in 2007 where he claimed third.

"I want to thank Tom and Mark for their consideration and wanting me in their car," said Klein. "I'm really excited to do a race on a road course again; it's been a year since I've raced on one. We'll take full advantage of the time on the track on and go out with everything we've got this weekend with the focus on zero mistakes and a solid result."

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County Aug. 24 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with a doubleheader Aug. 23-24 at Infineon Raceway. The races will air at 5 p.m. Aug. 28 on ESPN2.

-credit: irl

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Richard Antinucci , Roger Penske , Jonathan Klein , J.R. Hildebrand , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske