Indy Racing League News & Notes 2008-03-10

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. 2008 Marks Year Two of IndyCar Series' Historic Commitment to Renewable Fuel 2. Season Preview: Vision Racing 3. College for Creative Studies project reaches mid-terms 4. Castroneves weighs...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. 2008 Marks Year Two of IndyCar Series' Historic Commitment to Renewable Fuel
2. Season Preview: Vision Racing
3. College for Creative Studies project reaches mid-terms
4. Castroneves weighs in on next season of "Dancing with the Stars"

1. 2008 Marks Year Two of IndyCar Series' Historic Commitment to Renewable Fuel: In 2007, the IndyCar Series, long known for its motorsports innovations, became the first major motorsports series in the world to run exclusively on a renewable fuel by using 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in all of its cars. This switch to a greener fuel made racing history and supported the broader goal of making IndyCar Series racing more environmentally friendly.

Both on-track and off-track the transition was a success. From the first lap of preseason testing to the checkered flag at the season finale, ethanol performed flawlessly in its inaugural year. Without losing any horsepower or speed on the track, IndyCar Series cars burned 20,000 fewer gallons of fuel using ethanol than previous seasons using methanol.

2008 will mark the second year of IndyCar Series competition fueled exclusively by ethanol. LifeLine Foods, based in St. Joseph, Mo., will be the official provider of ethanol for the series in 2008. LifeLine Foods is a unique company that uses corn to produce food and fuel. One portion of the kernel is processed and marketed to the food industry while the remainder of the corn kernel is used for, among other things, cattle feed and energy needs. Utilizing a bran energy recovery system, total plant energy needs will be reduced by approximately 50 percent. This method insures that the company is getting the most value out of corn, benefiting the agriculture, food and ethanol industries.

"Our decision to switch the IndyCar Series over to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol was a reflection of our confidence in ethanol's performance capabilities," said Indy Racing League Senior Technical Director Les Mactaggart. "The 2007 season proved that our confidence was not misplaced."

Off the track, the IndyCar Series will continue to partner with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) to increase public awareness about the use of ethanol in everyday passenger vehicles. Working together, the IndyCar Series and EPIC have helped spread the word to millions of Americans about the environmental and economic benefits of ethanol and its availability to everyday consumers at the gas pump in the form of E10 and E85 ethanol-blended gasoline.

In 2008, the IndyCar Series and EPIC will continue to use promotional events at gas stations and mobile marketing assets at tracks across the country to spread the word about ethanol's performance and reliability: If it's capable of performing well in IndyCar Series cars, it's capable of performing well in your car.

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2. Season Preview: Vision Racing: When Tony George announced the formation of Vision Racing in 2005, the team had less than four weeks to prepare for the season. The team hit the ground running and has been working hard to make up ground on its more-seasoned competitors ever since.

Entering its fourth season in 2008, and returning two drivers from last season, the team feels it has reached its maturation point.

Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV return to drive Vision Racing's Honda-powered Dallaras while Larry Curry is back as team manager. Carpenter, 27, and Foyt, 23, both have 65 career starts in the IndyCar Series and combined for 11 top-10 finishes last year.

"We think our drivers are seasoned enough now to where they understand how it all works," Curry said. "We think that we've done our homework over the winter. Certainly on road courses we feel like we're going to be much more respectable to where we can go out and compete for some top-10 finishes. On the ovals, the expectations are to win a race."

Foyt, the inaugural Indy Pro Series champion in 2002, came closest to Victory Lane last year, finishing third and leading 13 laps at Kentucky. He was fifth-quick in last month's Open Test on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I'm excited about it," Foyt said. "We have a great team manager with Larry Curry, and his son, Matt, is my engineer. Toward the end of the year, you could see we were getting better and more comfortable with each other. The goal for this year -- for me and Ed -- is to get Vision Racing its first win. (I) finished third last year, and we just need to jump over that hill a bit more and get that first win, which would be a huge accomplishment. I think we have the opportunity to get that done."

Carpenter, a permanent fixture at the Indianapolis-based race shop, started last season with a sixth-place finish at Homestead.

"Last year we started strong, but from May on I wasn't very happy with our season," Carpenter said. "Some of the things that we've done will hopefully change that this season. Obviously, you'll have to step it up because we have a lot more teams coming in, and a lot more good teams with quality drivers. I think they will make us raise our games more on road courses because that's their strong point. The biggest thing is to be more consistent. We had some good runs last year; we were capable of running in the top five but didn't do it consistently enough."

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3. College for Creative Studies project reaches mid-terms: On March 6, College for Creative Studies Transportation Design students received feedback from Indy Racing League and American Honda officials that will guide the direction of their projects.

Their goal, as set forth by the Indy Racing League and American Honda in mid-January: Create the IndyCar Series car of the future.

The challenge, as directed by Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations division of the IndyCar Series' sanctioning body: The chassis should be iconic, the car should meet safety standards and function as well as the current iteration on the IndyCar Series' diverse schedule of ovals and street/road courses.

Over the past six weeks, 13 seniors have worked with Transportation Design chairman Mark West, who designed a curriculum encompassing research of the IndyCar Series, through a process of ideation, refinement of ideas and final direction. Students in late January visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and toured the Target Chip Ganassi Racing shop to see how Indycar racing cars have evolved and why the current ground-effects car is the standard.

Presentations at the Detroit campus included cars powered by bio-diesel, hydrogen, a turbine and a hybrid fuel -- all with a variety of wing packages.

"You want to be reasonable about your expectations and the final output, but the variety we've seen is just great," said Dave Marek, chief designer of Honda R&D America.

Students have seven weeks to take sketches to clay models to present to the panel.

"We appreciate the support and input offered by Honda and the Indycar Series," West said. "Now we have to fine-tune what we learned today and make these designs real. Our goal is to offer the IndyCar Series clean, fundamental and fast-designed cars."

*** 4. Castroneves weighs in on next season of "Dancing with the Stars": Helio Castroneves, the reigning "Dancing with the Stars" champion, will be an "Entertainment Tonight" contributor when the sixth season of the celebrity competition premieres March 17. He'll be in the audience scrutinizing the contestants.

"It will be fun again to see friends and see the stars getting nervous like I was," said Castroneves, who teamed with professional dance partner Julianne Hough to win the mirror ball trophy in November.

Castroneves recently relayed some advice to Miami Dolphins 6-6, 255-pound defensive end Jason Taylor, who is paired with Edyta Sliwinska.

"You think your training camp is hard --," Castroneves joked. "I told him, 'Have fun and don't be too competitive because you're already competitive in your job, and just relax."

So who is the champ's choice to dance off with the mirror ball trophy?

"Right now, the early favorite is Kristi Yamaguchi," said Castroneves, referring to the 1992 Olympic Games figure skating gold medalist. "She has the experience ice skating so that might give her an early advantage. But remember, it's not only about dancing. It's the whole package."

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 2008 schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with ESPN. All races in 2008 will be telecast in High Definition. The 2008 Indy Pro Series season also begins on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, which features eight ovals and four road/street course doubleheader weekends, will be televised by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Chip Ganassi , Tony George , Brian Barnhart , Ed Carpenter
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing