IPS: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-03-06

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Briscoe still on top at Sebring 2. Season Preview: AJ Foyt Racing 3. Dreyer & Reinbold signs Townsend Bell 4. RLR/Andersen Racing signs J.R. Hildebrand 5. Kanaan out and about in Miami 1.

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Briscoe still on top at Sebring
2. Season Preview: AJ Foyt Racing
3. Dreyer & Reinbold signs Townsend Bell
4. RLR/Andersen Racing signs J.R. Hildebrand
5. Kanaan out and about in Miami

1. Briscoe still on top at Sebring: Heavy rain brought an end to the final day of an Open Test at Sebring International Raceway about 45 minutes early, but not before Ryan Briscoe turned in a quick lap of 52.4202 seconds, 114.689 mph to top the speed chart. He edged Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves by three-hundredths of a second.

Together the two Team Penske drivers were more than a half second quicker than anyone else. Briscoe also led testing on March 5 as the second group of IndyCar Series drivers completed a day and a half of testing. A previous group of drivers tested on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn circuit March 3-4.

"The track was really quick this afternoon; Helio turned a fast lap mid-session, so we had something to shoot for," Briscoe said. "We went out on new tires, but we weren't quite happy with the car, so I had to come in. We made a change, which proved to be very effective. It is amazing what a small adjustment can do to lap times around this circuit. The Team Penske car was performing very well at the end of the session and I think we made a lot of progress today."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon were third and fourth, respectively.

Overall, eight drivers combined for 790 laps.

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2. Season Preview: A.J. Foyt Racing: Consider 2007 a learning year for A.J. Foyt Racing. The team, guided by legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, partnered for the first time with driver Darren Manning.

The results in 17 IndyCar Series starts were two top-five finishes, five top-10 finishes and 13 races running at the finish.

Manning and Foyt are together again in 2008, working towards additional successes on the racetrack.

"As a team and a relationship, Darren Manning and A.J. Foyt Racing, there's still a lot to come in our partnership," said Manning, who has 41 career starts in the IndyCar Series. "(Last year), it wasn't until the end of every race that we figured out what we needed. Then every time I was really happy with the car by a couple of stops into the race, and I was generally then right with the leaders. If we can start off where we finished last year on that front, we've done a lot of work over the winter, our little package there, there's still a lot to come. Maybe you won't even see the full potential this year, but I'm still saying we can win races, just like I did last year."

The top-five finishes came on the short oval at Iowa Speedway and the street course at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park. At Mid-Ohio, Manning was sixth, and Manning was running in the top-five late in the race at St. Petersburg.

"I'm really looking forward to the new season," said Foyt, who last year enlisted his son Larry as team director. "It'll be our second year with Darren Manning, and I believe we'll just get better and better. During the offseason we did some shaker rig and wind tunnel testing, and we have more scheduled. We hired some new people who will strengthen our program overall. With there just being one series, it will be even more competitive, but we'll capitalize on what we learned last year with Darren. We have the tools in place to make this season one of our best in quite a while."

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3. Dreyer & Reinbold signs Townsend Bell: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has signed IndyCar Series veteran driver Townsend Bell to drive in selected races for the 2008 racing season, including the Indianapolis 500.

Bell, 32, who will drive the No. 23 car in races that Milka Duno is not scheduled to race, hasn't been in the IndyCar Series since the 2006 Indianapolis 500.

"I'm ready to get going," Bell said from Sebring International Raceway where he participated in the IndyCar Series Open Test. "There are a few new things (associated with the car), and obviously the driver has a lot of rust. That showed up on the very first lap. I've done 15 laps in one of these cars on a road course at Sonoma a year and a half ago, and prior to that I hadn't been on a road course in three years. This is just a lot of cobwebs getting out of the system. The first couple of laps when the track was green it was like, 'Oh, yeah, these things are pretty fast.' ''

Bell's first race for Dreyer & Reinbold will be the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6.

"Townsend fits right into the Dreyer and Reinbold mold," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "We've seen what he's done in the past in this series, and we're excited to see him in one of our race cars for this year.

"We're confident that we're making great strides with our race team. To bring in someone like Townsend allows us to gather information from an experienced driver, and at the same time, he can help share information with Milka and help her continue to improve and gain."

Bell has a total of 12 IndyCar Series starts dating back to 2004. His best finish came in 2004 when he finished fifth at the Nashville Superspeedway with Panther Racing.

Buddy Rice has participated in pre-season testing with the team in the No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold entry, but final plans for the car are still in the works.

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4. RLR/Andersen Racing signs J.R. Hildebrand: RLR/Andersen Racing will campaign J.R. Hildebrand in its No. 25 Indy Pro Series car this season. Hildebrand, 20, joins Andrew Prendeville in the RLR/Andersen Racing Indy Pro Series lineup and reunites with engineers Dominic and Nicholas Cape, who guided him to the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 championship in 2006.

"I can't begin to express how excited I am to be racing for RLR/Andersen Racing this year in the Indy Pro Series," Hildebrand said. "(Team co-owners) Dan and John (Andersen) have given me a great opportunity and have been fantastic in working everything out. Reuniting with Dominic and Nicholas Cape, who I won the Formula Ford 2000 Championship with, is going to be a real treat."

Hildebrand drove for Newman Wachs Racing in the 2007 Champ Car Atlantic series, finishing seventh overall as the top American rookie. His best finish was second at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland in June.

Hildebrand also drove in the Indy Pro Series doubleheader at Infineon Raceway with RLR/Andersen Racing last August. He suffered a wrist injury on lap two of the first race that spoiled his chances for good results.

"I've known J.R. and his family for almost three years," John Andersen said. "I think he's a very talented driver; he showed that talent at Infineon last year. Before that, I watched him in 2006 when he won the Cooper Tires F2000 Championship, and I was the director of competition for that series. The Capes worked with him that year, and they all got along very well and were very successful. He seems to work extraordinarily well with both Dominic and Nicholas Cape.

"I've been impressed with J.R.'s ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions. He's very calm and very analytical. He's well adapted to going to a track and knowing what he needs to go fast there, and then coming up with solutions with his engineers."

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5. Kanaan out and about in Miami: Tony Kanaan will be a busy man in the weeks leading up to the season opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29. Kanaan, who resides in the Miami area, is slated to be a guest at several functions.

On March 7, Kanaan will make a celebrity appearance at Miami Metrozoo's "Feast with the Beasts." The annual fundraiser allows guests to walk through the zoo while sampling food from 40 area restaurants.

On March 11, Kanaan's firesuit from the 2007 IndyCar Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be auctioned off as part of Make-A-Wish Foundation's Ultimate Sports Auction. Tickets to the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 are also part of the package.

***

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 , Indy Lights
Drivers Milka Duno , Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Andrew Prendeville , Chip Ganassi , J.R. Hildebrand , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing