IPS: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-03-19

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Transition teams test at Sebring 2. Dale Coyne Racing, ESPN/ABC teleconference 3. Conquest Racing names Bernoldi as second driver 4. Season Preview: Penske Racing 5. Arie Luyendyk Jr.

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Transition teams test at Sebring
2. Dale Coyne Racing, ESPN/ABC teleconference
3. Conquest Racing names Bernoldi as second driver
4. Season Preview: Penske Racing
5. Arie Luyendyk Jr. signs with AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing
6. Alliance Motorsports signs Chris Festa

1. Transition teams test at Sebring: At KV Racing Technology, 30 crew members combined to work 5,460 hours in the 14-day period from when they took delivery of their IndyCar Series Dallara chassis and when the team's truck departed for Sebring International Raceway.

The hard work paid off as drivers Oriol Servia and Will Power combined to turn more laps, 96 and 77 respectively, than any other drivers in the first test of the new equipment. Power was the fastest of the day, recording a best lap of 52.9685 seconds, 113.501 mph on the 11-turn, 1.7-mile circuit.

KV Racing Technology is one of three teams, along with Dale Coyne Racing and Conquest Racing, that tested at Sebring March 19 in preparation for their transition to the IndyCar Series. They will test again on March 20 before heading to the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway for two days of testing March 24-25. The 2008 season opens at Homestead-Miami on March 29.

"It was good to go run around today and get back into form, because I haven't driven for five or six months - since Mexico City," Power said. "It's good for driver fitness. It's really good to have a run like this before I get on the oval, which I've never done before.

"(The car) is pretty similar to the Champ Car. They run on the same tire; similar weight, similar wheel base, a little less horsepower and not as much grip, but it's a car and therefore you try to make it go as quick as you can."

Servia and Power were the first drivers on track in the morning. Dale Coyne Racing's Bruno Junqueira got on the track before the lunch break while his teammate Mario Moraes and Conquest's Franck Perera and Enrique Bernoldi began turning laps in the afternoon.

The six drivers combined for 276 laps with the only incident coming late in the day when Moraes' No. 19 car had a suspension failure.

"It's been very busy," team owner Dale Coyne said. "The guys have worked great. They've worked really long hours. In the last couple of days we're working three shifts a day, and those guys are pulling a triple. So it's been really great for what they've done to get here.

It's hats off to all those guys for everything that they've done the last few days and continue to do to get ready to at least get some shake down on the car here, and a little more experience for Homestead."

***

2. Dale Coyne Racing, ESPN/ABC teleconference: Dale Coyne Racing drivers Bruno Junqueira and Mario Moraes, and ESPN/ABC announcers Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear, IMS Productions president Charlie Morgan and Indy Pro Series driver Richard Antinucci were guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.

They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today's teleconference,

Q. You're bringing in a veteran and a rookie to drive for you in 2008. Tell us a little about your driver combination.

DALE COYNE: We're excited about it. It's a lot of things that I enjoy. With Bruno last year we had a great year with three consecutive podiums and finished seventh in the championship, and the knowledge and experience that he brings on oval racing, he's done a great job on ovals from the first one he stepped in several years ago.

So we're excited about that and what that can be. Also excited about Mario. We've run a lot of rookies at the Indy 500, and I've always enjoyed the challenge of running a rookie there. Going out on the corners and watching them, and kind of getting them to move along and do the right things and take the right line. I think between what Bruno and myself have been through, it will make Mario's trip through the month of May a lot smoother.

Q. You mentioned you've got a few laps under your belt today. Obviously, it's been a few years since you've been in an IndyCar Series car. The car has obviously changed since the last time you drove it. What do you expect the learning process to be like? What kind of expectations do you expect for yourself for the season?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It's very different expectations. I'm a driver that last time I was at the Indy 500 I led laps and was fighting for the win. So that is pretty much what I'm used to. But every time I go to a race weekend I want to win.

But I know there's great competition on IndyCar (Series) teams. They've had those cars for five years, and we just got the car two weeks ago. I cannot expect that. So my expectation for the first few races is to finish the races and try to be on the lead lap on the ovals and the road course, that would be great.

Indy is a very special place for me. I love that place. I know my way around, and I hope we've got a little bit better result.

Q. Mario, tell us about moving up from not only road courses but a mix of ovals in the IndyCar Series?

MARIO MORAES: For me it's totally different. It was quite a big step for me from Champ Car tests to now in the Indy Racing League. First of all I've never been on an oval before. So it's going to be a totally different experience for me. And try to learn best what I can do this next week in Homestead for the test and for the race.

Q. You've had a couple of chances to test with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. How are you adapting to the team and getting along with those guys?

RICHARD ANTINUCCI: Well, the team and the guys -- the staff in general, is run excellently. Great people, very dedicated. They're winners in the sense that they're used to winning, but it's also just a mental status. The people are very dedicated and sharp. It's just contagious to work with people like that.

I consider myself someone who is hard on myself, and I hold certain goals as well. So I think we match quite well. And perhaps I'm a bit green on the ovals though. I've never had a race under my belt, so I'm going to be a rookie in every effect for ovals.

But in terms of the championship, it's nine road course races, eight ovals. It's a very complete package. I can't wait to get underway and do as well as I can.

Q. The biggest change then really is the addition to HD. How do you think that will affect the telecast?

SCOTT GOODYEAR: I think the neat thing for me after so many years of driving all different types of cars, we now have an opportunity to take the viewer at home to see the complete pass. Not only from the rearview camera on the gear box when somebody's starting to set up a pass in a draft and then swings to the outside of the car, then we go to the camera on top of the roll hoop. Then sometimes we have to cutaway and bring on another camera just sort of see the completion of that pass.

The nice thing about this right now being a 360 is you get that opportunity then to see the set-up, the initial part of the pass, and then follow through, and all the way through to the front when the driver passes. A competitor, if that's what the director decides to do with it.

I think for me, that is going to be exciting because it lets people at home really get a feel of what the driver is in the cockpit and what he's feeling. Whether it's the driver being passed, the driver doing the passing. So that is very exciting. Then to have it in HD just to certainly bring out the color and excitement of it, I'm very excited for both of those.

***

3. Conquest Racing names Bernoldi as second driver: Conquest Racing has signed former Formula 1 driver Enrique Bernoldi as a teammate to Franck Perera for the 2008 IndyCar Series season.

"I am very happy to be joining Conquest Racing," Bernoldi said. "I think we have an interesting season ahead of us. At the beginning, we will have to learn a lot because it is a new car for the team and for me and especially to race on ovals which I never did, but it will be interesting. I'm very motivated and I think we will do a good job. Having Eric (Bachelart) here helps as well because as an ex-driver he understands more what the driver needs. It is a very positive relationship with him and everybody on the team.

"Enrique is a great addition to the Conquest Racing team and his vast experience in motor racing will be beneficial to us as we make the transition to the IndyCar Series," said Eric Bachelart, owner of Conquest Racing. "We're delighted to have him join the team. He has adapted well and was competitive in all the forms of racing he has done and I am certain that he will be up to speed quickly, as will Franck, with the Dallara."

"I think Enrique and Franck will make a great duo," added Anthony Blumberg of Opes Prime, co-owner of Conquest Racing. "When you add these two exceptionally talented drivers to the team that Eric has put in place, I feel Conquest Racing will surprise a few people this year in the 'new' IndyCar Series."

Bernoldi, a 29 year-old from Curitiba, Brazil made 28 starts in Formula One with Arrows Racing in 2001-02. He also has served as a Formula One test driver for Sauber and BAR. Most recently, Bernoldi competed in StockCar Brasil and the Argentinean TC2000.

***

4. Season Preview: Team Penske: There wasn't a lot of quiet at Team Penske's IndyCar Series shop this off-season. When team members weren't busy cheering on two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves as he competed on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," they were helping newcomer Ryan Briscoe get acclimated to the team.

The team hopes the pairing of the energetic and outgoing Castroneves with the affable Briscoe translates into the team's second IndyCar Series championship in 2008.

"The 2008 IndyCar Series season is starting with considerable momentum provided by the unification of the two open-wheel series," said team owner Roger Penske. "We're confident at Team Penske that we are poised for success this year with the combination of a strong crew, veteran driver Helio Castroneves and our new IndyCar Series team member, Ryan Briscoe."

Castroneves, who enters his seventh full season in the IndyCar Series, won a record seven poles last year, but that translated into a lone victory on the streets of St. Petersburg.

"I want to win the championship and Indy a third time," Castroneves said about his goals for 2008. "We've been close so many times, especially last year - we didn't have to pit but the rain came.

"I think it's being in the right place at the right time. Last year, unfortunately we were in the wrong place a lot. You can't predict that. We've got to continue working hard. One thing I know, you have to be there. Because one day the door will open and hopefully it will open this year.

Briscoe returns to full-time competition in the IndyCar Series for the first time since 2005. Last year, his only start came in the Indianapolis 500 where he finished fifth driving for Luczo Dragon Racing. He also raced for Team Penske's American Le Mans Series team.

"It's an exciting time for me," Briscoe said, who paced the recent Open Test at Sebring International Raceway. "So far, my acclimatization with Team Penske has been great. We've had a couple of really good tests, working really good with my engineer, Tom German, and the mechanics and everyone. I'm feeling quite comfortable within the team. I'm feeling as those there's a lot of motivation from everyone. I'm going to go out there and do my best, and I really just want to be on a road of improvement, because I know I've still got a lot to learn with Indy-car racing."

Penske Racing Capsule
Car Numbers: 3 (Castroneves); 6 (Briscoe)
Drivers: Ryan Briscoe, 26, Sydney, Australia; Helio Castroneves, 32, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Team Manager: Tom Wurtz
General Manager: Clive Howell
Race Engineers: Ron Ruzewski (3), Tom German (6)
Chief Mechanics: Rick Rinaman (3), Matt Jonsson (6)

***

5. Arie Luyendyk Jr. signs with AFS/Andretti Green Racing: AFS/Andretti Green Racing announced today that Indy Pro Series veteran Arie Luyendyk Jr. has joined its two-car Indy Pro Series team.

Luyendyk, who will join Raphael Matos at AFS/Andretti Green Racing, will drive the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Dallara/Firestone.

"Arie has proven in the past that he can be a successful driver in the Indy Pro Series," said Andretti Green Racing chairman Michael Andretti. "He finished second in the championship in 2002 and Kim (Green), Kevin (Savoree), Gary (Peterson) and I believe in his ability. We feel we've assembled quite a team and driver lineup in a short period of time. Just like in the IndyCar Series, we expect to win races and compete for the Indy Pro Series championship."

Luyendyk, the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, is the Indy Pro Series career leader in top-10 finishes and ranks third in series history with 18 top-five finishes. In 2002, Luyendyk finished second in the driver championship with four second-place finishes in seven races.

During the 2003 season, Luyendyk recorded two Indy Pro Series pole positions (Texas and Michigan) and eight top-10 finishes in 12 starts. In 2004, he finished third at the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and third in the Indy Pro Series championship on the strength of six top-five finishes in 12 starts.

"This is a very big opportunity for me, and I'm very thankful that Andretti Green Racing and Automatic Fire Sprinklers have given me the chance to compete again in the Indy Pro Series," Luyendyk said. "I've driven in many Indy Pro Series races and I feel like this is my best opportunity yet. Obviously, my goal is to win races and win the championship and I feel like I have a very good chance at doing that.

"Like any driver, my goal is to get into the IndyCar Series and I think joining AGR and AFS is the best route to take. Winning races in the Indy Pro Series means a lot more now than it did a few years ago. I want to show that I can win and prove to teams that I'm a contender for an IndyCar Series seat."

***

6. Alliance Motorsports signs Chris Festa: Alliance Motorsports officials announced that Indy Pro Series veteran Chris Festa will drive the team's No. 24 car during its debut season.

"This is a great day for our organization," said team co-owner Tyce Carlson. "Chris is one of the most poised and experienced drivers in the Indy Pro Series, and we intend to compete for race wins at the drop of the green flag. We have built an incredible group of talented people that will surround Chris to ensure his success."

Festa, 22, is a native of Atlanta who now makes his home in Indianapolis. He has made 39 starts with a best finish of second, most recently at the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May.

Festa, who has tested an IndyCar Series car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Cheever Racing, has won two pole positions, including last season's season-opening Homestead-Miami 100.

"I am excited for the opportunity to be apart of Alliance Motorsports," Festa said. "The series appears to be gaining momentum in participation and popularity, and I believe that we have the tools to win."

***

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 Enrique Bernoldi , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Oriol Servia , Sam Schmidt , Ryan Briscoe , Richard Antinucci , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , Chris Festa , Roger Penske , Mario Moraes , Dale Coyne , Franck Perera , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Sauber , Team Penske , KV Racing Technology , Dragon Racing , Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing , Team Penske