IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-19

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 19, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Hornish, Castroneves set high standards 2. Schmidt prepares for title defense with three-car effort 3. IndyCar Series stars finish fifth, eighth in IROC race 1....

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 19, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Hornish, Castroneves set high standards
2. Schmidt prepares for title defense with three-car effort
3. IndyCar Series stars finish fifth, eighth in IROC race

1. Hornish, Castroneves set high standards: Note -- The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL IndyCar® Series.

By anyone else's standard, 2004 was a productive IndyCar Series season for Marlboro Team Penske. Bookend victories, a combined 21 top-10 finishes, five pole positions and more than 800 laps led were turned in by Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr.

They both finished in the top 10 of the standings and pulled in more than $1 million each in prizes. But it wasn't enough to quench the determination and spirit that drove Hornish to consecutive IndyCar Series championships and Castroneves to back-to-back Indianapolis 500 victories.

"Nobody has higher expectations for me than I do for myself," Hornish said. "I'm not satisfied with anything less than the best; every time I race I give 110 percent and do whatever it takes to win."

While "disappointing" is a relative term, everyone associated with the history-rich Penske Racing group expects more this season.

"My goals for 2005 are to capture my first Indianapolis 500 and my third IndyCar championship," Hornish said. "I'm in my second year with Marlboro Team Penske so the 'growing pains' of the first year and getting to know everyone are over."

Hornish, who qualified fourth or better nine times, led 11 races for a total of 301 laps and extend his series record to 2,151. He became the first driver to win his maiden race with a Penske Racing team, and enters the Toyota Indy 300 on March 6 with three victories in four races on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval.

"Last season, we had a lot of chances for success that we couldn't capitalize on, and this year I think we've got the momentum to put ourselves in a position to be vying for the championship."

He'll get competition from his teammate. An IndyCar Series championship is one of the few highlights lacking from Castroneves' racing resume.

"We'll need to be consistent this year," said Castroneves, who strung together four consecutive pole starts to end the season. "I think we've got some work ahead of us, but hopefully we'll be able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and make it happen. I'll definitely have my sights set on winning my first championship."

Capsule look at Marlboro Team Penske
Car numbers: 3 (Castroneves), 6 (Hornish)
Main sponsor: Marlboro
Chassis/engine/tires: Dallara/Toyota/Firestone
Chief engineers: Grant Newbury (Castroneves), Tom German (Hornish)

Team president Tim Cindric's viewpoint

About Castroneves: "Helio coming off of Texas victory was a big boost for him and us. He's been with us now for six seasons, so it should be like riding a bike for him. We expect big things from him."

About Hornish: "After last year getting his feet on the ground within the team -- because any time you switch you switch like that -- he's gone from not having a teammate to having a teammate plus dealing with what comes with from being part of our organization. I think we're going to hit the ground running this year. Obviously, winning the first race last year seemed like it all came together, but there's a lot more to it than just the results on the racetrack. I think we're much more prepared that way and we have much more of a rhythm than we had this time last year."

***

2. Schmidt prepares for title defense with three-car effort: Note -- The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù

Sam Schmidt Motorsports will campaign three rookie drivers in an attempt to repeat as Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion.

Americans Chris Festa and Travis Gregg, along with Brazilian Jaime Camara, will carry the Schmidt banner in 2005. Of the three, only Gregg has any race experience in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, making three starts for Schmidt last season.

Gregg, a 26-year-old Ohio native, qualified on the front row at each of his three races and recorded two top-five finishes.

"With the three races last year, learning from driving legends like Rick Mears and testing this winter, I feel we are prepared to win races and the championship," Gregg said. "The team is fantastic, and I feel like we can pick up right where we left off at Texas."

Festa, a 19-year-old freshman at Florida State University, begins his third season racing cars.

"These guys have won the championship, and fortunately I'm in one of their cars, so that makes things a little easier, but I'm going to have to work hard," Festa said. "It's definitely a realistic view for us. If not me, then the other two guys as well. We're going to be working hard, racing hard and hopefully get a little bit of a point lead early in the season."

The final piece of the puzzle is Camara, 24, who competed for two seasons in South American Formula 3, the same series that produced IndyCar Series star Helio Castroneves and 2004 Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion Thiago Medeiros.

"The opportunity to race with Sam (Schmidt) and the team this season is fantastic," Camara said. "For me, it will be a year of learning, from oval racing to my first experience living away from home in Brazil, but we have a good structure set up, and I expect to get acclimated quickly in every sense. I look forward to working with the whole team. Everybody wants to win, and I already like the atmosphere there."

With races on 10 ovals and four road/street courses, the team hopes to capitalize on the drivers' diverse backgrounds. Gregg has driven primarily on ovals while Camara and Festa have competed mostly on road courses.

"Since Chris comes from a road-racing background, he can help me at the road races, same as Jaime," Gregg said. "I think we can work together and help each other out. You don't want to give everything away, but I think we can help each other enough."

CAPSULE LOOK AT SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone
Owner: Sam Schmidt
Drivers: Jaime Camara (No. 1), Chris Festa (No. 19), Travis Gregg (No. 7)
Team manager: Michael Crawford
Chief mechanics: Chris Griffis (Festa), John Roof Jr. (Gregg), John Worth (Camara)

OWNER VIEWPOINT

Sam Schmidt: "I'm really looking forward to this season. Last year was very motiviating and reenergizing. It was a reminder of why we're doing this in the first place. This year we've made great efforts to make all three of the cars extremely equal in terms of the car and the crews. Each unit is very deep, and all of the drivers are very good. I told the team we need to finish 1-2-3 in the championship. I don't care how or in what order.

"So far in testing all of these guys have gotten along great. They're willing to share information. They're all rookies, and they need each other to succeed."

***

3. IndyCar Series stars finish fifth, eighth in IROC race: 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice finished fifth in the first race of the Crown Royal International Race of Champions Feb 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

Rice, driver of the No. 15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, was the top finisher among non-NASCAR drivers in the event, which pits 12 drivers from various auto racing series in identically prepared stock cars.

NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Mark Martin won the race ahead of NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton and defending IROC champion Matt Kenseth.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves ran among the leaders for much of the race before he was involved in a multi-car accident with less than eight laps to go.

Castroneves was uninjured in the accident and was credited with eighth place.

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Matt Kenseth , Helio Castroneves , Sam Schmidt , Rick Mears , Buddy Rice , Martin Truex Jr. , Chris Festa , Travis Gregg , Jaime Camara , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mark Martin , Thiago Medeiros
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske