IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-22

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 22, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Foyt expects to expand on gains in 2004 2. De Ferran, Harris join Goodyear in ABC/ESPN booth 3. Karting champion Cunningham to race for Brian Stewart 1. Foyt expects...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 22, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Foyt expects to expand on gains in 2004
2. De Ferran, Harris join Goodyear in ABC/ESPN booth
3. Karting champion Cunningham to race for Brian Stewart

1. Foyt expects to expand on gains in 2004: A.J. Foyt IV believes he can make the next step in his IRL IndyCar® Series career in 2005.

Foyt, who captured the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series title in 2002, showed significant progress during his sophomore campaign, recording his career-best start (sixth at Chicagoland) and career-best finish (10th at the fall Texas race) in the final quarter of the season.

The results have him confident as he heads into his third IndyCar Series season driving a Toyota-powered Dallara that bears the number 14, the same number his grandfather, racing legend A.J. Foyt, made famous.

"I expect to be competitive at every race, and unless we aren't running at the end, I expect to be in the top 10," Foyt said of his goals for the year.

Foyt, who won't turn 21 until May, drew attention from other teams in the off-season, but chose to stay with his grandfather's team. He said his grandfather has shown him things he needs to work on to achieve his goals this season.

"I need to focus on the final practice," the younger Foyt said. "I have to give my team good information so they can give me a good car for the race."

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, who serves as his grandson's mentor and race engineer, saw progress in 2004, but realizes the team may not have the equipment it needs to help him win races.

"I think from out standpoint, our team is ready to go," he said. "Anthony was happy with the way the car worked at the tests. But looking at the results, it looks like Honda is starting out with a big advantage over everyone.

"I hate to start a season this way. I know TRD is working their butt off to try to catch up, but some of the new stuff isn't working as good as they'd hoped. Right now it's out of our hands, but I think that Toyota will make some big gains before Indy. I know they're really focused. We'll just have to see what happens. "

Capsule look at A.J. Foyt Enterprises Car number: 14 Chassis/engine/tires: Dallara/Toyota/Firestone Chief engineer: A.J. Foyt

Owner A.J. Foyt's viewpoint Season outlook: "I think from out standpoint, our team is ready to go. Anthony was happy with the way the car worked at the tests. But looking at the results, it looks like Honda is starting out with a big advantage over everyone. I hate to start a season this way. I know TRD is working their butt off to try to catch up but some of the new stuff isn't working as good as they'd hoped. Penske's team is looking pretty good compared to the other Toyota teams and some of the Hondas too but he builds his own Toyota engines. Right now it's out of our hands but I think that Toyota will make some big gains before Indy. I know they're really focused. We'll just have to see what happens."

2. De Ferran, Harris join Goodyear in ABC/ESPN booth: Newcomers Gil de Ferran and Todd Harris will join Scott Goodyear in the broadcast booth for ABC and ESPN's coverage of the IRL IndyCar® Series in 2005.

Harris will serve as the play-by-play commentator while de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner, will join Goodyear as an analyst in the networks' three-man booth.

Harris, who joined ABC in 1999 as a sideline reporter for college football, has covered a variety of events for the network. One of the most respected young talents in the industry, Harris will assume his new role as play-by-play commentator for ABC and ESPN's IndyCar Series coverage after serving as a pit reporter in 2004. Harris also serves as the host of ESPN's World Strongest Man telecasts.

De Ferran, who retired as an IndyCar Series driver following the 2003 season, served as an analyst on several ESPN and ESPN2 Indy 500 programs and select IndyCar races in 2004. He competed for nine years (1995-2003) in open wheel racing in the United States. He posted 12 wins, 21 poles and 50 top-three finished in 160 career starts in the IRL and CART competition. In addition to the Indy 500 victory, he won two CART Championships in 2000 and 2002.

Goodyear, a former IndyCar Series driver, returns for his fourth season with the networks. He made his racing debut in 1980, racking up five top-20 Indy 500 finishes. He won three IndyCar Series for Panther Racing from 1998-2000.

Veteran pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch and Jamie Little will cover the pit areas for both ABC and ESPN's telecasts while Jack Arute, who has covered the IRL on ABC since its inception, will work the pits on ABC races only.Vince Welch will replace Arute for ESPN races.

ESPN's 2005 IndyCar Series season debuts at 2 p.m (EST) on March 6 with the Toyota Indy 300 from Homestead-Miami Speedway. ABC's coverage begins Saturday, March 19 with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.

3. Karting champion Cunningham to race for Brian Stewart: When Brian Stewart looks for drivers to fill the seat of his Menards Infiniti Pro Series race car, he looks for drivers with a history of winning.

"In general, when a driver wins, he can win at all levels," said Stewart, who was inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in January.

This year, Stewart, who has campaigned drivers such as Airton Dare, Cristiano da Matta, Bryan Herta, Jaques Lazier and Paul Tracy in 30-plus years as a team owner, will hand the torch to 20-year-old Wade Cunningham.

Cunningham built a stellar resume karting in his native New Zealand.

In 2001, he won the FIA Asia Pacific Championship, and two years later he captured the CIK-FIA World Karting Championship in Sarno, Italy. Last year, Cunningham began racing cars in the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship. He recorded four pole positions and seven podium finishes, earning the circuit's Rising Star award.

"I'm fairly optimistic about Wade," Stewart said. "He's used to winning races. We need to get him a bit of practice time, get him used to the ovals, give him a good car, and he'll come through for us."

Cunningham is looking forward to developing his talents in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series with Brian Stewart Racing.

"I'm happy with the team. Everyone works really well. I need a little bit more time in the car, get to know the team a little better, and get comfortable, and then I'll be alright," said Cunningham, who is looking forward to working with a fellow "Kiwi" in chief mechanic Mo Larsen.

"I raced karts in New Zealand and Australia, then went to Japan and won in Japan. I went to Europe to race, and it wasn't until I had done really well in Europe, had done a spectacular job, that I thought I should have a career in America.

"I don't like it when people keep moving on without achieving anything. When I was in Europe, I gave myself an ultimatum that I had to do well before I could graduate into any types of cars or anything."

The same standards apply now. Cunningham refuses to set a timetable to advance to the IRL IndyCar® Series until he achieves success in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.

Capsule Look At Brian Stewart Racing
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone
Owner: Brian Stewart
Driver: Wade Cunningham
Team manager: Doug Hoy
Chief mechanic: Mo Larsen

Driver Viewpoint

Wade Cunningham: "I'm glad to be racing. It is what I wanted to do. Obviously, you've got to be doing ovals if you want to race in America for a career, and that's what I'm trying to do.

"When we did win the world championships, then it was, 'OK, where do you want to go?' I didn't even look at Europe to go to Formula One. The other option was to come to America."

***

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 Airton Daré , Scott Goodyear , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , Jaques Lazier  , Paul Tracy , Bryan Herta , Wade Cunningham , Jamie Little , A.J. Foyt , Cristiano da Matta , Todd Harris
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Panther Racing