IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-24

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 24, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. ROCKSTAR Enegy Drink to sponsor Enge's car 2. Enge, Scheckter aim to return Panther to top 3. Remy to serve as associate for Dana, Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing 4. West, ...


Today's IRL headlines
1. ROCKSTAR Enegy Drink to sponsor Enge's car
2. Enge, Scheckter aim to return Panther to top
3. Remy to serve as associate for Dana, Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing
4. West, Bussell ready for Menards Infiniti Pro Series debut

1. ROCKSTAR Enegy Drink to sponsor Enge's car: Two-time IndyCar Series champion Panther Racing announced that ROCKSTAR Energy Drink will be the primary sponsor of the No. 2 Chevrolet-powered Dallara driven by Tomas Enge.

"We are looking forward to our partnership with ROCKSTAR Energy Drink," said John Barnes, CEO and co-owner of Panther Racing. "ROCKSTAR is a high-energy, cutting-edge, innovative brand making its mark on the U.S. landscape -- much like Panther Racing and the IndyCar Series. Together, we are going to make a positive impact."

ROCKSTAR founder and CEO Russell Weiner and other ROCKSTAR executives and guests attended the IndyCar race at California Speedway in 2004 and decided the excitement of the IndyCar Series represented the philosophy of the ROCKSTAR brand and would be an ideal avenue to increase exposure for ROCKSTAR.

In addition to its sponsorship of the Enge's car, ROCKSTAR Energy Drink will have an associate sponsor position on the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther entry driven by Tomas Scheckter.

"ROCKSTAR Energy Drink is excited to be involved with IndyCar Series," Weiner said. "We're certain our association with Panther Racing, Tomas Enge and Tomas Scheckter will rock the sport and the marketplace. We're looking forward to having our partnership with them reach fans of open-wheeled excitement personified by this winning team and the league."

Enge will debut the car March 6 at the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.


2. Three not a crowd with the Ganassi drivers: Note -- The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL IndyCar® Series.

After the initial day of testing on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway in January, the three Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers huddled with a software engineer for 90 minutes to study each other's driving style.

Ryan Briscoe, the newcomer to the group, was in the spotlight. Aside from some ribbing and feigns of pain, teammates Scott Dixon and Darren Manning gave the former Formula One test driver their seal of approval -- and maybe took away some information, too.

Data gathered at such sessions -- and on the tracks -- is invaluable in the ultra-competitive IndyCar Series. It's one of the reasons the team expanded to three cars for the 17-race 2005 season.

"So we have one additional driver that we can study," team managing partner Mike Hull said. "We can take his aspect of driving a particular corner completely apart against the other two guys. We hope that it helps accelerate the growth of all three drivers. In turn, it helps accelerate the growth of the team."

Team owner Chip Ganassi, who has experienced a lion's share of success in motorsports, already has seen positives. Briscoe was fast out of the gate on the road-course portion of the test, and held his own during two days of oval testing in Florida and Phoenix International Raceway. It allowed Dixon, the 2003 IndyCar Series champion, and Manning to test a number of different setups.

"When you have the mechanics on the team excited, you really know you've done something because those are the guys that are hard to get a rise out of," Ganassi said. "When they're excited about it, it's a good thing."

Excitement waned in 2004 when Dixon did not come close to matching his electric first year. He had two top-5 finishes and led only three laps in 15 starts. Manning, in his first full IndyCar Series season in the Toyota-powered Panoz, posted four top-fives and led 12 laps in 14 starts. Both missed races because of injury.

"Obviously, the 2004 season was not the kind of year that Target Chip Ganassi Racing is used to in terms of level of performance," Ganassi said. "We needed to make changes. By augmenting our IndyCar Series count to three and with the addition of Ryan Briscoe, we expect to bolster our engineering platform and strengthen our relationship with Toyota and transform all our hard work into success in 2005.

"Given all the right tools, any one of our three drivers can vie for victories this season."

That's what all three want -- and expect.

"There's no point in looking back on 2004," Dixon said. "It's pretty much old news. It's given myself especially more drive to push harder this year and try and get more out of the program than what we did. I think this year everybody's a lot more focused. Toyota is pushing extremely hard. They've had some great products come out already. So we're looking forward to that.

"As far as the team, with the addition of Ryan and a third car, it has been huge so far in the testing that we have done. We've been able to gain a lot more information out of what we had and maybe what we would have had in the past. So far, I think we've achieved a lot, especially with the team working out all the people and logistics to get everything going smoothly. You can definitely say that hasn't hindered the two-car team, it's just made it stronger with the third."

Capsule look at Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Car numbers: 9 (Dixon), 10 (Manning), 33 (Briscoe)
Chassis/engine/tires: Panoz/Toyota/Firestone
Managing director: Mike Hull
Chief engineers: 9 (Eric Bretzman), 10 (Bill Pappas), 33 (Julian Robertson)

Owner Chip Ganassi's viewpoint

About Dixon: "Being the 2003 IndyCar Series champion, Scott knows what it takes to win. There is no one I would rather have leading our team than Scott Dixon."

About Manning: "Darren made a great transition to the IndyCar Series and has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the 2004 season. I'm not sure we gave him all we could to win with last year but we certainly expect to change that this season."

About Briscoe: "In pre-season testing he has shown that he has speed and the technical knowledge of cars that many other drivers lack. Ryan is a very strong addition to this team and I expect him to have the same success the Target team has had with other drivers with F1 experience."


3. Remy to serve as associate for Dana, Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing: Remy International, Inc., announced it has signed a three-year associate sponsorship with driver Paul Dana for the No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing entry in the IndyCar Series, starting with the 2005 season.

"We have had the privilege of working with Remy in the past, and we are proud to have them back as a sponsor on the No 91 car," team owner Ron Hemelgarn said.

"This is the chance of a lifetime to compete in the IRL with a winning team and a great group of sponsors. Together we can achieve new performance levels, both on the track and in the marketplace," Dana said.

Tracing a charter membership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which began in 1909 with the Remy Brassard trophy runs, a predecessor to the Indianapolis 500, Remy joins a dynamic group of environmentally conscious companies bannered under the Ethanol title sponsorship.

Team Ethanol was created within the fast-growing fuel ethanol industry. The program is led by the major ethanol plant design-build firms Fagen Inc., ICM Inc., and Broin Companies, and includes a host of suppliers dedicated to alternative fuels solutions to meet escalating U.S. energy demands.

"We are very impressed with the team's track record and the alternate-energy sponsors committed to an aggressive marketing campaign which has dedicated millions of promotional dollars to feature the IRL Ethanol car as its centerpiece for trade ads, billboards and commercials," said Remy CEO and President Thomas J. Snyder. "Toyota and Remy are world leaders in hybrid technologies and offer great sponsor alliances for the team. The Remy brand will get international exposure with prime-time race-fan audiences of 20 million people in 198 countries--and growing -- an exact marketing focus for our products," he added.


4. West, Bussell ready for Menards Infiniti Pro Series debut: Note -- The following story is part of a series previewing each of the teams competing in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series.

The J.L. West Motorsports team was in a celebratory mood Feb. 23. After months of planning and preparation, the No. 21 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone Menards Infiniti Pro Series entry and driver Nick Bussell took the track for the first time for a private test at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"We had a fantastic day," team owner Jeff West said. "Nick passed the rookie test with flying colors and got up to speed in only 10 laps. If this test is any indication, we should have a great season ahead. Really, we just want consistency here in our first season."

West formed the team and took delivery of the Dallara chassis in late November. He had Bussell hired by mid-December.

"Jeff has put together an outstanding team," Bussell said. "These are good, solid guys with extensive experience. And Jeff has so much experience as well, so I'm confident we will have a rock solid car all season. I'm comfortable in it, so I expect to be very competitive."

Bussell, 21, grew up in Michigan where he began riding dirt bikes at age 9 and competing in karting events when he was 12.

In 2002, Bussell won the World Karting Association Triple Crown, claiming points championships in three classes. He advanced into open-wheel cars in 2003.

"My background in karting helped me gain the fundamentals of racing, including the knowledge to work with the mechanics and engineers," he said. "Ovals present a new set of challenges, like actually racing in the turbulence of the other cars on the track, but I know we will work it out quickly."

The team will return to Homestead-Miami Speedway March 6 for the opening race of the 2005 season.

Capsule Look At J.L. West Motorsports
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone
Owners: Jeff and Laura West
Driver: Nick Bussell
Team manager: Jeff West
Chief mechanic: Tony Mizialko

Driver Viewpoint

Nick Bussell: (About the first test) "Today could not have gone better. The car was really smooth and we were flat out at 10 laps. The speed is definitely there. Being my first year in the league, I know it will be a learning experience, but we are off to a great start."


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 Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Darren Manning , Scott Dixon , Ryan Briscoe , Paul Dana , Chip Ganassi , Nick Bussell , Mike Hull , John Barnes
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing