IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-05-05

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 5, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Points leader challenged at Indianapolis 2. Wheldon ranked in Speed Channel rankings 3. Vornado joins Playa Del Racing 4. Dana inks deal with Bolle 5. Wood returns to ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 5, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Points leader challenged at Indianapolis
2. Wheldon ranked in Speed Channel rankings
3. Vornado joins Playa Del Racing
4. Dana inks deal with Bolle
5. Wood returns to Menards Infiniti Pro Series at Futaba Freedom 100

1. Points leader challenged at Indianapolis: Dan Wheldon may be the hottest driver in the IRL IndyCar® Series, but if past records are any indication, the Indianapolis 500 may be a struggle for the series points leader and his Andretti Green Racing team.

Wheldon became the first IndyCar Series driver to win three of the first four races with his win in the Indy Japan 300 on April 30, but the series points leader has finished in the top 10 at Indianapolis only twice in the previous nine IndyCar Series races at the Brickyard.

Wheldon, however, is one of the two points leaders to finish in the top10, finishing third last season. Still, the average finishing position for the points leader entering the race at Indianapolis is only 17th.

However, he could take some solace should he fail to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The IndyCar Series points leader entering Indianapolis has gone on to win the IndyCar Series championship four times in the last nine seasons.

Don't count out a driver who is coming into the Indianapolis 500 off a poor finish in the previous event. Three of the previous nine Indianapolis 500 winners finished 20th or worse in their last race before Indianapolis, while another three did not race in the event prior to the 500.

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2. Wheldon ranked in Speed Channel rankings: Dan Wheldon is ranked third in the latest Speed Channel driver rankings.

Wheldon, who has won three of the first four IndyCar Series events, has a ranking of 8.912, just behind Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (13.451) and Champ Car World Series driver Sebastien Bourdais (9.04).

STATS, Inc., in partnership with SPEED, has developed a formula for weekly driver rankings, inclusive of NASCAR Nextel Cup, Formula One, Champ Car World Series and IndyCar Series competitors.

Current year results, last 10 races, last five races and last race will be factored in equally, with an adjustment factor to compensate for the series different scoring systems. In addition, a "competition difficulty factor" has been included to balance the competitive depth of each series.

Other IndyCar Series drivers ranked in the poll are: Tony Kanaan (15th), Sam Hornish Jr. (24th), Scott Sharp (26th), Bryan Herta (27th), Helio Castroneves (29th), Buddy Rice (30th), Vitor Meira (33rd), Dario Franchitti (34th) and Darren Manning (35th).

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3. Vornado joins Playa Del Racing: Vornado, an industry leader in the design and manufacturing of air comfort products, will serve as a prominent associate sponsor on the No. 21 Panoz/Toyota/Firestone driven by Jaques Lazier.

Playa Del Racing Vice President Susan Schafer announced the long-term agreement May 3. The team will debut in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"We are extremely proud to bring another company with products of unmatched quality to the Indy Racing League," Schafer said. "As a new sponsor with a new team, Vornado is a company whose products should be sought out by race fans around the world."

Vornado is dedicated to building the best air comfort product including air circulators, vintage fans, heavy-duty shop fans, whole room heaters, air softening humidifiers and air purifiers. These products deliver outstanding performance year after year and represent the ultimate in quality. This commitment to excellence has ensured the loyalty of generations of Vornado customers and "fans."

"The Vornado brand is really a natural fit with IndyCar Series racing, particularly with Playa Del Racing and DHL Smart & Global Mail. We are excited to introduce our brand to the legions of IndyCar Series fans," said Michael C. Coup, Vornado's founder and president.

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4. Dana inks deal with Bolle: IndyCar Series driver Paul Dana and Bolle announced they have formed a marketing partnership for the 2005 racing season.

Dana, a series rookie driving the No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing Toyota-powered Dallara, will be wearing Bolle RX glasses when he straps in to his 650-hp IndyCar Series this May to qualify for his first-ever start in the Indianapolis 500.

"I've always worn glasses or contact lenses when I compete," Dana said. "But stepping up to the IndyCar Series this year, the intensity and level of competition are like nothing else in motorsports. I couldn't leave anything to chance with my vision, so I'm excited to be able to work with Bolle."

Dana competed in the first two rounds of the 17-race IndyCar Series schedule wearing the Bolle Metals Meanstreak frame with prescription lenses.

"IndyCar Series drivers are some of the top athletes in the world, and they compete in a 5-G, 200-mph environment," said Bolle sponsorship director Derek Schuman. "Paul will be putting our technology to the ultimate test, and we are proud to be able to support him."

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5. Wood returns to Menards Infiniti Pro Series at Futaba Freedom 100: Tom Wood is hoping to pick up about 200 feet from where he left off his Menards Infiniti Pro Series career when he starts the Futaba Freedom 100, Friday, May 27, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In August, 2003, Wood was running second and preparing to make a move for the lead at Kentucky Motor Speedway when another car clipped him, sending him into the wall at more than 175 miles per hour and fracturing his spine, hand, knee, both legs, ankles and feet. Officials said the G-forces of the crash were the most severe recorded of a non-fatal accident.

Almost as soon as he regained consciousness, "Everything I thought about was getting back into a race car," Wood said.

He will be driving for Sam Schmidt, an inspiration during his recovery period. Schmidt, a quadriplegic following his own racing crash in January, 2000, is fielding four entries in the Futaba Freedom 100. Defending Futaba Freedom 100 winning team and Menards Infiniti Pro Series champions, Sam Schmidt Motorsports also fields cars for points leader Travis Gregg, Chris Festa and Jaime Camara, who was quickest at a recent test on the 2.5-mile oval. Schmidt also is fielding the Meijer/Coca-Cola entry for Richie Hearn in the Indianapolis 500.

"Sam Schmidt was my inspiration. From his wheelchair, Sam works harder than anyone I know and he doesn't know the word 'quit,'" Wood said. "I was determined to get out of this medical jigsaw puzzle and get behind the wheel of a race car again."

After 14 surgeries, an incredibly painful rehabilitation process and a continued daily workout program, Wood will realize that opportunity at the world's most famous oval. He tested some last year, participated in the Indianapolis test earlier this week and has plans to race other Menards Infiniti Pro Series events after the Futaba 100.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to racing," Wood said. "Right now, I just want to get the Futaba 100 and the month of May behind me. This deal came together fairly quickly, so we're just working on developing the program and team chemistry right now. Once we're able to settle down, we'll get going a little better with the whole program."

For Schmidt, whose Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation was begun on the premise of helping others with life-altering injuries, as well as research into spinal cord injuries, Wood's comeback is a major achievement.

"I don't know of anyone with more courage and tenacity than Tom Wood," Schmidt said. "I know what he has sacrificed over the past 18 months to get here, and I also know he is a talented driver. This is more than helping someone come back from injury. It's helping set him back on a very promising career path, and I feel confident Tom will be right back where he was as a driver."

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The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ABC at 1 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Jaques Lazier  , Fernando Alonso , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Richie Hearn , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Sébastien Bourdais , Buddy Rice , Tom Wood , Paul Dana , Chris Festa , Travis Gregg , Jaime Camara , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira