IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-08-31

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 31, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Wheldon makes pitch at Wrigley Field 2. Medeiros receives Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship ring 3. Sharp looks forward to helping Team USA 4. Kite to showcase ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 31, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Wheldon makes pitch at Wrigley Field
2. Medeiros receives Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship ring
3. Sharp looks forward to helping Team USA
4. Kite to showcase IndyCar Series at California Speedway
5. AGR drivers share post-race rewards

1. Wheldon makes pitch at Wrigley Field: IndyCar Series points leader Dan Wheldon couldn't offer an educated opinion about reasons behind the Chicago Cubs' latest frustrating season, but the British import knew he was on hallowed ground Aug. 31.

The Indianapolis 500 champion threw the ceremonial first pitch before the Cubs-Los Angeles Dodgers game at Wrigley Field, which is three years younger than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"Obviously, Wrigley Field is similar to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in that it has that same mystique to it," said Wheldon, who was in Chicago for a round of appearances promoting the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean on Sept. 11. "I don't follow baseball too much, but I know how cool that stadium is and the history and heritage behind it."

Maybe the Cubs could have used Wheldon coming out of the bullpen. A leadoff single by Jerry Hairston was all they could muster against Derek Lowe in a 7-0 loss. Then again --

"It wasn't as good a throw as the one I did at Shea Stadium; it was a little high," said Wheldon, referring to his New York appearance while on his 500-Mile Race Victory Tour. "This was more of an English cricket throw than a pitch. I was throwing it a little high on purpose to show them I had a different pitch than the one I did at Shea Stadium. It just dropped about 10 feet too late."

Wheldon also met "Rudy" Ruettiger, subject of the 1993 big-screen movie directed by David Anspaugh and written by Angelo Pizzo ("Hoosiers"). Wheldon, whose longtime dream was to win the Indianapolis 500, could relate to the film version of Ruettiger's aspirations of playing football for Notre Dame.

"It's a movie that's not only good but somewhat relevant to you because you're involved in a particular sport -- just a slightly different one," said Wheldon, who invited Ruettiger to be his guest at the race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

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2. Medeiros receives Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship ring: In August 2004, Thiago Medeiros was well on his way to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship. With four victories in the season's first nine races, Medeiros held a 67-point lead. He went on to win two of the final three races to secure the championship by a record margin of 134 points.

One year later, Medeiros received more fruits from his labor, something a bit more portable than the Firehawk Cup. On Aug. 30, Indy Racing League and Herff Jones officials presented the 23-year-old Brazilian with a one-of-a-kind championship ring.

"It's great. It came at the right moment," Medeiros said. "It represents a lot for me, everything that I did last year and what I've done in my past to get here. It reminds me of my first win (Texas in 2003). That was probably my best one because it was my first, but it kept going. The last one was a special one, and the Indy win was the best one. I understood what it means to win at Indianapolis."

The ring is solid 14-karat yellow gold. The face features two checkered flags surrounded by six diamonds. Medeiros' name is displayed on one side along with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Medeiros remains upbeat, with his broad smile ever present in 2005 despite the fact he's been watching the racing from the sidelines.

"Now, I'm still around the series working with (Brazilian) TV and trying to find a ride," he said. "I'm still pushing, trying to do everything to find sponsorship, but it takes time. I'm not giving up. I'm still too young to give up."

For now, Medeiros will proudly wear his championship ring everywhere he goes. When the time comes, he'll be happy to take it off to put on his driving gloves.

***

3. Sharp looks forward to helping Team USA: Scott Sharp's friendship with former Kelley Racing co-owner Rick Weidinger has led to him being named advisor and consultant to Team USA in the A1 Grand Prix series that is scheduled to begin competition in the fall.

Sharp, who posted a 12th-place finish in the Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix on Aug. 28 at Infineon Raceway, has competed in 112 IndyCar Series events.

"I'm happy to be able to assist the team," said Sharp, the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion. "Rick is very patriotic and wants to represent the United States in the highest manner possible. There are a number of talented teams and drivers from all over the world, and Team USA will have to work hard to fulfill expectations."

Drivers Scott Speed, Colin Fleming and Matt Jaskol tested the red, white and blue "We the People" car at the Paul Ricard test track in France last week.

"Not only is Scott a key asset to our racing team because of his record and team-building experience, he's also a personal friend I know I can rely on as we prepare A1 Team USA to compete in this unprecedented international racing series," Weidinger said in a statement.

Kenn Hardley Racing's Jeff Simmons also tested the Team USA car, while Panther Racing's Tomas Scheckter has tested for his native South Africa. According to a news release, up to 25 nations will be represented in the series proposed to compete on five continents, including two events in the United States in the spring. The cars have identical specifications and engines.

The series was the idea of Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai's ruling family.

***

4. Kite to showcase IndyCar Series at California Speedway: Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing and driver Jimmy Kite will participate in pre-race activities for the Sony HD 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event at California Speedway on Sept. 4.

Kite, who will drive up to three demonstration laps in his No. 91 Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing Toyota-powered Dallara, will give the fans a sense of what they can expect at Fontana's 2-mile oval when the IndyCar Series makes its appearance there on Oct. 16 for the season finale, the Toyota Indy 400.

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5. AGR drivers share post-race rewards: Andretti Green Racing drivers Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon reaped benefits following the Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix.

Race winner Kanaan was presented with an engraved Formula One timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Formula One timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.

The design of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 has been upgraded and redesigned from its original version. It features a titanium-coated steel bezel, protective bumpers, and the six legendary features that define a TAG Heuer sportswatch -- screw-in crown, unidirectional turning bezel, luminescent hands and hour markers, scratch resistant sapphire crystal, water resistance to 200m and a double safety clasp.

Wheldon collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 51 of the race, while Kanaan posted the fastest race lap, tying him with Tomas Enge for second in the race for the season-long race for the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap Award.

Dario Franchitti leads in the season-long standings award with three fastest laps. Argent will award $25,000 to the entrant of the driver who completes the fastest lap the most number of times in the 2005 IndyCar Series season.

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 Presented by Mr. Clean at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast also will be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). ESPN2's telecast of the Sonoma 100 will be shown at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 1 The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 11 at Chicagoland Speedway. It will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 15.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Scott Sharp , Jimmy Kite , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Scott Speed , Colin Fleming , Jeff Simmons , Sheikh Maktoum , Rick Weidinger , Matt Jaskol , Thiago Medeiros
Teams Panther Racing