IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-01-13

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 13, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. A Conversation With-- Bryan Herta 2. Brown joins Ganassi team 3. Indy Pro Series announces test dates 4. Yates relays Safety Team's message to international ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 13, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. A Conversation With-- Bryan Herta
2. Brown joins Ganassi team
3. Indy Pro Series announces test dates
4. Yates relays Safety Team's message to international conference

1. A Conversation With-- Bryan Herta: (Note: This the first of a series of several off-season conversations the IRL PR staff will have with Indy Racing League personalities)

Bryan Herta may be one of the busiest IRL IndyCar® Series competitors this off-season. Herta, who will drive the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing for the third consecutive season, drove two rounds of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport for Team USA in November and is eyeing his return to the Rolex 24 at the end of this month. He recently talked about his off-season activities, his return to Andretti Green Racing and the hazing he has planned for his new teammate, Marco Andretti.

Q: You're back in the familiar No. 7 car again. Do you feel like you can be a championship contender this season?

HERTA: This is the best team going right now. I'm just happy to be back with them. Any driver would love to be a part of this team. I'm one of the lucky guys who gets to be. I'm really looking forward to next season. I want to have a strong season. My goals are set a little bit higher. My goal is to challenge for the championship with Tony (Kanaan) and Dario (Franchitti) and that's the expectation I go in with.

Q: It's well known that you, Tony and Dario played a few pranks on Dan Wheldon when he was a rookie in 2003. Any plans for your new teammate Marco Andretti?

HERTA: We haven't plotted yet, but (pranks) are part of the rookie deal. I think that happens in all team sports. It won't be too bad, but you do have to earn your way into it.

TONY KANAAN: Don't believe him. We're going to give him a hard time for sure. We need to find out what he's in to. I don't think he's into shoes (like Wheldon), but we'll find out.

Q: Bryan, you've taken advantage to race even though this is the offseason. Why?

HERTA: The IRL has some pretty hefty testing restrictions now. While that may be good for the owners because they don't have to spend money to go testing, it's not good for the drivers to not be driving race cars for a long time. I had the opportunity with A1 Team USA to do a couple of races in Australia and Malaysia in November, and hopefully, I'll get to do a couple more later on. It's a good opportunity to stay fresh and it's an interesting championship. It's a unique series, and I've had lots of fun doing it in my downtime.

Q: How did you get the A1 drive? Was it through fellow IndyCar Series competitor Scott Sharp, who is involved with the team?

HERTA: I'd been talking to Rick Weidinger, who owns the U.S. franchise, since August. We were just talking about how I could be involved and maybe do some races for the team. We finally got a program that kind of made sense -- to do a couple races in November and maybe a couple more in the spring. For me, it was good to get some seat time, but I felt like I had enough time to recoup and still have an offseason. I didn't want to go around the clock because I thought that could be kind of a grind. To me, the goal of the program is to get the U.S. a win on home soil when they get to Laguna Seca.

Q: How important would it be for you to win for Team USA at Laguna Seca, where you've had a lot of success?

HERTA: I haven't been there for a long time and the race there is what caught my attention to run the series. I haven't raced there in a long time, and I'd love to get back on the track. It's been a great place for me, and I'd love to add to my personal history there.

2. Brown joins Ganassi team: Veteran engineer Andy Brown has joined the engineering staff of Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Brown will work with defending IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon as race engineer for the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara. Brown began work with the team on Jan. 9.

Brown joins Target Chip Ganassi Racing from Panther Racing, where he served as chief engineer. He played a key role in Sam Hornish Jr.'s back-to-back IndyCar Series championships and last season helped lead Buddy Lazier to five top-10 finishes in six starts.

This is not the first time that Wheldon and Brown have worked together. Wheldon made his IndyCar Series debut with Panther Racing in 2002 after spending much of that season as the team's test driver.

3. Indy Pro Series announces test dates: IRL Indy Pro Series teams will be allowed five private test days and five Open Test dates between March 1 and the end of the 2006 season. The Open Test dates are: March 4, Homestead-Miami Speedway road course; March 6, Homestead-Miami Speedway oval; April 27, Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval; June 14, The Milwaukee Mile; June 20, Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

4. Yates relays Safety Team's message to international conference: Mike Yates expected some give and take at the International Council of Motorsport Sciences convention in Rome this week.

The track safety coordinator for the Delphi IRL Safety Team is presenting information about the safety team's on-track protocols to the annual gathering of medical and scientific professionals and allied health personnel and will return with ideas to potentially improve facets of their procedures.

"It's kind of a forum for different motorsports -- all the way from boats to cars to motorcycles, anything that races. We all get together and compare notes," said Yates, who was accompanied by Indy Racing League orthopedist Dr. Terry Trammel. "Our goal is to make it safer for drivers."

Dr. Henry Bock, senior medical director for the Indy Racing League, said the attendees -- including the FIA -- always are "very accepting to what we bring and pay attention."

"I will present the IRL's protocols, standing orders and philosophies in responding to track accidents," Yates said. "Part of that is how the IRL has come up with what we believe is the safest and most efficient way of getting a driver out of the car."

With 45 experienced members, the Delphi IRL Safety Team is recognized as the leader in preparedness, response and assessment. Of course, the procedures for responding to a crash, assisting the drivers and cleaning the racetrack of debris have evolved since the first IndyCar Series raced 10 years ago.

"We use what's called a diversified approach with a multi-tasking vehicle," Yates said regarding the six-person teams on Safety 1 and 2. "When we arrive at the scene of an accident, within the first few seconds we can control the airway of a driver if need be, we have someone who can control fire, and someone who can make sure fluids don't get out of control on the racetrack and extend the yellow.

"We have someone in control of the scene itself (Incident Commander), and he's looking to see what needs to be done and what resources need to be called in. We can accomplish five different tasks -- along with extrication if need be with hydraulic tools -- with one vehicle and the training and tools that the one vehicle carries, so you don't clutter the racetrack with a lot of vehicles.

"On first response, we have that interaction circle covered. Plus we have our second truck stop at the impact point and they set up the same sort of action circle where they inspect the stands, the people, the fence and SAFER Barrier, along with checking the track and walking toward the incident to begin track cleanup.

"So with two or three trucks that respond and a minimum of 10-12 people, we have this all started. Then we can call in resources as we need them, and we're not wasting any time. We also get a handle on how much we need to call in to keep the trucks (such as wreckers) off the track. We think this is the most efficient way to do it."

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152, "XM Extreme" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition also opens on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Rick Weidinger , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing