INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 21, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Sneak Peak 2006: Foyt hopes to build with Giaffone 2. Unser to return to racing at Indianapolis 3. Cheever Racing expands Indy Pro Series effort 1. Foyt hopes to...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 21, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Sneak Peak 2006: Foyt hopes to build with Giaffone
2. Unser to return to racing at Indianapolis
3. Cheever Racing expands Indy Pro Series effort
1. Foyt hopes to build with Giaffone: For the first time since the 2002 season, racing legend A.J. Foyt will field his familiar No. 14 in the IRL IndyCar® Series for a driver not named Foyt.
Foyt tabbed Brazilian Felipe Giaffone to replace his grandson, A.J. Foyt IV, who is now competing in the NASCAR Busch Series. The addition of the former IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year and Honda engines to the ABC Supply Co, Dallara/Honda/Firestone has the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner optimistic.
"In the short time that I've had to work with Felipe, I think we can have a good year," Foyt said. "We seem to communicate well, and I think we'll have a lot of fun. We have a new paint scheme on the car, so it's a fresh look. ABC Supply has some big plans, and I'm happy to have my team be a part of it."
Giaffone, who finished 15th for Foyt in last year's Indianapolis 500, knows it may take time to contend for wins. But he has simple goals for this season -- his first full-time season since 2002.
"Any driver's goal is always to win but we know the competition is going to be really hard out there, but my goal is to finish the most races that I can in the top 10 and then the top five," said Giaffone, who missed portions of the 2003 season due to injury and replaced the retired Robbie Buhl at Indianapolis in 2004.
"To win a race you've got to be in the right place at the right time. I've been there, and I think there's no reason why we couldn't do it again. First you've got to finish to win, and sometimes, you have to take chances to win a race, but I think my goal is to finish races strong and then I think we can build up ourselves to a win later in the season."
A.J. FOYT ENTERPRISES
Car numbers: 14
Chassis/engine/tire: Dallara/Honda/Firestone (ovals)
Drivers: Felipe Giaffone, 31, of Sao Paolo, Brazil
Race engineer: A.J. Foyt
General Manager: Jack Starne
Chief mechanic/Team manager: Craig Baranouski
TEAM OWNER'S OUTLOOK
A.J. Foyt, team owner: "I think having the one engine formula for the series will make the field more even. Personally, I'd like to go back to where we do our own, but since that's not the case, this is the next best thing."
2. Unser to return to racing at Indianapolis: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., will return to racing this May, teaming with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for an Indianapolis 500 effort.
Unser will drive the No. 31 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-prepared Dallara/Honda/Firestone when practice for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" kicks off May 7.
"I had a great year off, just enjoying the extra time with my kids that you can't always take advantage of with a full season of racing, but I'm a racer and I'm just tired of being retired," Unser said. "I'm very excited about returning to the Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold. It's Indy, and I just can't wait to get back there."
IndyCar Series regular and 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier will be his teammate. Between them, Unser and Lazier have 30 starts and 5,668 race laps. Unser, who won the 500-Mile Race in 1992 and '94, has previously teamed with Indianapolis 500 winners twice -- 1993 with Danny Sullivan at Galles Racing and 1994 with Emerson Fittipaldi for Team Penske.
"We're still in the process of finalizing all of our components, but Al Jr. will be with us at Homestead this week helping out and we can't contain our excitement," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "To put together two guys who've not only won Indy three times, but also to have their stellar record of finishes and laps completed is just an awesome opportunity for our team."
Unser, who won from the pole in 1994 in the No. 31 Marlboro Penske car, started and finished 17th in the 2004 Indianapolis 500 with Patrick Racing. Overall, he has seven top-5 and 10 top-10 finishes. He said talks with Dreyer & Reinbold co-owners Reinbold and Robbie Buhl began at the Open Test earlier this month.
"From racing against (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) in the past, I know they have a great operation, and in dealing with Dennis and Robbie, they're great people to work with," said Unser, whose father, Al, is a four-time Indianapolis 500 champion.
In 54 IndyCar Series starts, Unser has three victories and 30 top-10 finishes. In 2004, he competed in three events with Patrick Racing. His last victory was in October 2003 at Texas Motor Speedway.
3. Cheever Racing expands Indy Pro Series effort: Nick Bussell will team with Chris Festa on Cheever Racing's Indy Pro Series team.
Bussell, 22, from Ionia, Mich., has competed in 14 Indy Pro Series races with a high finish of second at Pikes Peak International Raceway. He will drive the No. 52 Cheever Racing entry.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to expand our effort to train and develop the best young drivers," Cheever said. "The Indy Pro Series offers an established platform, and we look forward to showing Nick and Chris the path to the Indianapolis 500."
In his first season in the Indy Pro Series, Bussell finished fourth in the standings while racing for two teams -- JL West Motorsports and Vision Racing. He started on the front row for the Liberty Challenge on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and set a series record by finishing all 14 of races.
"This is going to be a really good opportunity for me," Bussell said. "With the amount of experience a guy like Eddie Cheever has, it's is going to go a long way toward helping me progress. There are a lot of things I can gather from his knowledge and his years of experience. I'm really looking forward to this."
Festa, who finished sixth in the 2005 Indy Pro Series standings, joined Cheever's first-year Indy Pro Series program in January.
"With two events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and a good combination of oval and road course races, the Indy Pro Series is a good place for America's future open-wheel racers to be driving and learning," said Cheever, the 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner and current IndyCar Series owner-driver said.
The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 at 3:30 p.m. (EST) 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 and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition opens with the Miami 100 at 12:30 p.m. on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 1 p.m. on March 31 by ESPN2.