INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 22, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Hornish tops preseason media poll 2. Toyota Indy 300 to launch new XM IndyCar channel 3. Rahal team boss recovering from illness 4. Dodge prepares for Indy Pro Series...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 22, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Hornish tops preseason media poll
2. Toyota Indy 300 to launch new XM IndyCar channel
3. Rahal team boss recovering from illness
4. Dodge prepares for Indy Pro Series debut
1. Hornish tops preseason media poll: Dan Wheldon may be the reigning IndyCar® Series champion, but Sam Hornish Jr. carries the label of favorite, according a preseason poll of media members who cover the IndyCar Series.
Hornish, a two-time IndyCar Series champion, was picked by 11 of the 25 media members surveyed, while Marco Andretti was tabbed the preseason favorite for Bombardier Rookie of the Year on19 of the 25 votes. Voters were asked to predict the top-three finishers in the IndyCar Series standings and the Bombardier Rookie of the Year. First-place votes were worth three points, second-place votes were worth two points and a third-place vote was worth one point.
In all, five drivers -- Hornish, Helio Castroneves, Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti -- earned first-place votes. 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon also received votes.
2. Toyota Indy 300 to launch new XM IndyCar channel: The IndyCar Series will have a new home on XM Satellite Radio this season.
The entire 2006 schedule, including the 90th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, will be heard on XM Channel 145 "IndyCar." The channel's launch is part of XM's continuing broadcasting and marketing agreement with the IndyCar Series. XM is in its second year as the exclusive satellite radio network of the IndyCar Series.
Beginning with the Toyota Indy 300 presented by XM Satellite Radio on March 26, the entire 2006 IndyCar Series racing schedule, including the 90th Indianapolis 500 on May 28, will be heard on XM Channel 145, "IndyCar."
"Motorsports and music deliver a powerful adrenaline rush, and we are excited to bring the best of both to open-wheel race fans around the country," said Kevin Straley, vice president of talk programming, XM Satellite Radio. "Whether IndyCar Series and XM Satellite Radio fans are tuning in live at the track, at home, or on the road, we'll make sure that they don't miss a second of the action."
In addition to broadcasting IndyCar Series events, XM Satellite Radio also will present top recording acts at some IndyCar Series venues.
This weekend will feature the high-energy sounds of Shinedown, performing free for race fans at 1:30 p.m. on March 26, while the Grammy-nominated band Hoobastank will perform April 2 following the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
"When it comes to world-class talent, performance and technology, nothing compares to The IndyCar Series and XM Satellite Radio," said Mike Ringham, Indy Racing League Vice President for Marketing. "In addition to guaranteed great racing, we are also tremendously excited to introduce new generations of fans to the IndyCar Series, thanks to XM's free concert series."
XM also returns as the primary sponsor of the Andretti Green Racing No. 7 Honda-powered Dallara driven by 2005 Firestone Indy 400 winner Bryan Herta. This is Herta's third season in the distinctive black and yellow XM IndyCar Series machine.
3. Rahal team boss recovering from illness: Rahal Letterman Racing's Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke continues his recovery from a recent illness and has resumed limited office hours on a day-to-day basis.
Roembke has served as the general manager and chief operating officer of the team since the team was founded in 1992 as Rahal Hogan Racing. He broke into racing in 1986 as a logistics coordinator with Patrick Racing.
"Obviously I am disappointed not to be at Homestead this weekend and to be part of the season opener for what I believe will be the most competitive IRL season ever," said Roembke. "I truly appreciate all the phone calls, cards and letters I have received over the last several weeks, and I am looking forward to being back at the track in the near future."
Longtime Rahal Letterman Racing engineer Ray Leto is serving as the acting General Manager in Roembke's absence and handles all matters pertaining to racing operations while Robert J. Vladem, the chief financial officer of Rahal Letterman Racing is handling all administrative and financial matters.
4. Dodge prepares for Indy Pro Series debut: From proving himself on tracks such as the Belleville High Banks, Eagle Raceway and Knoxville Raceway to graduating to the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Geoff Dodge hopes to follow the path of racing legends such as Johnny Rutherford, Tom Sneva, Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt as he advances his career.
The 22-year-old grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., watching his father Dick drive sprint cars and compete in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. He also watched the Indianapolis 500 on television, dreaming of the day he would be among the 33 starters.
"Indy became a goal because it was Dad's goal," Dodge said. "We'd sit around every May and watch what was going on at the Speedway, so it was an interest of his that got passed along.
"Through my own paying attention to what was going on at the Speedway from back home in Colorado, that's where I picked up on guys like Rick Mears and Tom Sneva."
At 14, Dodge convinced his parents to allow him to embark on his own racing career.
"My dad said if I got all A's and a B, and could pay for half of it, then we could go karting," Dodge said. "So I went down and became an employee of Taco Bell because they would hire me that young, and started working, and saved some money, and got my grades where they needed to be. And so at that point, my dad came through and said we'll buy a go-kart."
Dodge began racing go-karts, eventually finishing 16th in the SuperKarts USA world finals in 2001 before taking the next step on his journey and climbing into a 360 sprint car. He spent the next four years racing sprint cars throughout the Midwest and Rocky Mountains, seeking out tougher competition on his drive to advance his career.
"The local sprint car scene was pretty much done," Dodge said. "We're a low-budget operation, and it would be cool if we could travel 60-100 miles to all of our races, but here we are driving from Colorado Springs to places like Billings, Montana for a two-night show. Every weekend you're on the road somewhere.
"I've always had the mentality to keep pushing yourself, keep moving up and keep getting against tougher guys and keep going to new places. That evolved into our sprint car program where we traveled to Kansas and Nebraska more than anywhere because there was tougher competition there."
The road took him across the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions before eventually leading in 2005 to one of the biggest sprint car events in the country, the Knoxville Nationals. For 45 years, the top sprint car drivers in the country have descended on the sleepy Iowa town for four days in August. Dodge faced off against 124 other drivers. It was his first time in a 410 sprint car.
While preparing for the biggest event in his brief racing career, Dodge heard about a new program between Knoxville Raceway and the Indy Racing League. "The Fast Track to Indy Rookie of the Year" would reward the highest-finishing rookie at Knoxville with a chance to compete in the Indy Racing League's ladder series, the Indy Pro Series, in 2006 -- just one step from the Indianapolis 500.
"Your first inclination, because at that point we had already decided to run Knoxville, at that point my heart jumped like, 'Whoa, yeah,' " Dodge said. "But then reality sets in, 'Come on, Geoff. Every rookie from Pennsylvania to California is going to say this is my big chance to try to take a swing at Indy.' I had to settle down, get back to the plan and race for today, run as good as I could."
In preliminary action, Dodge finished third in his heat and then 15th in the A feature. That qualified him for the C Feature.
"We went and did our thing and raced as hard as we could, and (Sunday) afternoon we looked at where we lined up and we thought, 'Man, we've got a shot at this thing,' '' he said.
Dodge's 14th-place effort in the C Feature gave him the points necessary to clinch the "Fast Track to Indy" title.
Since then, Dodge's focus has been preparing for his debut in the Indy Pro Series. The series runs single-seat, open-cockpit cars that race about 30 mph slower than the cars used in the Indianapolis 500.
He passed his rookie test last September under the watchful eyes of Mears, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and he's tested twice since. Dodge's deal will put him on the track at the series' six oval race, including the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway two days before the 90th Indianapolis 500 on May 28.
"Indy was something that I dreamed about as a kid but honestly never thought I'd ever have a chance to make an attempt at it," Dodge said. "That's the ultimate end goal, but I'm not really thinking that far ahead yet. Right now, I'm thinking about getting in the Indy Pro Series car and putting in the first pieces there. That's about as far forward as I'm focused on right now. I'm big on not getting too drawn out on what's happening five races or five weeks or five years from now, but trying to stay more focused on the here and now and if you do a good job in the here and now, the rest will take care of itself."
The next step will be his race debut March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. From there, Dodge hopes the road eventually leads to the Indianapolis 500.
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 channel 145 "IndyCar" 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.