INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 29, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Moreno tabbed to replace Carpenter 2. Qualifying format adds to excitement 3. Indy Pro Series drivers prepare for St. Pete "twin bill" 4. IndyCar Series seen across the...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- March 29, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Moreno tabbed to replace Carpenter
2. Qualifying format adds to excitement
3. Indy Pro Series drivers prepare for St. Pete "twin bill"
4. IndyCar Series seen across the globe
1. Moreno tabbed to replace Carpenter: Veteran open-wheel driver Roberto Moreno will fill the seat of the No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Regular driver Ed Carpenter, who was involved in the practice accident that claimed the life of driver Paul Dana on March 26, was released from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on March 27 but was not cleared to compete. According to Dr. Henry Bock, senior director of medical services for the Indy Racing League, Carpenter remains in good condition with a bruised lung.
Moreno, 47, was a consultant and set up the car for Carpenter during Open Tests last year at the Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International road courses. The "Super Sub" co-drove the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, replacing the suspended JC France, in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 25. He was in the No. 20 Vision car in the Open Test on March 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway's 2.21-mile road course.
"Yesterday's test was good," Moreno said. "I impressed myself and how quickly I got into the pace. IndyCars are quite tough, but I suddenly realized how quickly I was able to rely on my experience to get the car up to the pace."
Moreno, from Brazil, competed in seven Grand Am races in 2005, and had been consulting with Fabcar over the winter. Moreno said he was buoyed by the support of team co-owners Tony and Laura George, team manager Larry Curry and Carpenter.
"It is very tough to replace a driver and it is very difficult to just jump in a car and drive," he said. "I was glad to be able to get in the car a little bit already this week. Plus, road racing is what I know so I hope that get the car up to speed quickly this weekend and get good results. While I know road course racing, I'm not as confident about the car, but the team will give me the info that I need to be competitive and comfortable in the car. The guys I will be racing against are very competitive so it will be a tough weekend."
Moreno is seeking sponsorship to compete in at least the 90th Indianapolis 500.
"My ideal situation for the rest of the season is to find a ride for Indy and the other two road courses," he said. "I've been seeking sponsorships and meeting with teams to try and be able to do that
2. Qualifying format adds to excitement: As part of "Firestone Fast Six" qualifying, practice plays a key role in determining the starting field at the three road- and street-course events.
Under the procedure, all entered cars participate in the initial practice session of the three-day race weekend, with times determining the two groups that will be used in the remaining 30-minute pre-qualifying sessions.
The first day's combined practice times also determine the event qualifying order. The driver with the fastest lap shall determine if the qualifying order shall proceed based on the fastest lap to the slowest or to invert the field in single-lap qualifying. That decision is made one hour before the scheduled start of qualifications.
At the conclusion of single-lap qualifying, the fastest six cars will participate in a 10-minute, European-style session to determine the first three rows. In this procedure, the top car in single-lap qualifying is not guaranteed the pole.
"I really do think (the format) is cool," said Bryan Herta, the first driver to claim a pole position under the format in 2005. "I was on the fence about it, but it's exciting. The single-car thing isn't as exciting, but the six-car shootout is really exciting. It puts a lot of pressure on the six drivers trying to improve their times."
3. Indy Pro Series drivers prepare for St. Pete "twin bill": "Let's play two." It's a common refrain in baseball, and it's a fairly common practice in many racing series, but it will be new to the Indy Pro Series^Ù April 1 and 2 when the series heads to the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
For the first time in the five-year history of the Indy Pro Series, two races will be conducted on the same weekend. The 420-horsepower machines will line up on the starting grid at 3:30 p.m. (EST) on April 1 and again at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 2.
Oh, and that's not the only wrinkle thrown into the mix. The starting order for the second race will be determined by the finishing order of the first race, except that the top six finishers will be inverted. That means the winner of the first race will start sixth while the sixth-place finisher will have the pole.
"I've raced a couple of doubleheaders in the past," said Chris Festa, a sophomore at Florida State University who is in his second season in the Indy Pro Series. "You don't really think of it as a doubleheader, you think of it as two races. They just happen to be on the same weekend. It's not really going to change our plan much. We're just going to go and do everything as if it were one race -- go to practice, get the best car we can and then qualify it."
Qualifying for the first race will be European-style, much like it was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last July. All cars will be on track from 8:30-9 a.m. and again from 10:40-11:25 a.m. on April 1. Starting order will be determined by the quickest lap times on the 1.8-mile circuit from either session.
After the first 40-lap race, teams and drivers will regroup and prepare for another race instead of packing up their gear.
"It's a good situation for the Indy Pro Series where we can get a lot more experience," said Festa, driver of the No. 51 Cheever Racing Formtek car. "The advantages are we get twice the racing time in the same amount of time, so it's cost effective and we get more experience in a short amount of time."
The addition of a second race not only is more economical, but it can turn a bad weekend into a good weekend.
"It's good because if you have a bad race on Saturday, you can always try to do better on Sunday," said Jaime Camara, driver of the No. 11 CELG car for Andretti Green Racing. "It goes both ways. If it's a good weekend, it's a good weekend. It can be a bad weekend because you crash both races. Or it can be a good weekend because you crash one race and win the other, or you can win both. I like it that way."
Winning both races will be more challenging since the first race winner will start sixth in the second race.
"That's really exciting," Camara said. "They're going to put competitiveness in the field. I think it's the right thing to do."
According to both drivers, the 14-turn course offers several places to pass, giving the first race winner ample opportunity to make a repeat visit to Victory Circle.
"There's definitely places to pass," Festa said. "The front straightaway is obviously the best place to pass. You can also pass going into Turn 4. The main thing is to have a good car so you can be there at the end and come out of the last turn and outrace somebody to the end."
4. IndyCar Series seen across the globe: Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be seen in 147 countries and territories on ESPN International's affiliated networks in Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Latin America, New Zealand and the Middle East. The remaining 13 IndyCar Series telecasts through ESPN International will reach 194 million households worldwide.
"We are thrilled to bring the IndyCar Series to ESPN viewers around the world," said Tim Bunnell, senior vice president of programming and marketing, ESPN International. "This top-quality open-wheel racing series is truly sports programming with worldwide appeal; plus international drivers comprise almost fifty percent of the field."
Larry Rice and Gary Lee will be ESPN International's English-language announcing team; Andres Agulla and Alex Pombo will serve as Spanish-language commentators.
The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Series Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:15 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, April 1 and 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 2. The race coverage will be telecast at 4 p.m. on April 7 by ESPN2. ESPN2's coverage of the Miami 100 will be telecast at 1 p.m. on March 31.