IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League news and notes 2006-04-24

Today's IRL headlines 1. Castroneves heads to Indy on a roll 2. Castroneves reaps post-race rewards 3. Three drivers pass Indy Pro Series rookie test 1. Castroneves heads to Indy on a roll: Four years removed from his back-to-back Indianapolis...

Today's IRL headlines
1. Castroneves heads to Indy on a roll
2. Castroneves reaps post-race rewards
3. Three drivers pass Indy Pro Series rookie test

1. Castroneves heads to Indy on a roll: Four years removed from his back-to-back Indianapolis 500 victories in 2001 and 2002, Helio Castroneves is on a roll in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone heading to the 90th Indianapolis 500. He dominated at Twin Ring Motegi on April 22, leading 184 of 200 laps to win the Indy Japan 300. He was quickest in both practice sessions, and won for the fourth time from the pole (of nine career victories).

With back-to-back victories (the other in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg) and a runner-up finish on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, Castroneves is the early favorite to provide team owner Roger Penske a 14th Indianapolis 500 championship. Practice begins May 9.

"Everybody on our team is really looking forward to May," said Castroneves, who has finished second, ninth and ninth the past three years at the Brickyard. "We have a long month to work. We're going to continue thinking like that, and hopefully the result will pay off.

"It's just a matter of everything finally going (in) our direction. It's a combination of a lot of hard work from everyone back in the shop and here. It's finally coming together."

In the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead, Castroneves and Dan Wheldon hooked up in a late-race duel to the finish that Wheldon, the reigning IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion, won by 0.0147 of a second. On the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval, Wheldon was the runner-up -- but not by a similarly close margin.

"Helio's got a little bit of momentum," said Wheldon, who trails Castroneves by 42 points in the standings. "But he certainly can be stopped, and we'll do our best to stop it."

Last year it was Wheldon who took the momentum into "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." He had won three of the initial four races, including the Indy Japan 300 for the second consecutive year.

How much carries over to Indianapolis? The first four days of practice May 9-12, leading into WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Day, will be an indication.

"We had a lot of things going for us (at Motegi)," Marlboro Team Penske president Tim Cindric said. "He drove a great race. I think it's the first time he's won two races in a row. We're out to win three in a row, for sure."

Some statistics to consider regarding IndyCar Series points leader Helio Castroneves' results in his immediate race before winning at Indianapolis:

2001 (Phoenix International Raceway)
Car: Penske Auto Center Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone
Started 17, finished 18 (led four laps; engine problem curtailed day after 142 laps)
In the standings: 18th (after one event)
Indianapolis: Started 11 (led 52 laps)

2002 (Nazareth Speedway)
Car: Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone
Started second, finished fifth (led 51 laps)
In the standings: Third (after four events)
Indianapolis: Started 13th (led 24 laps)

***

2. Castroneves reaps post-race rewards: Helio Castroneves again reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.

As the Indy Japan 300 race winner, Castroneves was presented with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT Camera and an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.

The Aquaracer concept is founded on providing the accuracy that all water sports demand. Based on the design and features of the timeless 2000 series, launched in 1982, TAG Heuer's watchmakers and designers have created an original, prestigious sports watch that is water-resistant to 300 meters.

Castroneves also collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 123 of the race. Because qualifications were rained out there was no Marlboro Pole Award. The $10,000 prize will be included in the prize for the year-end winner of the Marlboro Pole Award.

***

3. Three drivers pass Indy Pro Series rookie test: Sean Guthrie, Alex Lloyd and Tom Wieringa passed the Indy Pro Series rookie test April 23 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Guthrie turned 18 on April 18 and will take over the wheel of the No. 41 Guthrie Racing car owned by his father Jim, the 1997 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year. Guthrie Racing leads the Indy Pro Series entrant points on the strength of Raphael Matos' two victories at St. Petersburg earlier in the month.

Lloyd, the 2003 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year, recorded 10th and third-place finishes at St. Petersburg for AFS Racing and recently signed with the team to complete the season in the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. machine. He was required to pass the rookie test at Chicagoland because he has never competed on an oval. The remaining 2006 schedule features five races on ovals and four races on road courses.

Wieringa drove in Toyota Atlantics in 1999 and 2000 and used to own the Sigma Autosport team that fielded cars in CART and Toyota Atlantics.

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC will telecast the race live. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at noon (EDT). The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 Friday, May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's Carb Day coverage on May 26.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dan Wheldon , Roger Penske , Tom Wieringa , Sean Guthrie
Teams Team Penske