INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 5, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Drivers enjoy last of their downtime 2. Moody joins Playa del Racing 3. Foyt gets refresher 4. Catch up with Rice on ESPN.com 5. Year of firsts for Van Blankers 6. Jaeger...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 5, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Drivers enjoy last of their downtime
2. Moody joins Playa del Racing
3. Foyt gets refresher
4. Catch up with Rice on ESPN.com
5. Year of firsts for Van Blankers
6. Jaeger passes Indy Pro Series rookie test
1. Drivers enjoy last of their downtime: With more than two weeks between the last IndyCar Series event at Twin Ring Motegi and the opening of practice for the Indianapolis 500, many IndyCar Series drivers have spent their downtime relaxing.
Scott Dixon took a recent trip to New York and visited Yankee Stadium.
"I've really gotten into baseball," the 2003 IndyCar Series champion said. "We had great seats between third base and home plate and the view was awesome. It was a nice way to relax before opening week at the Speedway. I'm back in Indianapolis now, and I'm ready to get going for the 500."
Dixon also joined Buddy Rice for a promotional visit to Upstate New York for the June 4 Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix. Among the stops the drivers made were to: Buffalo, N.Y., Elmira N.Y., Syracuse N.Y. and Rochester, N.Y.
Michael Andretti, meanwhile, will visit the Kentucky Derby this weekend.
2. Moody joins Playa del Racing: Playa Del Racing founders Susan Schafer and Gary Sallee today announced Ernie Moody has joined the organization's ownership group.
Moody is founder and president of Action Gaming, Inc., a Las Vegas based casino game design firm, which is involved in leading-edge design of new types of casino games.
Moody's involvement with Playa Del Racing means he will participate in two of May's classic sporting events, the Indianapolis 500 and the Kentucky Derby in the same year. Moody's horse racing venture, Mercedes Stables, formed a partnership with Terri Lanni, Bernie Sciappa and Mercedes Vila to purchase the race horse, Sinister Minister, which has drawn post number four for the May 6 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be a part of Playa Del Racing," Moody said. "I have a love for and attraction to competing in historic races. The month of May will be extremely busy but very exhilarating for me. With my horse, Sinister Minister, starting the Kentucky Derby then going to Indianapolis to be a part of the Indianapolis 500, I am going to be involved in the two greatest sporting events in the world."
3. Foyt gets refresher: Larry Foyt, who will enter his third consecutive Indianapolis 500 in the No. 41 Honda-powered Panoz for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, will take a refresher test May 8 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr. will participate in the refresher program on May 7.
"I'm very excited about coming back to Indy," Foyt said. "It's been a bittersweet experience the last two years because I felt like I've had great months of May leading up to the race, but I've had accidents on the big day. It's an amazingly difficult adjustment coming from the stock cars to the Indy cars, but I've learned a great deal, and I feel very comfortable in the open wheel cars. I'm glad my Dad has the belief in my ability that I can get the job done. I'm looking forward to a great month."
4. Catch up with Rice on ESPN.com: 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice will chat with fans during an ESPN.com chat at 4 p.m. on May 8. It will be the first of several chats involving drivers participating in the Indianapolis 500 during the month of May.
Rice's teammate, Danica Patrick, participated in an ESPN.com chat on May 5, while other chats are slated for May 13 (Pole winner) and May 29 (Indy 500 winner).
5. Year of firsts for Van Blankers: Brett Van Blankers had never raced on an oval before. Never been on a street course. Three months into his debut season in the Indy Pro Series^Ù, Van Blankers is preparing for another first -- competing on the world's biggest racing stage, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the Freedom 100 two days before the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.
A 19-year-old from New Westminster, British Columbia, Van Blankers started racing go-karts at 11. He competed in International Karting Federation, Stars of Karting and ROTAX events and won his local club championship in 2004.
He had competed in a few Formula Renault 1600 and 2000 events before making the jump to Brian Stewart Racing's Indy Pro Series entry this season.
"I've only done a handful of car races, seven or eight, before starting here," Van Blankers said. "Jumping up double the horsepower is pretty big."
The 420-horsepower behind the Indy Pro Series car wasn't the only change for Van Blankers. His karting and limited car racing experience had all been on natural terrain road courses. Only four of the 12 races on the Indy Pro Series schedule are at similar venues. Six races are on ovals and two are on street courses.
"The rookie test, it was scary," Van Blankers said about his first time in the car at Texas Motor Speedway in late January. "It was the first time I had been on an oval. It was just a whole different experience."
The rookie took that experience and built upon it in the season-opening race at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I learned so much during that race," said Van Blankers, who moved up four spots during the race to finish eighth. "It was a big eye-opener to how much it changed into the corner and how much the draft really helped."
One week later and another first -- the series headed to St. Petersburg, Fla., for two races on a 14-turn street course.
"Road courses you can make mistakes, kind of get off line a little bit, get off the track and try and save the car, but at the street race, it wasn't like that," Van Blankers said. "You either tap the wall or try not to hit the wall. Start to spin, you try to slow down the car, you can't really get on the gas and try and get through it."
Van Blankers brought the car to the checkered flags with ninth and 11th-place finishes and ranks 10th in points.
"I wish I could have done a little better, but it's a learning experience," he said. "You're not going to get it the first or second time out in the car. I knew it was going to be that big of a jump. It's coming along. I have a whole season to get my focus on and get up to speed."
Next stop is Indianapolis, a long 2.5-mile oval with flat straightaways, only nine degrees of banking in the nearly 90-degree corners, and grandstands that seat more than 250,000 fans and can make it seem like you're driving through a tunnel.
"Turn 1 was the scariest corner," Van Blankers said after an Open Test at the facility on April 27. "The outside wall came up quick. It comes up quick each time."
That didn't faze him, however. Van Blankers completed more laps, 138, than anyone else that day, finishing 15th of 18 on the time charts. He was about 1.2 seconds behind his teammate, defending series champion Wade Cunningham.
"I got my time down to a 48.9, but Turn 1 is major," Van Blankers said. "I can at least get another half second from that."
He'll get that opportunity May 25 when the series has 90 minutes of practice and qualifying for the Freedom 100.
On May 26, he'll fight for his share of $300,000 in prize money -- and hopefully another first.
A first victory.
6. Jaeger passes Indy Pro Series rookie test: Brad Jaeger, a 20-year-old Cincinnati native, passed his Indy Pro Series rookie test May 1 at Nashville Superspeedway. Jaeger is competing in Star Mazda while studying mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University. In 2004, he won the Pacific Formula 2000 Pro Series championship.
Jaeger completed the test with Brian Stewart Racing. The team had drivers Wade Cunningham, Geoff Dodge and Brett Van Blankers also test on the 1.3-mile concrete oval.
Matthew Hamilton, Dave McMillan Racing, also participated in the private test.
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 broadcast the race live beginning at noon (EDT). A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. 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 at 12:30 p.m. on May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's Carb Day coverage on May 26. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at 12:15 p.m. (EDT).