IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-08-08

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 8, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Championship up for grabs; points race is tightest ever with 3 to go 2. Chesson to compete in Knoxville Nationals 3. On the road 4. Of note 1. Championship up for...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 8, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Championship up for grabs; points race is tightest ever with 3 to go
2. Chesson to compete in Knoxville Nationals
3. On the road
4. Of note

1. Championship up for grabs; points race is tightest ever with 3 to go: Helio Castroneves' move to the top of the IndyCar Series championship race underscores season-long consistency.

Castroneves trailed Marlboro Team Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. by 30 points heading into the Firestone Indy 400. A victory at Michigan International Speedway on July 30, coupled with Hornish's mechanically-forced exit, vaulted Castroneves past Scott Dixon and Hornish to first.

"The way things are going, the consistent guy from now on is going to be very important," he said after edging Vitor Meira by 1.6229 seconds at the 2-mile oval on July 30. "I guess whatever team is going to work together, drivers be patient, be in the right spot at the right time, (is) probably going to win. That's it."

Kentucky Speedway (Aug. 13) and Chicagoland Speedway (Sept. 10) -- 1.5-mile ovals -- book end the road-course race at Infineon Raceway in California (Aug. 30) to end the season.

The championship battle -- much like all IndyCar Series races -- will go down to the wire. Only 56 points separate first place through fifth, and there is an eight-point difference between Castroneves (376) and three-time race winner and two-time series champion Hornish (368).

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon has 359 points, while Dixon, his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, is fourth with 345. Meira is fifth with 320. Actually, the top 13 in the standings are mathematically eligible for the title.

It's the tightest championship race since point calculations were adjusted for the 2001 season. In 2003, Castroneves also led with three events remaining. Hornish, in fifth place, was 61 points back. Dixon was fourth, but claimed the championship with three consecutive runner-up finishes at Chicagoland, California Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

Two years ago, Wheldon was 72 points behind then-Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan with three races remaining. He remained second in the final tally. Last year, the St. Petersburg, Fla., resident had a comfortable 79-point lead over Kanaan with three left.

As demonstrated for most of the season, any of the top five could be atop the standings coming out of the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret on Aug. 13.

"With three races to go in 2003, I was in fourth place in the driver standings with a 42-point deficit behind Castroneves," Dixon said. "There were five of us in the hunt, and it was consistency, the Target team's "never give up" attitude and teamwork that won us the championship that year. We are nowhere near ready to give up on that now. The last two races were very frustrating for us but with three races left, we still can do this. We have all the elements to be successful.

2. Chesson to compete in Knoxville Nationals: IndyCar Series driver P.J. Chesson will return to his roots this week when he drives a 410 sprint car in the Knoxville Nationals.

"I can't wait to get back in a race car, even if I haven't really driven a sprint car since last summer," Chesson said. "It should be a lot of fun."

Chesson will become the first driver since Steve Kinser in 1997 to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and Knoxville Nationals in the same year when he takes to the track for Wednesday's qualifying round. He'll drive the 55K fielded by 2005 Knoxville Raceway track champion VerMeer Motorsports.

"(The car) won a couple of races with (2005 track champions) Kerry Madsen this year, so it should be a good piece," Chesson said. "We'll see if rusty old P.J. can do anything with it tomorrow night."

Chesson, one of 18 drivers to compete in both at Knoxville and Indianapolis, remains hopeful of returning to the IndyCar Series next season..

"I'm not going to Knoxville to look for a ride," he said. "I think I've found a home in Indy Cars. I just want to have some fun and raise a little hell in Iowa."

3. On the road: IndyCar Series drivers Sarah Fisher, Sam Hornish Jr., and Danica Patrick will help promote the Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Coca-Cola and Secret in the Greater Cincinnati market Aug. 10-11.

Hornish, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, will throw out the first pitch for the Cincinnati Reds' game with the St. Louis Cardinals at 12:35 p.m. on Aug. 10. He will also be interviewed during ESPN's telecast of the game and by the Cincinnati Reds radio network.

Fisher will visit Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center patients in two activity centers on behalf of the Racing For Kids charity on Aug. 11, while Patrick will greet fans during an autograph session from 6 -7 p.m., at the Meijer store located at 4990 Houston Rd. in Florence, Ky.

4. Of note: Marco Andretti can clinch the Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award by outscoring rival Jeff Simmons by eight points or more at Kentucky Speedway -- There have been six IndyCar Series pole sitters and five IndyCar Series pole winners at Kentucky Speedway. Only Buddy Lazier, who won the first two IndyCar Series races at Kentucky, repeated.

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC Sports and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. 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 Kentucky 100 on August 13 at Kentucky Speedway.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Steve Kinser , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Kerry Madsen , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing