IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-10-05

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Oct. 5, 2006 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Firestone aims for product improvement 2. Simmons can't wait for 2007 3. They Said It: Castroneves and Kanaan on Montoya's stock car debut 1.


Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Firestone aims for product improvement
2. Simmons can't wait for 2007
3. They Said It: Castroneves and Kanaan on Montoya's stock car debut

1. Firestone aims for product improvement: For almost 100 years, Firestone hasn't rested on its racing laurels. Faster cars, variable banking and various road/street course configurations require rubber that not only meets the road but stands up to its demands.

That's why Firestone engineers recruited four IndyCar Series teams/drivers to pound out laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week. A one-day tire test also is scheduled for Oct. 9 at Iowa Speedway with drivers representing Panther Racing and Rahal Letterman Racing.

IndyCar Series champions Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan joined two-time 500-Mile Race winner Helio Castroneves and Team Ethanol driver Jeff Simmons at the Speedway.

"We have tested here a lot and run here a lot," said Page Mader, general manager of race tire development for Firestone. "We're doing two things: Compound testing and a little construction work. We're trying to make it better for next year."

Firestone has a continually expanding inventory of compounds and constructions for the different racetracks on the IndyCar Series circuit. Grip and sidewall strength are key components in determining which tire to use at each venue. At Iowa, according to Mader, information garnered during a compatibility test in August was applied to a plan for this test in conjunction with IndyCar Series aerodynamic testing.

"We ran the short oval set-up from Milwaukee and Richmond this year (at the compatibility test)," he said. "It worked very well. We'll do a little compound test with more grip primarily on the left side. We're doing a little bit to work to come up with the right specification for Iowa and a complement to maybe try something different at Richmond next year."

2. Simmons can't wait for 2007: After a three-week break from the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda-powered Dallara, Jeff Simmons was raring to get back to work.

The 2006 Bombardier Rookie of the Year runner-up was one of four IndyCar Series drivers participating in a Firestone tire test on Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the first significant time in an IndyCar Series machine since the season ended Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway.

"Hopefully, the test (at Indianapolis) will give us a step up going into the off-season and prepare for next year," said Simmons, who recorded six top-10 finishes in 12 starts. "Any chance you get to run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a big deal. I'm glad I was asked to be part of it."

Simmons and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan were outfitted with the same 3.5-liter Honda V-8 engine powered by 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol that will be used by the entire IndyCar Series field in 2007. Simmons said he was impressed with the new package's performance on the 2.5-mile oval, though his time in the car was limited by an accident on Oct. 3.

"(The motor) has got a broader powerband," he said. "It's going through the corners better and allows us to try some things with the gearing, whereas you had to be really precise with the gearing last year. We're still able to pull a good speed off even if you're off a little with the gearing."

Simmons, who is unsigned for 2007, hopes to announce his plans soon. He said his preferences is to remain with Rahal Letterman Racing.

"I'm just looking forward to building on what we did in the second half of the season," Simmons said. "We had a rough start, but everyone on Team Ethanol worked hard to turn that around. We have some momentum going, and I think that's part of the reason why we were invited to take part in this test. We're with the top guys in the series. Helio (Castroneves) is here, Tony Kanaan, (Dan) Wheldon today and I think (Scott) Dixon tomorrow. To be able to run on the track with those guys is a really big deal for us."

3. They said it: Throughout the offseason, IndyCar Series personalities will sound off about various topics. This week, IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves speak about Juan Pablo Montoya, who makes his stock car debut this week. Like Montoya, both drivers live in Miami and competed against the Columbian in Indy-style cars in 1999 and 2000.

Helio Castroneves: "I think Juan Pablo will do well on the short tracks, but not the big tracks right away. You have to adapt and learn a little bit about how the stock cars run. He's a fast learner, no question about it and is a talented driver. You have to drive the exact opposite of how you learned to drive an open-wheel car. There's nothing like it. It's a different learning curve, but at the same time, it can be fun."

Tony Kanaan: "Juan Pablo is a great racecar driver. Anywhere he goes, he will be good. How quickly he will adapt? That's tough to say. He's with a good team and he definitely has the personality (to do well there). He can be a nice guy, and he can be very tough. Hopefully, he will understand how those guys work out there, and he can make some friends and make good progress."

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Panther Racing