IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-10-27

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Hornish, Sharp look to end IROC season on high note 2. Several drivers test Indy Pro Series machines 3. Wheldon, Dixon visit St. Jude, Target House 4. Bryant to back Kanaan's entry 5. Of ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Hornish, Sharp look to end IROC season on high note
2. Several drivers test Indy Pro Series machines
3. Wheldon, Dixon visit St. Jude, Target House
4. Bryant to back Kanaan's entry
5. Of note

1. Hornish, Sharp look to end IROC season on high note: IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. has one racing goal remaining in 2006.

"I certainly would like to add an IROC race win to what has been a pretty good year for me," the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion said after testing a Crown Royal IROC Series car at Atlanta Motor Speedway in advance of the Oct. 28 series finale.

"I feel pretty comfortable so far for the first day, but no matter how comfortable you get during practice it all changes once we get everybody out there for the race."

The 65-lap event on the 1.54-mile oval (3:15 p.m. ET, Speed) will be the fourth and final race of the 30th anniversary season of the all-star series that matches 12 drivers from different disciplines of auto racing in equally prepared cars. Points are awarded for finishing positions, with a champion of champions named after the final race.

Hornish, tied with Mark Martin and Frank Kimmel for sixth place, will start seventh in the race. Hornish, competing in his third IROC Series season, matched his career-best second place in the opener at Daytona International Speedway. He placed 12th (mechanical) at Texas Motor Speedway and fifth on the Daytona road course in June.

IndyCar Series veteran Scott Sharp will start fourth. He is tied with Wayne Taylor/Max Angelelli for ninth (26 points) after finishes of ninth, seventh and fourth.

"It's been a blast," said Sharp, who is competing in the IROC Series for the fifth time. "The results haven't been nearly as good as the racing has been. I had a really good race going at Daytona (oval) when I got caught in the Tony Stewart-Steve Kinser crash. I had a really good run going on the Daytona road course, running second for awhile, and ended up fourth.

"Atlanta is always a really fast race, almost wide open all the way around. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

2. Several drivers test Indy Pro Series machines: While much of Colorado was under a blizzard warning on Oct. 26, 17-year-old Adrian Carrio was in South Florida.

You might expect that the Monument, Colo., native would have been on the beach enjoying the 85-degree weather. Instead Carrio and two young Californians were at Homestead-Miami Speedway strapped into 450-horsepower Indy Pro Series machines for the first time.

Carrio, the 2006 Star Mazda champion, was joined by 18-year-old JR Hildebrand, a Sausalito, Calif., native who won this year's Cooper Tires Formula Ford Zetec championship, and 21-year-old Palo Alto, Calif., native Reed Stevens, who was the top race winner in Formula BMW USA.

By rights of their racing accomplishments in 2006, they were awarded a free test in a Sam Schmidt Motorsports-prepared Indy Pro Series car.

"There's a reason these three guys were champions and race winners in their respective series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series, who was on hand to witness the trio navigate the 13-turn, 2.21-mile road course. "They all displayed quite a lot of talent, speed and consistency. They have the makings of future race winners in the Indy Pro Series."

Carrio and Stevens drove the No. 77 and No. 27 cars, respectively, in the morning.

"It was really good," said Carrio, who just started his senior year of high school. "I actually just drove (the final Star Mazda race) a couple of days ago, so I was pretty fresh in the car. I got acclimated pretty quickly. It was just a couple of changes, the car, the horsepower mainly. I just concentrated on keeping it on the track and getting a good, general overview of how the car felt. It's really well-balanced."

Stevens, who owns a karting business in Sonoma, Calif., was equally impressed.

"I definitely had a great feel for the car -- a lot of torque. It's nice to have some good power to get out of the corners," said Stevens, who won four races in his second year of Formula BMW competition. "I had to get warmed up to the car a bit and the older tires, but by the time we had the new set on, it seemed like me and Tim (Neff), the engineer, got some good work done. I was really feeling comfortable and doing some consistent lap times."

The afternoon belonged to Hildebrand, who rewrote the Cooper Tires Formula Ford Zetec record book with 12 victories and 10 pole positions in 2006.

"It's really enjoyable to drive," said Hildebrand, who recently accepted a two-year deferred enrollment from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "It's got a lot of horsepower. That's the initial reaction. It's good in the high-speed stuff. It's nice and stuck coming off the banking. Plenty of horsepower to keep you busy everywhere else. That's for sure. I can't thank these guys enough for having me out here to do this."

Earlier in the week, two other drivers passed their oval rookie tests. Jon Brownson and Kevin Krauss tested on the 1.5-mile oval at Chicagoland Speedway on Oct. 24 with Part Sourcing International.

Brownson is a veteran of four seasons in Star Mazda while Krauss has competed in Formula Ford.

"Jon and Kevin both did a good job," said Butch Meyer, technical director for the Indy Pro Series, who observed the test. "They both got up to speed quickly and were able to run consistent lap times."

3. Wheldon, Dixon visit St. Jude, Target House: Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon made a recent visit to Memphis, Tenn., to tour St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and visit the children of Target House.

It was the first visit for Wheldon, who was impressed by the facilities but more so by the spirit of the children living there.

"A lot of these kids have very serious illnesses, but they seem in such positive spirits. That's because they've been put in a very positive environment," said Wheldon who, along with Dixon and NASCAR driver Reed Sorensen posed for photos, signed autographs and spent some time with the kids. "I've never seen anything quite like it to be quite honest."

Dixon, who was making his third trip to the hospital and Target House, has taken part in various team promotions to raise awareness and funds for the Target House. His favorite was last year's Indianapolis 500/Coca Cola 600 project in which all the Target drivers wore helmets with designs created by the children of Target House. He said the yearly visits are a great reminder and motivator to continue those efforts.

"It's rewarding for us because we can see what we can do to help out," he said. "Not many people get to see this side of it. A lot of people try to block this kind of thing out of their mind. But it's the individuals who make places like this run. The only problem is that you can't bring everyone here to see it, because it is fantastic to see how they accommodate these kids."

Since 1997, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has raised more than $440,000 for St. Jude and Target House by donating $5,000 for each victory, $1,000 for each pole position and $25 for each lap led.

Thus far in 2006, Target Chip Ganassi Racing has raised $61,450, highlighted by five victories, including the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona with Dixon, Wheldon and Casey Mears, and two wins each by Dixon and Wheldon in the IndyCar Series. In addition, Dixon and Wheldon combined for three pole positions and led $24,400 worth of laps in IndyCar Series competition and $6,800 in laps led during the Daytona 24 hour race.

"The people involved in Target House are like a race team," Wheldon said. "You can have everything right, but if the people aren't working in the same direction, you aren't going to get results. The people here are doing it right. It's truly nice to be associated with people who take the time and effort to do something like they're doing here."

4. Bryant to back Kanaan's entry: Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems, the longest non-automotive sponsor of the Indianapolis 500, announced it would sponsor the Andretti Green Racing entry of Tony Kanaan during the 2007 IndyCar Series season.

"We are excited and proud to sponsor Tony Kanaan. He's proven to be a true competitor, and he's backed by one of the strongest teams in the IndyCar Series," said Kevin Dudash, Bryant brand manager. "It's a great opportunity to give visibility to the Bryant brand with a driver and team who truly demonstrate the 'Whatever It Takes' attitude of Bryant dealers across the country."

Bryant's sponsorship at the Indianapolis 500 dates to 1958, when Indianapolis-based Bryant dealer, Eddie Johnson, became the company's first Indy 500 qualifier.

Since then, Bryant has been a staple at the race for the checkered flag at the Brickyard and its logo has been featured on 50 cars.

"I'm very excited about our new partnership with Bryant," said Kanaan. "Bryant has a great IndyCar racing heritage, and we will certainly do 'Whatever It Takes' to make a run at another championship and an Indy 500 win in 2007."

5. Of note: Sam Hornish Jr. will receive his trophy and a Maurice Lacroix wristwatch for winning the third-quarter Driver of the Year balloting on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway-- IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti is the prohibitive favorite to walk away with one of the awards at the second Scottish Style Awards in Glasgow. At least his wife, actress Ashley Judd, thinks so. Competition in the category includes footballer Steven Pressley, captain of Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Premier League, and actor David Tennant-- Danica Patrick is called one of auto racing's "leading ladies" in the pages of the November edition of PINK magazine. The 2005 Bombardier Rookie of the Year is featured along with International Speedway Corp. President Lesa France Kennedy in "Driven: Meet auto racing's top women from both sides of the track." The magazine is currently on newsstands.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tony Stewart , Casey Mears , Scott Sharp , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Wayne Taylor , Frank Kimmel , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Steve Kinser , Max Angelelli , Jon Brownson , Chip Ganassi , Roger Bailey , Adrian Carrio , Reed Stevens , Kevin Krauss , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Mark Martin
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing