IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-11-15

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. New challenge showcase Hornish's versatility 2. They said it 3. Foyt hires Manning to drive famed No. 14 4. AGR utilizes bonus test 5. SPEED program highlights Ganassi organization 6.

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. New challenge showcase Hornish's versatility
2. They said it
3. Foyt hires Manning to drive famed No. 14
4. AGR utilizes bonus test
5. SPEED program highlights Ganassi organization
6. Experiences with Meira, Carpenter part of Special Olympics fundraiser

1. New challenge showcase Hornish's versatility: After achieving his lifelong dream of winning the Indianapolis 500, three-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. is after new challenges.

On his list of things to do:

*Try to become the first Indianapolis 500 champion to win the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard

*Win another Indianapolis 500

*Successfully defend his IndyCar Series title

* Become an even better race car driver

To that end, Hornish will spend part of the offseason driving race cars other than his No. 6 Honda-powered Dallara.

The 27-year-old native of Defiance, Ohio has already raced one of Roger Penske's stock cars in the NASCAR Busch Series and will test a Daytona Prototype for Michael Shank Racing later this year in preparations for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

"It's all about new challenges," he said. "I'm trying to learn new things and at the same time make myself a better driver. We had a really great year in the IndyCar Series and that provided the opportunity to try other things and see what I can do. There are so many things that I'd like to add to my resume that I am not going to go out and say I am never going to try it."

Hornish, who joked that car owner Roger Penske allows him do extra racing to justify his salary, isn't the only IndyCar Series driver to dabble in other forms of racing during the offseason.

Other IndyCar Series drivers regularly compete in endurance go-karting events such as the Granja Viana in Brazil or Robopong.com 200 in New Castle, Ind. or endurance sports races such as the Rolex 24.

Hornish said before his NASCAR debut at Phoenix International Raceway that race drivers enjoy gauging their skills against top drivers from other racing disciplines.

"A lot of why I wanted to do this was to give myself an opportunity to see how I compare against the guys like Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards," Hornish said. "That's a good source of pride if you can come over, have a good run and try to make yourself as versatile as you can be."

2. They said it: Throughout the offseason, IndyCar Series personalities will sound off about various topics. This week, IndyCar Series champions Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon give their thoughts about the Chase for the Nextel Cup, which will be decided this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hornish and Wheldon were two of the four drivers who entered the final IndyCar Series event battling for the series championship. The pair ended up tied in the final point standings, but Hornish claimed the title over Wheldon via a tiebreaker -- most wins.

Sam Hornish Jr.: "Each driver is going into the race trying to do the best that they can. One of them will make all the right decisions and four of them won't be able to get the job done. That's the way I went into Chicagoland this year. I told myself, 'This is already decided. We've done all we can do. Now it's up to the driver that is the smartest and doesn't make any mistakes.' Luckily, I was that driver, and I walked away with my third (IndyCar Series) championship. Those guys all have pressure on them, but when it comes down to it, that's what we're paid to do. You take that pressure, turn it into a positive and hope you make all the right decisions."

Dan Wheldon: "Obviously, the guys contending for the Nextel Cup championship are all very talented. They know exactly what needs to be done at this stage in the game and how important it is for each race to play out in their favor. I don't think they really need any advice. However, who would have thought that Jimmie Johnson would be in control after what he went through at the beginning of the Chase? It just goes to show that you should never give up. Anything can happen. You just need to focus on winning every time you start a race."

3. Foyt hires Manning to drive famed No. 14: A.J. Foyt has signed Darren Manning to drive the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda in the IndyCar Series next year. Larry Foyt has been named Team Director.

These changes are two of several that Foyt is making in his team's operations to improve its chances of winning in what will be a signature season for Foyt: his 50th anniversary in Indy-style racing.

"Next year is a big year for our team," said Foyt. "We're doing everything we can to get our program where it needs to be. My son Larry is a great asset to our team on the management side, and we've worked hard to put together a solid plan for 2007.

"Part of that plan is hiring a driver who is experienced on ovals and road courses and who will work well with our sponsor ABC Supply. Darren Manning fits the bill. He runs hard and I think he wants to win as bad as I do."

"I'm excited about returning to the IRL with A.J.'s team," said Manning, 31. "Now everyone is running the same engines and mostly the same chassis so the playing field is more equal. Plus, I have a lot of respect for A.J., and his team is putting a lot of effort into making next year one of their best. I think I can bring some good things to this team."

"Next year is an important milestone for us with our 25th anniversary, and we're happy to welcome Darren to the ABC Supply team as our driver," said company founder and CEO Ken Hendricks. "We know the team is working hard in the off-season and we're looking forward to an exciting 2007 season."

Larry Foyt began taking a more active role in his father's team in September when he moved back to Houston from North Carolina where he'd been living the past five years. Although young Foyt has not given up his hopes of returning to the cockpit, he is focusing his management skills on his father's Indy car team.

"We've been busy getting ready for next season," said Foyt, 29. "We're bringing in new people to join our crew, and hiring Darren Manning is part of that. We're thrilled to have Darren as our driver next year. I can't wait for Homestead to see how all of our changes play out."

4. AGR utilizes bonus test: The 2006 season ended Sept. 10 but IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series teams continue to reap the benefits of a bonus testing program that was introduced prior to the season.

On Nov. 8, Andretti Green Racing used one of the bonus test days it earned to put Jaime Camara and Tony Kanaan on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"We've seen a lot of value in the testing program this year on the IndyCar Series side as well as the Indy Pro Series side," said Kim Green, co-owner of Andretti Green Racing. "Obviously, testing is limited in the Indy Racing League, so any additional track time is critical for the continuing development of our IndyCar Series program.

"At the same time, giving an Indy Pro Series driver a chance to get some time behind the wheel of one of the IndyCar Series cars is good for their development as drivers. It gives them an opportunity to experience the horsepower, downforce and feel of one of those cars and lets them learn how to work with one of those cars with full engineering support in a real setting."

IndyCar Series teams that also fielded cars in the Indy Pro Series in 2006 earned one bonus test day for every four Indy Pro Series races they participated in. Kanaan, the 2005 IndyCar Series champion, credited the program for helping him win at Milwaukee in July after the team had tested there prior to the race.

"I should thank Jonathan Klein, Marco (Andretti) and Dario (Franchitti) and the team for the Indy Pro Series program, because that really helped us," Kanaan said at the time. "I think when we struggled so badly this year to win a race, I think the test was very important. That put us in the right spot right from the beginning of the weekend. It's much easier tuning a good car than finding a good car."

The testing also continues to benefit the young, up-and-coming drivers like Camara who dream of driving in the IndyCar Series full-time, but who need experience behind the wheel.

"This was my third test in an IndyCar Series car, and it was a lot easier," said Camara, a three-time winner in the Indy Pro Series during the last two seasons. "I put in more than 300 laps in the three tests, and I feel like I really know the IndyCar Series car now. I was really satisfied with myself."

"The great thing about working with Andretti Green Racing all season was working with the team, the engineers, the drivers. I was learning all year long."

5. SPEED program highlights Ganassi organization: Chip Ganassi Racing will be featured in "Racing Incorporated," a SPEED special airing Nov. 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. (ET) and rebroadcast at 11 p.m.

Film crews were granted unprecedented access by the team to its race shops in Indianapolis and Concord, N.C., over several weeks this past summer for a behind-the-scenes look at Ganassi's IndyCar Series, NASCAR and Grand American Sports Car Series operations.

"Initially, I needed a little convincing to green light this project," team owner Chip Ganassi said. "We, as an industry, have historically been very tight-lipped about how we do things. When filming started it took us beyond our comfort level, but as we became more and more at ease with the crew it became much easier to allow them the access that we did. I hope this show sheds light on all the people that work long hours behind the scenes in getting these cars ready for the race on Sunday."

6. Experiences with Meira, Carpenter part of Special Olympics fundraiser: A unique IndyCar Series experience with Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira is a featured auction item during the KeyBank Holiday in the Heartland, which benefits Special Olympics Indiana.

Meira, an Honorary Board member of Special Olympics Indiana, will give the winning bidder a ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy Racing Experience two-seater.

Also up for bid is the chance to race go-karts with Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter at FASTIMES in Indianapolis.

KeyBank Holiday in the Heartland will take place Nov. 17 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. Tickets are available through Nov. 17. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Leigh Ann Erickson of Special Olympics Indiana at (317) 328-2014 or lerickson@soindiana.org.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Darren Manning , Kevin Harvick , Tony Kanaan , Larry Foyt , Jimmie Johnson , Dan Wheldon , Carl Edwards , Chip Ganassi , Jaime Camara , Roger Penske , Michael Shank , Jonathan Klein , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Michael Shank Racing