INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 16, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Meira, Matsuura ready to step up in 2007 2. Season Preview: Cheever Racing 3. Envisioning a strike 1. Meira, Matsuura ready to step up in...
INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- March 16, 2007
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Meira, Matsuura ready to step up in 2007
2. Season Preview: Cheever Racing
3. Envisioning a strike
1. Meira, Matsuura ready to step up in 2007: Panther Racing hopes two cars are better than one.
The team which made the most of a limited budget and contended for the IndyCar Series title with driver Vitor Meira in 2006 adds veteran Kosuke Matsuura in an expanded two-car lineup.
The team has added several key pieces which it hopes can bring Meira and Matsuura their first victories this season, including primary sponsorship from Delphi, for Meira's No. 4 Dallara/Honda/Firestone, and Super Aguri Company and Panasonic for Matsuura's No. 55 Honda-powered Dallara.
"I know that we're excited here at Panther for a number of reasons," team co-owner John Barnes said. "The addition of Delphi, Super Aguri and Panasonic has been a tremendous boost to our race team. I'm glad we have Vitor Meira under contract for the next two years and I believe Kosuke Matsuura is another great talent in our league. Last season we had a great group of guys that rallied around one another when times were tough, and we've tried to hire the same type of people for the No. 55 team."
Meira, who finished fifth in the season point standings, had seven top-five finishes last season despite the fact he was a late signing with the team. He said the success of last season and a full program of winter testing and preparation has left the team better equipped to battle the other top-flight teams.
"Last year, we didn't have an offseason at all," he said. "When a lot of the other teams were doing testing and wind tunnel work, we were trying to put a team together. Now, we've had a full season together and we've been able to do the development we needed in the off-season.
"My goal is for us to start the 2007 season like we ended last year. I think it's great that Delphi has come on board with us and they're going to be able to supply the financial and technological support we need for a run at the championship and Indy 500."
Matsuura, meanwhile, joins his second team after three seasons with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. Panther has paired the former Bombardier Rookie of the Year with engineer Brent Harvey and chief mechanic Jason Weatherford, who oversaw the car A.J. Allmendinger drove to five Champ Car wins last season.
"I'm very happy to be a part of Super Aguri Panther Racing," Matsuura said. "The Panther team has been very good in this series, shown by all their race wins and the two championships. I look forward to having a great season in the Panasonic car."
Car numbers: 4 (Meira), 55 (Matsuura)
Drivers: Vitor Meira, 30 (on March 27), of Brasilia, Brazil, and Kosuke Matsuura., 27, of Aichi, Japan
Team manager: Ron Catt
Race engineers: Bill Pappas (Meira), Brent Harvey (Matsuura)
Chief mechanic: Dan Miller (Meira), Jason Weatherford (Matsuura)
2. Season Preview: Cheever Racing: Leading up to the season-opening Miami 100 on March 24, we'll preview the teams and drivers that will compete in 2007 for the Indy Pro Series' Firestone Firehawk Cup. Today, is Cheever Racing:
Owner: Eddie Cheever Jr.
Driver: Richard Antinucci (No. 51)
Team Manager: David Meehan
Chief Mechanic: Gary Rust
Overview: Cheever Racing returns for its second season in the Indy Pro Series. The team fielded two cars a year ago, producing seven top-five finishes. The team enters 2007 with a one-car effort that initially will compete only in the nine road/street races. Driver Richard Antinucci will be a rookie in the series, but he has a worldly background. Born in Rome, Antinucci lived in Arizona and Oregon as a child before returning to Europe to race. Last year, he finished fifth in the Formula 3 Euroseries.
Watch For--Family Ties: Antinucci is the nephew of team owner Eddie Cheever. The winner of the Formula 3 World Cup in 2003, Antinucci was sixth-quick on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway during an Open Test in February.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Eddie Cheever, owner: "I am looking forward to our second season in the Indy Pro Series, even though it will be only the road courses at this point. Richard is an intense race car driver that has been trained in Europe and in Asia in the lower formula. He finished with some good results at the end of the last season. We have been looking for the driver we can develop for our Grand-Am program and hopefully to restart our IndyCar Series program. He might be the one."
Richard Antinucci, driver: "I really look forward to cementing my career in the top-flight junior series. As it is directly affiliated to the IndyCar Series, I feel that this is a great opportunity to achieve success with Cheever Racing this season. However, the Indy Pro Series championship has doubled in size and prize money and as a result the competition is much more fierce. Therefore concentration and a lot of hard work are fundamental in order to get the results we want."
3. Envisioning a strike: Vision Racing driver Tomas Scheckter will drive a different lane this weekend as he is set to roll the ceremonial "first ball" in the Pepsi Championship at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis as a part of the Denny's PBA Tour The Pepsi Championship at Woodland Bowl marks the 19th of 22 Denny's PBA Tour events on the season and second stop to the state of Indiana. Wes Malott is currently leading the tour points standings heading into the event.
The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (EDT) 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 and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 5 p.m. (EDT) on March 28 by ESPN2 ESPN2 also will preview the upcoming season of the IndyCar Series with a one-hour special that will air at 7 p.m. (EDT) March 16.