IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-05-14

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- May 14, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Road to Indy: Ganassi drivers lament the 500 that got away 2. May offers learning experience for Indy Pro Series drivers 3. Chicago Board of ...


Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Road to Indy: Ganassi drivers lament the 500 that got away
2. May offers learning experience for Indy Pro Series drivers
3. Chicago Board of Trade welcomes IndyCar Series

1. Road to Indy: Ganassi drivers lament the 500 that got away: Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year with cars capable of winning the 91st Indianapolis 500. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo also returns hungry for victory in the world's most famous race after seeing it slip from their grasp one year ago.

"I've seen the great side of Indianapolis with winning in 2005, but I've also seen that side where, like last year, it just wrenched my heart from my body because both Scott and I had very good cars," Wheldon said. "We were running 1-2 with about 30 to go, and neither one of us won it. That was incredibly disappointing, but it makes me very motivated to come back and try and win again."

Wheldon could easily be going for a three-peat at Indianapolis had he not pitted for a punctured tire late in the race. It ruined a dominating day for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion, who led a race-high 148 laps.

"I remember (team owner) Chip (Ganassi) coming on the radio telling me to slow down because I had a 19-second lead," Wheldon said. "To be so comfortable in traffic and be so comfortable in a race car, to pick up a flat tire when you really can't react from it was tough."

Dixon also had a car capable of winning the "500" only to lose his chance at victory when he was penalized by race officials for blocking. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion enters his fourth Indianapolis 500 intent on adding to his championship pedigree.

"I know from winning championships, it does make you want to win it more," said Dixon, who recorded his best Indianapolis finish of sixth last year. "I've had fast cars here in the past. I think my first year (2003), we had a tremendous car, it just kept running out of gas and things like that. But there's a list of reasons why we haven't done well here."

Overcoming those past roadblocks is key for the team, which enters this year's race with the series' top two drivers in the IndyCar Series point standings. But fast cars and hungry drivers don't always lead to victory lane. Luck often plays a role in determining the outcome and the best car doesn't always win the biggest race.

"In a sick kind of way, that's what makes the Indianapolis 500," Wheldon said. "That's what makes you come back. It is so exciting. I led more than 150 laps and I didn't win the race. I didn't even feature in the first three. That's part of it."


2. May offers learning experience for Indy Pro Series drivers: Ask any Indy Pro Series driver what their ultimate goal is and the answer comes quickly -- compete in the Indianapolis 500.

Because the Indy Pro Series is the only racing series in the world that offers drivers the opportunity to share the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the IndyCar Series during the Month of May, the close association between the series also means that many drivers can get a hands-on feel for Indy throughout the month.

Several Indy Pro Series competitors spent the opening week of May at Indy, soaking in as much as they could in the hopes that their shot at the Indy 500 will come within the next few years.

Series points leader Alex Lloyd, whose first oval race was at the Speedway last year, is glad he relocated from Florida to Indianapolis eight months ago so he can experience the entire month firsthand.

"In Florida, you're just kind of out of it really," said Lloyd, who drives the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon Systems car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. "You read a little bit in the paper, but you don't get to be here and see how it all goes on. That kind of dragged a bit last year. This year, it seems to be going a lot quicker. There's a lot more going on."

Lloyd and teammate Logan Gomez have absorbed all of the activity in the garage and pit lane as the team prepares a new IndyCar Series chassis for Buddy Lazier's 15th Indianapolis 500.

"It's been fun watching Buddy and how he approaches the month of May," Gomez said of the 1996 Indy 500 winner. "It's been good to learn his techniques and the patience he exhibits."

Gomez, whose series debut came on the Speedway's road course last year, will debut on the oval during the Freedom 100 on May 25. Most of the crew from his Indy Pro Series effort are the ones preparing Lazier's car.

"It's nice to see the crew work with a different driver," Gomez said. "It's interesting to see how they approach their work and how they communicate with each other. It's no fun sitting around and watching these guys, but at the end of the day, it's just what needs to be done."

Another opportunity drivers have during the month of May is to get a birds-eye view of the track from one of two spotter's stands. Apex Racing's Mike Potekhen, Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Chris Festa and Michael Crawford Motorsports' CR Crews are among the drivers who spotted during the first week of practice, working with Stephan Gregoire, Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, and Jon Herb, respectively.

"It was nice to see it from the outside and see where some of the other guys were running," said Potekhen, who is spending his first full May in Indianapolis. "There's definitely a groove and a good line. You can see the cars that are running the right line are definitely smoothest through the corner and visually look faster. There's definitely a line around here that seems to be better than another."

Among other drivers in Indianapolis for the entire month are rookie Hideki Mutoh, who is second in points, and 2005 Freedom 100 winner Jaime Camara. Mutoh has a close relationship with countryman and teammate Kosuke Matsuura, who will make his fourth Indianapolis 500 start, while Camara considers 2005 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan his mentor.

All of the drivers hope what they learn by being in Indianapolis for the entire month of May can help their own efforts on May 25 as well as give them insights for their own opportunities in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in the future.

"It's just been good to spend time with the team, see how the car works, and just get a feel of how the month of May works," Lloyd said.


3. Chicago Board of Trade welcomes IndyCar Series: The trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade makes an IndyCar Series pit stop look tame.

Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol driver Jeff Simmons, IndyCar Series, national and state officials were given a tour of the trading floor by Chicago Board of Trade chairman Charlie Carey. The Chicago Board of Trade, a leading futures and options on futures exchange, lauded the IndyCar Series for its use of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol for the 2007 season that includes the 91st Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

"Congratulations for this groundbreaking technological achievement in the racing community," Carey said in a news conference. "The (Indy Racing) League and its crown jewel, the Indianapolis 500, have a long tradition of technological and safety innovations. Just as the IndyCar Series is an innovator in the world of auto racing, CBOT is an innovator in futures products. Before ethanol became a daily news story, CBOT recognized the increasingly important role ethanol can play in meeting the nation's energy needs."

In March 2002, CBOT launched an ethanol contract that two years later is growing like corn in the fields across the Midwest.

"We believed that a growing industry needed more sophisticated pricing tools," Carey said. "The world looks to us to price ethanol as our contract is the benchmark for U.S. ethanol prices and is used for price discovery. We are proud of the success achieved thus far by our ethanol contract and optimistic about its future."

In 2006, U.S.-produced ethanol volume displaced 17 million barrels of imported crude oil valued at $11 billion, and the ethanol industry created 160,000 jobs. More than 1.8 million bushels of corn were used for ethanol production (17 percent of total U.S. production).

The IndyCar Series is the first in motorsports to use the environmentally-friendly and renewable fuel. Every car that takes the green and checkered flags in the Indianapolis 500 will show consumers there aren't any performance issues in using either E10 or E85 blended ethanol-gasoline.

"We're proud that the Chicago Board of Trade could welcome Jeff Simmons and the IndyCar Series as they make their way to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and romote ethanol as an alternative fuel source for America," said Chris Malo, the CBOT's vice president of marketing and development. "We at the CBOT share the vision of the growing use of ethanol as an alternative fuel.

"When we launched our contract in 2002 we knew we were early to the marketplace, but we recognized the increasingly important role that ethanol can play in meeting the nation's energy needs before ethanol became a daily news story. The liquidity in our futures contract continues to build, with recent record daily volumes and a total open interest approaching 700 contracts. While only five months old, CBOT ethanol swaps (contracts) recently topped 10,000 contracts transacted, which represents 140 gallons of ethanol.

"As this market grows and matures, we intend to continue to create new and innovative opportunities and services for the ethanol industry."

In 2005, Congress approved a fuel standard that called for increasing ethanol use to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. President George W. Bush is seeking to more than quadruple the amount of alternative fuel produced -- to 35 billion gallons -- by 2017. There are more than 120 ethanol production facilities across the country, producing more than 5.4 billion gallons of ethanol annually, with more in various phases of development and construction.

"I don't think Henry Ford (who in 1925 said that ethanol would be the fuel of the future) would be a bit surprised to see 33 cars at the starting line in the Indianapolis 500 with ethanol in their tanks," said Tom Dorr, Under Secretary for Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture. "The Indy Racing League is re-branding ethanol as a premium fuel. It is mainstreaming ethanol, which is happening faster than most people in the industry can understand. We've talked about renewables in the United States for more than 30 years. Finally, it's happening.

"Cellulosic ethanol will give us the potential to supply a third or more of the needs of our liquid fuels. We've obviously been pushed by rising oil prices, but we have a clear economic incentive to diversify away from oil. The growth has been pushed by strong policies by the Bush Administration, so it's an exciting time to be involved.

"The Bush Administration salutes the IndyCar Series for its leadership."


The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (ET) on May 27. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's coverage of Carb Day at 4 p.m. on May 25.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Jon Herb , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Henry Ford , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Chris Festa , Logan Gomez , Mike Potekhen , Hideki Mutoh
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing