INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- May 21, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Indy 500 starters shine in New York 2. Record field entered for Freedom 100 3. Record seven Indy Pro Series graduates qualified for Indy 500 4.
INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- May 21, 2007
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Indy 500 starters shine in New York
2. Record field entered for Freedom 100
3. Record seven Indy Pro Series graduates qualified for Indy 500
4. Luczo Dragon Racing pledges Indy 500 profits to charity
1. Indy 500 starters shine in New York: Jaques Lazier promised Playa Del Racing teammate Phil Giebler to burn a CD of photos of their trip to New York City. Giebler, making his first start in the Indianapolis 500, wants to savor everything about this week.
They were among the 33 drivers who lined up in the traditional 11 rows of three -- wearing firesuits and helmets tucked under their right arms -- on Military Island in Times Square for a photo opportunity. The session was followed by a media luncheon.
The starting front row of pole winner Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti are the most visible in the photos and videos. Giebler, starting from the back row, didn't mind that only his mother would be able to pick him out.
"Every driver wants to make this race," said Giebler, who is the fastest rookie in the field after qualifying with a four-lap average of 219.637 mph in the No. 31 Ethos Fuel Reformulator Panoz/Honda/Firestone.
It's the third consecutive year the IndyCar Series has visited New York City for a pre-Indianapolis 500 media event. The front row also did an early morning tour of several national television shows. With a couple of days off before returning for Miller Lite Carb Day on May 25, many drivers took the opportunity to remain in the city or make other travel connections.
Giebler's presence is required May 22 in Indianapolis as the honoree at the Fastest Rookie luncheon, followed by the annual Last Row party/roast. Again, Giebler wants to savor all of the week.
2. Record field entered for Freedom 100: Race week is here. And not only the 91st Indianapolis 500.
For the fifth consecutive May, the IndyCar Series stars will share the famed 2.5-mile oval at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road with the up-and-coming talent in the Indy Pro Series.
The 40-lap Freedom 100 is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on May 25. A record 25 cars are entered for the event, and a $300,000 prize fund is up for grabs.
Among those entered for the race are the past two Freedom 100 winners, Wade Cunningham and Jaime Camara, and series points leader Alex Lloyd. Cunningham and Lloyd are looking at Indy as a chance to further etch their names into the record books.
Cunningham, who led all 40 laps from the pole last year, could become the first repeat winner of the Freedom 100.
"Saying we led every lap isn't really fair because we did lose (the lead), I think, maybe two or four times throughout the race," Cunningham recalled. "I might be leading at the start/finish line, but it wasn't a really easy race. The first 30 laps went really smooth. Then we developed a problem, vibration in the fifth gear. I had to run sixth for the last bit of the race and that was just a little bit over-geared, and it allowed Jay (Howard) to catch up. Luckily, I got a good run back on Jay."
Looking ahead, Cunningham expects a battle among the top four or five drivers in this year's race.
"Indianapolis is just the way it is," said Cunningham, who was second-fastest at an Open Test at Indianapolis at the end of April. "It doesn't really lend itself to pack racing. So I don't think there's going to be a large group of people battling for the lead. I really think it's going to be the usual suspects."
The usual suspects this year include Lloyd, who has won the season's first three races and holds a 48-point advantage in the standings. A win by the Englishman in the Freedom 100 would tie him with Thiago Medeiros for most consecutive victories in series history.
Lloyd was quickest at the Open Test, which saw the top six cars within a half second of each other and the top 17 cars separated by less than one second.
"To be honest, I guess we're hoping to continue our run of wins and continue building the momentum," Lloyd said. "It's going to be a close race. By no means will it be easy, but we should be challenging for the win. We should be in a position to challenge for our fourth in a row."
Others who will be competing include Hideki Mutoh, the highest-ranked rookie in the point standings who was third-fastest at the test, as well as Bobby Wilson, Chris Festa and Robbie Pecorari, who round out the top five in points, respectively.
"There are a lot of cars that will be very good for the Freedom 100," Festa said. "The Schmidt cars are very good and Hideki Mutoh is running good and Wade (Cunningham) is very strong. We have a lot of rookies who are here for the first time, and they will get better. The field is going to be very tough. There are so many good teams and drivers that everyone is going to have to step up their game if they want to win."
Two drivers with family ties to Indianapolis, Sean Guthrie and Al Unser III, are entered in the Freedom 100. Guthrie's father Jim made three starts in the Indianapolis 500 while Unser is the son of two-time winner Al Unser Jr. and grandson of four-time winner Al Unser.
"When I was growing up, I was really focused primarily on my dad's career," said Guthrie, who made his Indy Pro Series debut with an 11th-place finish at Indianapolis last year. "His first year in an Indy car was my first year in a go kart. I was always following in his footsteps. It was really, really neat as I drove under the track into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year for the first time."
Unser returns to Indy Pro Series competition for the first time since the 2005 Freedom 100 when he finished fourth.
One native Hoosier is also entered for the race. Logan Gomez, an 18-year-old Crown Point native who made his Indy Pro Series debut on Indy's road course last July, will compete in the Freedom 100 for the first time.
"I've never been here except on Race Day," Gomez said. "Last year, I was here on Carb Day to watch the Freedom 100. Other than that, I've just followed it on television like anyone else. It's a lot different to be here the whole month. I'm really looking forward to racing on the home track, and hopefully there will be some fans in the stands rooting us on during the race."
3. Record seven Indy Pro Series graduates qualified for Indy 500: In its sixth season, the Indy Pro Series continues to grow as the main development formula for the IndyCar Series.
Seven Indy Pro Series graduates will compete in the 91st Indianapolis 500: Marco Andretti (qualified ninth), Jeff Simmons (13th), Ed Carpenter (14th), A.J. Foyt IV (18th), Jon Herb (27th), Marty Roth (30th) and Phil Giebler (33rd). Giebler will be making his first 500-Mile Race start.
"Seeing seven Indy Pro Series graduates in the field for the Indianapolis 500 is something we're very proud of," Indy Pro Series executive director Roger Bailey said. "What's even better is the fact that not only are we seeing the numbers, but those drivers are also competitive, they're in the front half of the grid. Ultimately, however, when I'm long gone I'd like to think that every single driver on the grid came through the Indy Pro Series."
Twenty-five Indy Pro Series entries have been filed for the fifth Freedom 100 on May 25, including the past two race winners (Wade Cunningham and Jaime Camara). Series points leader Alex Lloyd, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, also is entered.
4. Luczo Dragon Racing pledges Indy 500 profits to charity: Partnering with 12 champion personalities from the world of sports and music, including Baron Davis, Tony Dungy, John Elway, Wayne Gretzky and their charities, Luczo Dragon Racing will run its No. 12 Symantec car driven by Ryan Briscoe for charity in the 91st Indianapolis 500.
The Luczo Dragon Racing team will donate more than half of its racing profits to the charities selected by the champion celebrities.
In addition to Davis, Dungy, Elway and Gretzky, the participating sports and music personalities are Marcus Allen, Jackson Browne, Brandi Chastain, Ronnie Lott, Jonny Moseley, Chris Mullin, Kerri Walsh and Kristi Yamaguchi. Combined they have won nine Super Bowls, nine Olympic Gold Medals, four Stanley Cups, two Super Bowl MVPs, one Heisman Trophy and one World Cup.
"We have focused our efforts on supporting people and spearheading projects that are tied to socially relevant issues," said Steve Luczo, co-owner of Luczo Dragon Racing and Chairman of the Board for Seagate Technology. "We thought partnering with these great champions on one of the most prestigious stages in all of sports, the Indianapolis 500, was a wonderful opportunity to generate much needed money and awareness for several outstanding charitable organizations and their causes. We are excited for the race."
Luczo Dragon Racing has guaranteed at least $250,000 for the charities no matter how the car finishes. The benefiting charities will be All Stars Helping Kids, Friends of Washington Prep, Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative, Team Play L.A. Stars, Jackson Community College Foundation -- Wilbur Dungy Endowment, Fisher House of Colorado, Wayne Gretzky Foundation, Northern California Special Olympics, Chase the Stars Foundation and the Always Dream Foundation.
Briscoe, who finished 10th in the 2005 Indy 500, will start seventh.
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.