INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- June 11, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. Patrick's career run may be sign of things to come 2. Texas provides lift for Rahal Letterman duo 3. Team KMA gears up for busy weekend 4.
INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- June 11, 2007
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. Patrick's career run may be sign of things to come
2. Texas provides lift for Rahal Letterman duo
3. Team KMA gears up for busy weekend
4. Lloyd, Schmidt hope to turn success into cash
5. Drivers reap post-race rewards
1. Patrick's career run may be sign of things to come: Through all the attention on her post-race discussion with Dan Wheldon on pit lane at The Milwaukee Mile on June 3, Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick knew it would be best to focus on the race at the treacherous high-banked Texas Motor Speedway.
"I can't honestly say (the pre-race hype was) a distraction really," said Patrick, who responded with a career-best third place in the Bombardier Learjet 550k. "I didn't do that much more than I normally do. It wasn't like we were trying to feed this. It just ran its course.
"As far as Dan and I, we handled it like drivers and like people on the track that need to respect each other, and it was everything on the outside that seemed very very exciting or something like that. Like I said, it's fun though. I like it when we get something going on in the series and people are paying attention. When I turn on ESPN and see a whole bunch of stuff on our race coming up that day or that night, that's good. That's the stuff we need. So I get a kick out of it."
Finishing 0.3844 of a second behind race winner Sam Hornish Jr. also provided a kick -- maybe for the entire crew of the No. 7 Team Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Patrick was coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes, but her high-water mark was seventh at Kansas Speedway in April. Her previous best was fourth (first at Twin Ring Motegi in 2005 and matched twice).
"It was really a matter of time," said Patrick, in her first year with Andretti Green Racing. "I think we've had fast cars throughout the season, and it was a matter of getting more on the same page with my engineer and just having everything come together. We just didn't have very much time before the season started to really mesh. But we are getting better, and I'm getting more comfortable overall."
Teammate Tony Kanaan, runner-up at Texas for the third time, sees the improvements on the racetrack in many areas.
"I think she did a hell of a job," said Kanaan, the race winner six days earlier at Milwaukee. "She did what we're supposed to do. We planned to work together and as our teammate, I think she did no different than what Dario (Franchitti) did with me a few years ago.
"I said to her in the beginning of the race, 'Look, we are going to get mad at each other at one point in the race just because there is nowhere to go.' And for sure, I was all over the place. At one point she was all over the place. But everybody was all over the place.
"Toward the end there when I was catching Sam, I kept looking in my mirrors, and you never pray for somebody to catch you, but at this point I was. When I saw her coming up, I said, 'Whoa, here we go.' And I didn't want to say anything on the radio because then someone was going to tell Sam what I was going to do. But Sam has raced on the outside many times. So I think he knew exactly what I was trying to do.
"I think Danica did a hell of a job helping me to keep it close to Sam, but unfortunately while knowing Sam, he was giving me a lot of room up until two laps to go."
After exiting their cars on a steamy night, the teammates huddled on pit lane to congratulate each other.
"I told her, 'It's coming,' '' Kanaan said with a grin, referring to Patrick's initial victory. "She knows exactly what I was talking about. We all know it and we can't wait to shave her head."
2. Texas provides lift for Rahal Letterman duo: Scott Sharp secured his first pole start in almost six years and Jeff Simmons recorded a career-best sixth place in the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway. Combined, it could be a sign that everything is falling into place at Rahal Letterman Racing.
The efforts were by far the best this season. Sharp's pole bettered by 10 positions his highest starting spot, and Simmons topped his highest starting position by four (eighth on the grid for the second of four night races). Simmons posted his fourth top 10 of the season, while Sharp's seventh place was his third top 10 in a row.
"It was really good work by the Team Ethanol guys in the pits; they really did the job for us," said Simmons, driver of the No. 17 Honda-powered Dallara. "I didn't pass too many cars out there, but the guys kept us in it with good stops. Maybe it was finally a little good karma after the last couple races where we deserved a lot better than we ended up."
Simmons led five laps -- another career high.
"I have to thank Scott for letting us by in the final stint while trying to give us a little help when we were pushing for a top-five," Simmons said about the final 20 laps. "I just wish we could have made things a little tougher for the other guys, but we'll take the points and move on."
After Sharp turned a few heads with his qualifying quick lap of 215.260 mph (24.3334 seconds), both the IndyCar Series veteran and Rahal Letterman Racing general manager Scott Roembke pointed to the three weeks at Indianapolis as the time when the team gelled.
"We built up a lot of momentum in Indy and had good cars in Milwaukee, and I think it is starting to pay off," Roembke said. "This team over the last year and a half has been through some tough times, and it is good to see all the hard work pay off in this way."
Sharp's No. 8 Patron-sponsored car had trouble in traffic in the 228-lap race, which saw him fall to seventh after 15 laps. He steered clear of two incidents on the track to rack up the seventh place.
"The first couple of stints were really tough because we got caught in traffic and that made the car slide around a bit, and if you lifted you gave up even more spots," Sharp said. "Our guys kept after it and we did what we could, but it was a difficult problem to solve because more downforce would have helped the car, but downforce takes away speed, and we couldn't afford to give that up."
3. Team KMA gears up for busy weekend: At first glance, the schedule for the Liberty Challenge doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway seems to feature a lot of down time.
The Indy Pro Series cars will practice first thing in the morning and qualify late in the afternoon June 15. The only thing on the schedule for June 16 and June 17 are the two 25-lap races on the 2.605-mile road course.
The pace will be anything but relaxed, however, for Team KMA. In addition to running the No. 13 Cabo Wabo Tequila car with driver Robbie Pecorari in the Indy Pro Series, the team also fields four cars in Formula BMW USA, which also will hold two races at IMS.
The team runs completely separate programs, but there will undoubtedly still be plenty to do.
"Justin Herring, our lead mechanic on the Indy Pro Series team, was the lead mechanic for our BMW team last year," team co-owner Jon Lewis said. "He started the season helping out on the BMW side again, but we found out quickly that it puts too much strain on a mechanic to do both.
"We have separate programs. I'm basically in charge of the Indy Pro Series side of things while (team co-owner) Ingo (Strackerjan) is in charge of the BMW program."
Pecorari, a 20-year-old Indy Pro Series rookie, will do his best to help the four Formula BMW drivers throughout the weekend.
"The priority for us is to get the Team KMA Indy Pro Series car into the front of the field," said Pecorari, who recorded top-10 finishes in three of the first five races. "If we can do that, then I'll be able to help the BMW guys. One of them (Jeffrey Petriello) finished second at the first race, so they're doing OK."
This is Pecorari's first experience in the role of driver coach and mentor.
"I went to a private test and a series test and have done some driver coaching and looking at data," Pecorari said. "It seemed to help. It's all new to me. I know driving, but it's different trying to help someone else."
Lewis sees the benefits of having both programs at the same facility on a race weekend.
"I think it's important that our BMW drivers get to see the opportunities and possibilities for their advancement in motorsports," Lewis said.
4. Lloyd, Schmidt hope to turn success into cash: Sam Schmidt Motorsports and driver Alex Lloyd announced the "Racing for Recovery Challenge," a pledge drive to take place leading up to the Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 16-17.
The team is offering an opportunity for companies and individuals to sponsor a race car with all proceeds going to the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. If Lloyd wins either race, those responsible for pledges will agree to donate $1,000 to the foundation. Should Lloyd win both races, the donation price tag will be raised to $3,000. If Lloyd does not win either event, donors that have made pledges will owe the foundation nothing.
"As many races as Alex has been winning, we felt it'd be a great time to utilize his hot streak to help raise funds and awareness for our foundation," Schmidt said of the Indy Pro Series points leader who has won a record five consecutive races.
"Winning both races certainly won't be easy, especially at a track like Indianapolis," Lloyd said of the road course. "We were able to pull off the sweep earlier in the year in St. Pete, but that wasn't very easy either. It's definitely going to be a tough goal to achieve, but we can do it. The most important thing is that we win that first race, and then we can worry about all the rest of this."
Companies and individuals looking for increased exposure can submit three pledges. By doing so, they will have a logo of their choice placed on the top of the side pod of Lloyd's race car for the entire race weekend.
"There's a lot of faith being put in many different people's hands," Schmidt said. "Obviously, we want to maximize the exposure value for our foundation's mission, for Alex, and for the great companies that take part in this promotion."
5. Drivers reap post-race rewards: Sam Hornish Jr. reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.
As the Bombardier Learjet 550K race winner, Hornish was presented an Automatic Gran Data timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2007 and will present a $100,000 timepiece to the IndyCar Series champion.
Scott Sharp collected the AAMCO Transmissions Pole Award and its $10,000 prize, while Scott Dixon won the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 141 of the race. Vitor Meira claimed the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back.
The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 24 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast at 1 p.m. (ET) 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 Liberty Challenge doubleheader on June 16-17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The races will be telecast by ESPN2 at 5 p.m. on June 21.