Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. Tomas Scheckter and Chris Festa teleconference 2. Castroneves gets taste of Raceway at Belle Isle 3. Karting standout eyes Indy Pro Series 1. Tomas Scheckter and Chris Festa...
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. Tomas Scheckter and Chris Festa teleconference
2. Castroneves gets taste of Raceway at Belle Isle
3. Karting standout eyes Indy Pro Series
1. Tomas Scheckter and Chris Festa teleconference: IndyCar Series driver Tomas Scheckter and Indy Pro Series driver Chris Festa were the featured guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Scheckter, driver of the No. 2 Vision Racing Honda-powered Dallara, talked about maintaining the momentum of a top-10 finish as the IndyCar Series heads to Michigan International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.
Q: You talked about places where you could build momentum, and you come off a top 10 at Mid Ohio, the next two races are Michigan and Kentucky, places that should be good to you; you had the victory and the poles and you've also had two thirds and a fifth there. What is it about that track that has led to your success there?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: "I'm not sure. I think it's a combination. It's a good track, it's good racing and maybe we just got the setup right. I think a lot of times your success on the track is really, you get a good car and you make the most of it. And it's always just good racing, and it's proper (IndyCar Series) racing. I think that's what (IndyCar Series) fans like, and I think that's what the drivers like, as well, and I think a lot of the races we've missed a lot of the side by side racing, and I think Michigan is the perfect place for that."
Festa, who is in his first season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Indy Pro Series team, talked about his experience with one of the most respected teams in motorsports:
Q: You've had a very, I guess, in some respects a unique career. In 2005 you drive in Atlantics for Bobby Rahal, and last year you drove for Eddie Cheever and this year for Chip Ganassi. You've had the opportunity over the last three or four years to work with some of the biggest names in racing. What are some of the things you learned from guys like that and the benefits of seeing three different personalities, three different types of operations; tell us about having worked with those guys.
CHRIS FESTA: "Well, each team has their own system of doing things, and Ganassi is no different. One of the best things about being with Ganassi they have so many tiers: IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series, Grand Am Series, they have tons of different information in the building which I can learn from people like Scott Pruett, he's been racing for almost 30 years. For somebody like me, that's a great place to be to be able to learn from people like him and Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon on their experience to help me develop as a driver. "
2. Castroneves gets taste of Raceway at Belle Isle: Team Penske's Helio Castroneves became the first IndyCar Series driver to sample the Raceway at Belle Isle as he conducted a one-day compatibility test on the 2.125-mile temporary street circuit
The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner ran nearly 30 laps in varying conditions in his Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara as the island saw its first on-track activity in six years.
"The course is similar to what I remember but there's a new surface, new concrete and the corners are wider which should make for more exciting racing," said Castroneves, who won the last two Grand Prix events held at Detroit in 2000 and '01. "There are some areas of the course that are bumpy, but you expect that in a street circuit and they plan to work on some of that before the race. It's a very unique racetrack and everything here looks great. Coming back to Detroit and Belle Isle brought back some nice memories. I'm really excited about racing at Belle Isle Labor Day weekend."
The 32-year-old Brazilian racer was joined at Belle Isle by representatives from the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series, and the American Le Mans Series as officials received valuable feedback from the two-time Detroit race winner in preparation for the upcoming Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
In addition to the repaving of the Turn 1 area and the reconfiguration of the turns around Scott Fountain, the signature landmark of the Belle Isle track, other changes to the circuit include 460,000 square feet of concrete designed to improve the paddock and fan areas.
"We learned a lot about the track layout today and we appreciate all of the good information from Helio and Team Penske as well as the IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series," said Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Event chairman Bud Denker. "We want to make sure we have the best possible racetrack available to the competitors when world-class auto racing returns to the Motor City in just a few weeks, and what we witnessed today will certainly help us reach that goal. It's going to be an incredible event."
3. Karting standout eyes Indy Pro Series: Already looking ahead to 2008 and beyond, second-year Indy Pro Series team Michael Crawford Motorsports has signed 18-year-old karting standout Cole Mathewson to a development and testing program.
The program will begin in September and will continue through 2008 with an initial focus on road course racing. The team plans to enter Mathewson in a select number of Indy Pro Series races in 2008 with the aim of expanding to a full-time program in 2009. Mathewson, a recent graduate of Westfield (Ind.) High School, will have sponsorship from two Indianapolis companies, The Estridge Companies and Mainscape Inc.
"I have had the pleasure of watching Cole dominate races and win championships over the past three seasons in Great Lakes Superkarts! USA," said team owner Michael Crawford, whose team boasts seven top-10 finishes this season. "He works very hard at racing yet makes it look very easy. I believe that he has the qualities necessary to become a successful professional racer. The team is looking forward to our first test with Cole to begin the process of taking him to the Indy Pro Series, the official developmental series of the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis 500."
Mathewson's racing resume includes championships in each year of karting, beginning at age 13 with Junior Briggs and moving to Senior TAG and then quickly on to the 125 shifter class by the time he was 15. He won the KRA Series Junior Briggs Championship at New Castle Motorsports Park in 2004. In 2005 and 2006, he won the Great Lakes Superkarts! USA Pro Tour S-1 class.
This year, he has split his time between World Karting Association Manufacturer's Cup events in the ICC class as well as the TAG class and the Stars of Karting Series running the ICC class, competing with the best kart drivers in the country including Indy Pro Series driver Matt Jaskol.
While the jump from 125 shifters to the 420-hp Indy Pro Series cars is a big one, Mathewson is confident that a very structured and measured program of testing prior to entering race events will result in a successful transition.
"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to move up," Mathewson said. "Indy has always been my drive, and this is the biggest step I could make. I'm looking forward to working with Michael Crawford and the team."
The next IndyCar Series event is the Firestone Indy 400 at Noon on Aug. 5 at Michigan International Speedway. The race will be televised live by ESPN2 and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Kentucky 100 on Aug.11 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be broadcast at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 16. ESPN2's coverage of the Mid-Ohio 100 will be televised by ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. on July 26.