IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-08-13

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. 'Mr. August' races into IndyCar Series title chase 2. Kentucky winner Mutoh begins preparations for IndyCar Series debut 3. Ganassi team mourns loss of crew member 1. 'Mr. August' races...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. 'Mr. August' races into IndyCar Series title chase
2. Kentucky winner Mutoh begins preparations for IndyCar Series debut
3. Ganassi team mourns loss of crew member

1. 'Mr. August' races into IndyCar Series title chase: The 2007 IndyCar Series season has been dominated by streaky drivers dominating portions of the schedule.

* March and April belonged to Dan Wheldon, who dominated the first quarter of the schedule, winning twice and finishing second in another race to take the series point lead.

* From May to July, Dario Franchitti won three races in the five-race stretch and took the points lead for the first time in his career.

* July belonged to Scott Dixon, who claimed three races in a row (Watkins Glen to Mid-Ohio) and carved away much of the 65-point cushion Franchitti had built.

* August has gone Tony Kanaan's way. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion has won back-to-back races, thrusting himself back into the championship picture.

"It's like it was at Indianapolis, nobody was thinking about Dario (Franchitti) and (Scott) Dixon," Kanaan said after winning his season-leading fourth race at Kentucky Speedway. "They all talked about me and (Sam) Hornish and Helio (Castroneves). And look what happened? They finished 1-2.

"Now, everybody's talking about Dario and Dixon, and nobody's talking about me, so I like that. I like that. I don't have that pressure. I still have no pressure."

Franchitti leads Dixon by eight points with three races remaining -- the same advantage Helio Castroneves held over Sam Hornish Jr., at this point last season. Kanaan, who is 52 points behind and has dubbed himself "Mr. August," leads a group that includes Wheldon (130 points back) and Hornish (139 points back) which remains mathematically eligible for the title.

While August has been Kanaan's month, his Andretti Green Racing teammate Franchitti has struggled. The Indianapolis 500 champion finished 13th at Michigan after crashing out and eighth at Kentucky after damaging his front wing while avoiding pit road contact with Danica Patrick.

"It was finally their night to lose," Dixon said. "We made good gains in the points today."

With races at the 2.26-mile road course at Infineon Raceway and the 2.906-mile temporary street course at the Raceway at Belle Isle along with the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway left on the schedule. There could be more to lose, which plays into Kanaan's hands.

"I think it's going to be really hard for me to win this championship," Kanaan said. "The best thing I can do is keep winning races and see what's going to happen. From now on, they're being chased by me."

2. Kentucky winner Mutoh begins preparations for IndyCar Series debut: Hideki Mutoh buried his face in a towel after an exhausting race at Kentucky Speedway to absorb perspiration and collect his composure. This victory meant more to the first-year Indy Pro Series driver than the winner's check.

Mutoh will share bonus testing days this week with Vitor Meira in the No. 4 Delphi Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone at Chicagoland Speedway in advance of his IndyCar Series debut on the 1.5-mile oval Sept. 9.

Mutoh, 24, had won the first of the Liberty Challenge races on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in June and resides in second place in the standings. But the Tokyo native believes winning on an oval validated his abilities with the express interest of driving in the IndyCar Series.

"This win means quite a lot to me," said Mutoh, who has finished in the top five in 10 of 13 races. "It's my first win on an oval track and that makes it very special for me. I'm excited about my debut in a big (IndyCar Series) car at Chicagoland. I have a test there and I want to do my best.

"It's very good experience that before I drive IndyCar race, I can win an (Indy Pro Series) race. That means quite a lot; more confidence."

Mutoh, the pole sitter, needed a dramatic three-wide pass of Wade Cunningham and Alex Lloyd on the final lap to put the No. 55 Super Aguri Panther Racing car in Victory Circle in the first Indy Pro Series night race.

"That was oval racing," said Mutoh, who beat Lloyd to the checkers by 0.1023 seconds. Cunningham, the 2005 Indy Pro Series champion, was 0.1567 of a second back and Chris Festa in the No. 9 CGR Indy Pro Series car was 0.4246 of a second behind in fourth.

"It was a tough race, but I believed in my car and I believed in my team."

3. Ganassi team mourns loss of crew member: Target Chip Ganassi Racing is mourning the loss of Travis Bickel, a member of the Chip Ganassi Racing Grand Am team, who also worked with IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series teams.

Bickell rejoined Ganassi's team earlier this year. He previously worked in the Indy Pro Series with Mo Nunn Racing and began the 2007 season as part of Panther Racing's engineering staff.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation can be made in Travis Bickel's name to the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization (IOPO), 429 N. Pennsylvania Street, Suite 201, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Motorola Indy 300 presented by Jackson Rancheria Casino & Hotel at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on Aug. 26 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be televised live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Carneros 100/Valley of the Moon 100 doubleheader on Aug.25-26 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 by ESPN2. ESPN2's coverage of the Kentucky 100 will be telecast at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 16.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Chris Festa , Wade Cunningham , Hideki Mutoh , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Mo Nunn , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing