IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-08-16

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series announce two-year extension at Iowa Speedway 2. Mutoh successfully passes IndyCar Series rookie test 3. Gilbert will run marathon, compete in doubleheader 1.

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series announce two-year extension at Iowa Speedway
2. Mutoh successfully passes IndyCar Series rookie test
3. Gilbert will run marathon, compete in doubleheader

1. IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series announce two-year extension at Iowa Speedway: Rusty Wallace said as he watched the overflow crowd stand and cheer as Dario Franchitti edged teammate Marco Andretti by 0.0681 of a second to win the inaugural IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway he "knew we had a real winner on our hands."

Iowa Speedway and Iowa Corn Growers Association officials announced a two-year extension of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 with the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series. The extension includes 100-mile Indy Pro Series races in conjunction with the June 2008 and June 2009 IndyCar Series event weekends.

"It's an honor for us at Iowa Speedway to continue our relationship with a primary sponsor like Iowa Corn and, of course, the Indy Racing League, each with a special interest in ethanol fuel," said Wallace, designer of the 0.86-mile track in Newton and a minority owner. "It's a win-win-win."

Wallace was joined at the Iowa State Fair announcement by Craig Floss, chief executive officer of the Iowa Corn Growers Association; Stan Clement, president of Iowa Speedway; and Terry Angstadt, president of the Indy Racing League's commercial division.

"The IndyCar Series cars run on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol produced by our corn growers in Iowa," Floss said. "Last year, we had corn growers come out from across Iowa and surrounding states. The race offers an opportunity for education and a chance for us to congratulate the corn growers who continue to grow corn for ethanol and promote its use."

Clement said the partnership with the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Indy Racing League is a natural. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board oversees the investment of funds generated by the Iowa corn checkoff. The board's primary activities include domestic and foreign market development, research into new and value-added corn uses, and education about the corn industry.

"Anyone who watched this year's Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway -- and people all over the world did -- saw a world-class race at a world-class facility," he said. "If you live in Iowa, or the Midwest, you already have a very good idea of how corn, agriculture, and auto racing fit together. Now, you also know why Iowa Corn, Iowa Speedway and the Indy Racing League are teaming up to race again. It's a perfect fit and, based on this year's event, racing fans in Iowa and around the country seem to agree."

Franchitti, coming off a victory in the 91st Indianapolis 500, started third and led 96 laps in a race that featured 13 lead changes. Andretti advanced 10 positions to post a season-high finish.

"Back in June the IndyCar Series debuted at the Iowa Speedway and we could not have asked for a more energetic reception," Angstadt said. "Statewide the welcome mat met our arrival and with that still very much in mind we are thrilled to announce a two-year commitment for the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series to race at the Iowa Speedway offering fans the most diverse racing schedule in the world.

"The IndyCar Series prides itself on innovation and the use of 100 percent fuel grade ethanol combined with Iowa Speedway's partnership with the Iowa Corn Growers Association makes the partnership even more relevant."

2. Mutoh successfully passes IndyCar Series rookie test: A few days after his first oval win in the Indy Pro Series at Kentucky Speedway, Super Aguri Panther driver Hideki Mutoh passed his IndyCar Series rookie test at Chicagoland Speedway, clearing the way for his IndyCar Series debut on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland.

Mutoh joined Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira at the 1.5-mile oval near Joliet, Ill., during a two-day test Aug. 14-15, and impressed series and team officials with his consistency and ability to grasp the changes of an IndyCar Series machine. Mutoh will join current Panther drivers Meira and Kosuke Matsuura to form a three-car effort for the 2007 season finale.

"It was a very productive two days and I was able to pass the rookie test," said Mutoh, who will drive the No. 60 Formula Dream Panther Dallara Honda. "I was able to learn how the changes affect the car and tried different car balances too. I am very happy that we were able to practice pit stops, and I now know what it's like. I enjoyed the test and I cannot wait for the Chicagoland race."

Team owner John Barnes, who has developed young IndyCar Series talent before -- including former series and Indy 500 champions Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon -- was especially impressed by the young Japanese driver.

"Hideki did unbelievably well in the test," Barnes said. "He continues to impress everybody at Panther with his ability to adapt to these race cars and our style of open-wheel racing. We tested a lot with him over the two days at Chicagoland. He didn't get to run in traffic, because there wasn't any, but we worked on pit stops, starts, restarts and in- and out-laps. We're training him to be a champion, and that takes a lot more than just going fast. I know he's excited, and we are too, about the opportunity to see him run an IndyCar Series race at Chicagoland."

IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch oversaw the test and was impressed with Mutoh.

"Hideki is one of the most talented young drivers I have seen in a while," Blanch said. "He's had the opportunity to drive the IndyCar Series car several times this season due to the bonus testing program. He's very consistent and provides very good feedback. He should do very well."

3. Gilbert will run marathon, compete in doubleheader: When Micky Gilbert climbs into the No. 54 Mile High Motorsports car at Infineon Raceway Aug. 25-26, he may be the Indy Pro Series driver most physically capable of tackling the demanding 12-turn, 2.26-mile course.

The 36-year-old, who has made eight career starts in the series, will be returning to action following his second marathon of the year -- the grueling Pikes Peak Marathon that features a 7,800-foot elevation gain on the east face of Pikes Peak.

"Completing the Boston Marathon earlier this year was a tremendous accomplishment," said Gilbert, who has competed in nine marathons. "That's one of the most well-known marathons in the world. This one, however, will be really tough. I love doing a lot of crazy endurance stuff like this. I've been training hard for it."

The marathon, set for Aug. 19, features a 13.3-mile ascent up the mountain followed by an identical trip down. Most of the run is on a United States Forest Service Trail -- described in the marathon's literature as "a narrow, winding trail on gravel, rocks or dirt" -- that passes such landmarks as No Name Creek and Bob's Road.

Following the marathon, which will benefit Denver Rescue Mission, Gilbert will return to his other racing passion -- open-wheel cars. It will be his first race in the Indy Pro Series since the Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in mid-June.

"This was our first year as a team in the Indy Pro Series, and at times it's been a bit tough financially," said Gilbert, who recorded two top-10 finishes at Infineon Raceway last year in his Indy Pro Series debut. "Things are really looking good now, however. I'm looking forward to getting back into the car at Infineon, and we're looking good to run the entire season in 2008."


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 Rusty Wallace , Dario Franchitti , Dan Wheldon , Marco Andretti , Kosuke Matsuura , Hideki Mutoh , John Barnes , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing