IPS: IRL: Indy RAcing League News and Notes 2008-01-28

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Innovations will add to safety in 2008 2. GAINSCO Auto Insurance sponsors season opener 3. Top-10 finishes at Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona 1. Innovations will add to safety in 2008: Safety ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Innovations will add to safety in 2008
2. GAINSCO Auto Insurance sponsors season opener
3. Top-10 finishes at Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

1. Innovations will add to safety in 2008: Safety continues to drive innovation at the IndyCar Series. The series will introduce paddle shifting and a variable assist steering rack for the 2008 season. Both will increase driver safety.

A new paddle shifting system mounted on the steering wheel will replace the manual shift lever that was previously located next to a driver's leg. The system will be mandatory at every track except Indianapolis.

"We're using technology to enhance the way we go racing and to increase the safety of our competitors," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series.

Various drivers tested both components at times during 2007, including a post-season Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

"Obviously technology is advancing, so that's where it's coming from," 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice said. "I think it's definitely going to make it easier to drive, because you don't have to take your hands off the steering wheel. It's a different technique than when you had the lever. Some of these spots where you couldn't shift, because maybe the g-loads or something, you'll be able to drive it and shift and not take your hands off the wheel, so obviously from a safety aspect of things it will be better."

The variable assist steering rack is a mechanical system that fits the existing steering housing. It will be an optional addition for all teams in 2008. The system eases the steering effort the farther the wheel is turned.

"The steering rack will help at tracks like Sonoma where there's a bunch of elevation change and the steering locks up in some places," Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe said. "It should make it safer and you might tweak more speed out of the car."

All teams will have the systems in place for the first Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway Feb. 27-28.

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2. GAINSCO Auto Insurance sponsors season opener: GAINSCO Auto Insurance will sponsor the IndyCar Series 2008 season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29.

The 200-lap GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 will be contested under the lights on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval and will be telecast live on ESPN2.

"It's a great opportunity for us," said Andy Jordan, the senior vice president of corporate marketing for the company that has its roots in south Florida. "We have well over 1,000 (independent insurance) agents in the Florida marketplace. To get them up close to racing is a passion of GAINSCO's and what our sponsorship activation is all about. We hope it will build the event in the Miami market for years to come."

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3. Top-10 finishes at Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona: Four Indy Racing League drivers recorded top-10 finishes at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Jan. 26-27, including Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, who co-drove a Daytona Prototype to third place overall, and Indy Pro Series rookie Raphael Matos, who co-drove a GT to first in its class and ninth overall.

"It was awesome to start the season like that," said Castroneves. "Yes, you want to win but with the problems we had it feels like a reward to finish on the podium. Everybody worked really hard to put this project together in only four to six weeks and it was an incredible result."

Rahal Letterman Racing's Ryan Hunter-Reay co-drove the No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews car with Marc Goosens, Jim Matthews and Johnny O'Connell to eighth overall. Hunter-Reay led the 66-car field for 10 laps in the early morning hours.

"It was pretty cool to be running up front in this race," said Hunter-Reay. "It reminded me of my karting days when it was fun just to be out there. Just too bad not many people were awake to see (him lead)."

Other IndyCar Series regular drivers and their finish:

* Ed Carpenter, Vitor Meira, A.J. Foyt IV (No. 03 Vision Racing Daytona Prototype) finished 25th (12th in class). The team was running 13th overall with 1 hour, 18 minutes left with Carpenter onboard when smoke from the car was reported and it made contact with the Turn 6 wall. It retired with engine problems after completing 615 laps.

* Buddy Rice (No. 58 Brumos Racing Daytona) finished 27th (13th in class).

* Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Alex Lloyd (No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Daytona Prototype) finished 44th (18th) in class. A few off-course adventures accumulated to knock out the entry with 515 laps completed in the 18th hour.

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on 11 ovals, three permanent road courses and two temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with ABC Sports/ ESPN. The 2008 Indy Pro Series season also begins on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, which features eight ovals and four road/street course doubleheader weekends, will be televised by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Jim Matthews , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Felix Sabates , Brian Barnhart , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske