Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Sept. 8, 2004 Today's IRL headlines 1. IndyCar Series Drivers Head To IROC Event 2. Manning To Return To Ganassi in 2005 3. Line Up For Autographs 1. IndyCar Series Drivers Head To IROC Event: IRL IndyCarÂ®...
Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Sept. 8, 2004
Today's IRL headlines
1. IndyCar Series Drivers Head To IROC Event
2. Manning To Return To Ganassi in 2005
3. Line Up For Autographs
1. IndyCar Series Drivers Head To IROC Event: IRL IndyCar® Series drivers Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Scott Sharp will hit the track a day before cars are scheduled for on-track activity at Chicagoland Speedway.
Castroneves, Dixon and Sharp will represent the Indy Racing League in the third round of the Crown Royal International Race of Champions on Sept. 9 at Richmond International Raceway. The race, the series' first on a short track, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (EDT) and will be broadcast by Speed Channel.
"At the beginning it was like wow, very different from what I'm used to," said Castroneves, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who is fourth in IndyCar Series points. "I am just starting to get comfortable, but these cars don't have the wings like the Indy cars for downforce. So you have to slow down, otherwise you're going to spin, and I almost spun like three, four, five times. After a while, I realized I have to take it a little easier."
The IndyCar Series trio was joined by World of Outlaws stars Steve Kinser, Danny Lasoski and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Kurt Busch on Sept.7 for a practice day at the .75-mile oval. The IndyCar Series raced at the track on June 26, but racing the identically prepared cars at the track provided a new experience for Dixon.
"I seem to get down in the lap times close enough but getting that last tenth or two seems to be pretty difficult," the reigning IndyCar Series champion said. "Kurt (Busch) seems to do it pretty well but I'm struggling a little, trying to carry the speed a little more into the corner. There's lots of different ways to get through the corner, there's people going in deep, people going in early trying to save the right front and get a little more speed off the corner. It's hard to really know what to do having never driven these cars on a short circuit, but it's a lot of fun and a lot different from the bigger circuits in the IROC cars."
Dixon starts on the front row of the race, based on his 11th-place standing in the points. Sharp, who is 10th in points, will start third. Castroneves, who is tied for sixth, starts sixth.
"It's going to be a different race," Sharp said. "I think the open-wheel drivers have a better chance when it's a drafting track. Not to say we're drafting experts, but if you can get tucked up with a NASCAR guy he can pull you along and you can follow his moves, you have a better chance. Here (Richmond) it will really pay dividends to the guys who are used to driving these cars."
The open-wheel drivers were tutored on the finer points of driving a stock car on a short track while riding with IROC test driver Dave Marcis in the Crown Royal two-seater car.
Marcis communicated with his passengers via two-way radio, talking through each lap as he demonstrated various racing grooves, braking points and acceleration techniques.
"I'm sure glad I came today," Sharp said. "A smaller track like this where you have to use the brakes so much, waiting on the car throughout the aspects of the corner, continuing to turn the car, being very gentle when you pick up the throttle. All of that is so uncharacteristic of what we're used to. So it's invaluable that Dave Marcis, Jay and Jim Sauter get us out there and work us through some laps because we really need them."
2. Manning To Return To Ganassi in 2005: Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced Sept. 8 that it will retain driver Darren Manning for the 2005 IndyCar Series season.
"We are very excited to continue our relationship with Darren, who has shown this season what a talented driver he is and how eager he is to learn and grow with our team," team owner Chip Ganassi said. "He has adapted quickly to every challenge and will certainly be an asset to the Target team as the IRL prepares to go road racing next season. We wanted to continue to build our relationship with Darren and look forward to a successful season with what we feel is a strong formula for success in the coming year with both he and Scott Dixon, as well as our partners, Target, Toyota and Panoz G Force."
Manning joined Target Chip Ganassi Racing in November 2003 as driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. He has finished in the top-five on four occasions including an IndyCar Series career-best fourth place in Japan, Nashville and Pikes Peak.
"I'm thrilled to be returning with the Target team for the 2005 season," Manning said. "Coming to a championship team and a class organization with a legacy for winning was an opportunity not many drivers get to have, but Chip Ganassi and the Target team gave me that chance to prove myself.
"It's given me a level of confidence and stability that I've never known and that I can truly appreciate. The team shared their vast and invaluable experience with me, provided a competitive car ever race weekend, and together we have had some measure of success. This past season was an incredible learning experience, and I'm excited to be given the chance to continue to build on the relationships I have forged here, because I truly believe that is a very important ingredient in the recipe for future success."
3. Line Up For Autographs: IndyCar Series and IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers will take part in a number of autograph sessions at Chicagoland Speedway and in the Chicagoland area.
On Sept. 9, Panther Racing's Tomas Scheckter and Townsend Bell will greet customers at the Menards store on West Jefferson Street in Joliet, Ill. from 4-7 p.m. The Indy Racing Challenge, Indy Racing Pit Stop Challenge and Indy Racing Kids components of the Indy Racing League Fan Experience also will be in the parking lot. From 5-7 p.m., Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers Paul Dana, Jesse Mason and Leonardo Maia will greet fans at the Infiniti dealership in Lisle, Ill.
That same day, IndyCar Series and Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers also will meet fans and sign autographs at 4 p.mat the ESPN Zone in downtown Chicago. A free concert featuring 1999 Indianapolis 500 Champion Kenny Brack and his band, Kenny Brack and the Subwoofers will follow. Fans will be able to put their driving skills to the test on the Indy Racing League's virtual reality driving simulator, which will be parked outside.
IndyCar Series drivers scheduled to appear include Alex Barron, Ed Carpenter, Adrian Fernandez, Dario Franchitti, Felipe Giaffone, Kosuke Matsuura, Vitor Meira and 2004 Indianapolis 500 Champion Buddy Rice. Additionally, Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers Thiago Medeiros, P.J. Chesson, Phil Giebler and Al Unser will participate in the autograph appearance.
Earlier in the day, Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Felipe Giaffone and team co-owner Robbie Buhl will greet patients at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago as part of the Aventis Racing for Kids program. Buhl is the longtime national spokesman for the organization.
Andretti Green Racing driver Tony Kanaan and team co-owner Kim Green will attend the International Machine and Tool Show at McCormack Place Convention Center in Chicago. Kanaan will join teammates Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta at an event at the Chicago Karting Center.
IndyCar Series and Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers will sign autographs at Chicagoland Speedway from 6:15-7:15 p.m. Sept. 11.
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Delphi Indy 300 at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 12 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series event is the Chicagoland 100 at 5 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 11 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Sept. 16.