INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 11, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Tight title fight for Indy Pro Series 2. Fastenal to back Fisher at Kentucky 3. IndyCar Series, DIS Discussing Compatibility Test 4. Chesson qualifies for Knoxville ...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 11, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Tight title fight for Indy Pro Series
2. Fastenal to back Fisher at Kentucky
3. IndyCar Series, DIS Discussing Compatibility Test
4. Chesson qualifies for Knoxville Nationals "C"-Main
5. Of note
1. Tight title fight for Indy Pro Series: Four races to go, one-third of the season, and six drivers remain in the thick of the battle for the Indy Pro Series championship.
Jay Howard, Bobby Wilson, Jonathan Klein, Jaime Camara, Nick Bussell and Wade Cunningham are involved in the closest point race in Indy Pro Series history. The group is separated by just 64 points.
"The championship is really hard to predict," Bussell said. "There have been so many different winners this season, there's not one person who's in control. There are quite a few guys with a good shot at it. Jay is sitting pretty good, but Bobby Wilson is right there. Even Wade isn't out of it, especially with the way he's been running."
The remaining schedule features two races on 1.5-mile ovals, Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway and the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway, and two races on a road course, a doubleheader weekend at Infineon Raceway.
"I'm not very happy with the lead I have as such," said Howard, who has held the point lead since round four, the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I think it could have been bigger. As long as we don't have any more dramas, mistakes, we should go on and win. I am fortunate to have a 30-point lead."
Howard won the pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this season, the only 1.5-mile track the series has competed on in 2006, and earned his first career victory on the 1.33-mile oval at Nashville. His No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon car sat on the pole the past two seasons at Kentucky with Travis Gregg behind the wheel.
"If Kentucky goes to plan -- we tested there and the car was good -- then we should be in good shape," Howard said.
Howard's nearest competitors are Wilson and Klein who are 30 and 31 points behind the leader, respectively.
Wilson, whose win this season came on the road course at Watkins Glen, hopes a solid finish at Kentucky keeps him within striking distance for Infineon.
"I'm looking for a consistent finish at Kentucky, and can't wait to get to Infineon," said Wilson, whose average finish is 5.75 in four oval races this season. "In the oval races, anything can happen, so it would be nice to get out of there with a solid finish. We're looking to dominate at Infineon. I think we should have a very good car."
Klein has his eyes set on passing Wilson for second at Kentucky and moving in on Howard down the road.
"I need to maximize points by all means necessary at Kentucky," said Klein, who qualified second at Homestead. "I'm only one point behind Bobby, and I know he'll be one of the strongest cars at Infineon, and that's a double weekend. Jay's 31 points ahead, but one DNF and I could be right there. It's real cutthroat right now. It's a moment of truth."
Klein is coming off three straight third-place finishes and is looking for his first career victory.
Camara, Bussell and Cunningham are 43, 54 and 64 points back, respectively, and realize they have their work cut out for them.
"Kentucky is a track that you need a very good setup, because you need a car that stays with the same balance until the end of the race. I just need to make sure things proceed the way they are since Nashville," said Camara, who has climbed back into the championship battle with four top-four finishes in the past five races, including a second at Nashville and a win at Milwaukee.
Said Bussell: "Myself, I haven't even thought about the championship. We're so concerned about running better. We haven't been in a position to win, but we're still in contention. Anything can happen on the 1.5-mile ovals. Our best result was on a 1.5, and we've got two of those coming."
The Michigan native finished second at Homestead-Miami and has three consecutive top-six finishes for Cheever Racing.
Cunningham remains the wild card. The defending series champion has nothing to prove, and after missing two races early this season due to illness, can aggressively pursue race wins.
"To win the championship, I'd have to win a majority of the races left and the leaders would have to have horrible luck," Cunningham said. "I'm not banking on that. If you look at the entrant points, we're second, so if we hadn't have missed St Pete we'd be in a much better position."
Cunningham has surged from 14th to sixth in the standings in the last five races with a win and two seconds. He's won three of the last five pole positions and has led laps in four of those five races.
"At Kentucky, we'll roll out a fast car and hope for a repeat of Indy, the test at Nashville and qualifying at Milwaukee. We want to carry our momentum and race at the front."
However things play out at Kentucky, the lead is still Howard's to lose.
"I really don't want to go to Chicago with all types of scenarios in play," he said. 'If so-and-so wins, you have to finish fifth.' That type of thing, because invariably something goes wrong."
2. Fastenal to back Fisher at Kentucky: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced a primary sponsorship agreement with Fastenal for Sarah Fisher's No. 5 Honda Dallara at the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 13.
"We are very excited to have Fastenal join our team as Sarah gets back in the car," said Robbie Buhl, team co-owner. "It's a nice opportunity to develop a relationship with a new sponsor that enjoys and sees the benefit of a sponsorship in motorsports. We are definitely looking forward to having a productive weekend with Sarah in the car and for our newest sponsor, Fastenal.
Fastenal, a Minnesota-based industrial and construction supply company, currently sponsors Bobby Hamilton Jr.'s No. 18 entry in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Their sponsorship of Sarah Fisher's car will be their first entry into the IndyCar Series.
"This is a single-race sponsorship, said Pat Resch, Vice President of Marketing for Fastenal. "It is an excellent opportunity for Fastenal to look at the IndyCar Series as a means of promoting Fastenal. The Meijer Indy 300 is a nationally televised event. We have a full-car promotion setup complete with an in-car camera. We're proud to be a part of this exciting sport and helping bring Sarah Fisher back to her open-wheel race fans."
The 25-year-old Fisher, who won her first pole at Kentucky Motor Speedway in 2003 and owns the track qualifying record there, is very grateful for the support from Fastenal.
"I am so thrilled to have Fastenal join our team for the Meijer Indy 300," said Fisher, who holds the two best finishes by a woman in the IndyCar Series (second and third). "My dad uses a lot of their products in his fabrication business as they have always been a reliable supplier. We look forward to a positive weekend."
3. IndyCar Series, DIS Discussing Compatibility Test: The IndyCar Series and Daytona International Speedway are in discussions regarding a compatibility test at Daytona International Speedway in September.
The potential visit would allow IndyCar Series officials to determine the possibility of Daytona International Speedway to serve as a preseason testing venue.
"We have talked to International Speedway Corp. about alternative warm weather venues for our pre-season testing and that led to discussions regarding a compatibility test at Daytona," said John Lewis, the Indy Racing league's vice president of league development.
The potential compatibility test could allow series officials to see transitions onto the banking, tire wear/side loads and braking zones while looking for any challenging surface areas on the track.
"We're happy to hold discussions with the Indy Racing League on the possibility of using Daytona as a testing venue in the future," said DIS President Robin Braig.
4. Chesson qualifies for Knoxville Nationals "C"-Main: IndyCar Series driver P.J. Chesson made some noise at the 46th Knoxville Nationals on Aug. 9. After qualifying 43rd of 62 cars, he drove the No. 55K 410 sprint car to victory in his heat race.
Chesson, who is wearing the same helmet he wore in the 90th Indianapolis 500, then finished 13th in the 25-lap A Feature. After qualifying action Aug. 10, Chesson qualified for the "C" Main race on Aug. 12 with 388 points.
"We just weren't very good on the restarts, but on those long runs I was really gassing it," said Chesson, who signed autographs from 3-4 p.m. (local time) at the Iowa Speedway booth on the Knoxville Raceway midway on Aug. 10. "Damn, that's fun getting on the gas and busting through the field. I'm just going to keep giving them hell out here and see what happens on Saturday.
"It's great to be back here with these race fans. I can't believe how many people came up to me and said they we're proud that I made Indy this year. The really get it."
5. Of note: Alex Lloyd will return to the #26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers entry in the Indy Pro Series after missing the last two events with an illness. Rookies C.R. Crews, Ben Petter and Racer Kashima will also race in the WAMZ 100. Crews will make his first Indy Pro Series start on an oval, driving for Guthrie Racing while Petter, a midget car driver from Redmond, Wash., will make his series debut with Michael Crawford Motorsports. Kashima, who was the first Japanese driver to race in the series in 2004, also will drive for Michael Crawford Motorsports. -- Marco Andretti is currently 7th in IndyCar Series points. This is the highest a rookie has been in points with three races to go since Felipe Giaffone was 4th in the standings at this point in the 2001 season. Giaffone finished sixth. -- The top six drivers in the 2006 IndyCar Series standings have an average finish of 6.49.
The next IndyCar Series event is the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC Sports and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Kentucky 100 on August 13 at Kentucky Speedway.