IRL: Dan Wheldon aims for fourth Rookie of the Year title

One of those goals is to win his first Indy Racing League (IRL)IndyCar Series race in 2003 while another is to bring home the IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year title -- to add to the Rookie titles he claimed in 1999 (US Ford 2000), 2000 (CART...

One of those goals is to win his first Indy Racing League (IRL)IndyCar Series race in 2003 while another is to bring home the IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year title -- to add to the Rookie titles he claimed in 1999 (US Ford 2000), 2000 (CART Toyota Atlantic) and 2001 (CART Dayton Indy Lights).

The Klein Tools / Jim Beam team can get another step closer to the 2003 Rookie of the Year crown this weekend during the 400-mile race at California Speedway, the penultimate race of this year's Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. Although Wheldon has not yet raced an IndyCar at California, the team tested at the two-mile oval last week to give him some experience at the track and in 2001 he finished second there in the last ever CART Dayton Indy Lights race.

25-year old Wheldon is coming off his strongest performance of the year, posted at Chicagoland Speedway on 7 September, where he led his first laps in the IndyCar Series and finished fourth -- just 0.1245 of a second behind the race winner! Wheldon also closed the gap on Rookie of the Year points leader, Roger Yasukawa. Wheldon now trails Yasukawa by only 10 points with two races remaining, despite only competing in 12 of the 14 races run this year.

Wheldon's points surge began at Nashville Superspeedway where he earned his first career top-five finish. Including that race, Wheldon has finished in the top-10 in five of the last six races,including three top-five finishes.

Qualifying for the California Speedway event will take place on Saturday at 2pm (EDT). The race is set for Sunday at 3.30pm (EDT) and will be broadcast live on ABC Sports.

Dan Wheldon -- from Emberton in Buckinghamshire, England -- said 'I'm really looking forward to racing at California Speedway. The Klein Tools / Jim Beam crew did two days of testing there and the IndyCar Series is so competitive now that you don't have a day where you sit back and think, 'We did well this weekend, we will just relax and go to the next race' -- it is not like that. Every team is striving to improve their performance, and that is why we are working hard to improve ours. You have to make sure that your car is going to be good for the race, so when you come to the race weekend and you put it in a situation where there is a lot of traffic, it will work well.'

Tony Cotman, Team Manager, Klein Tools / Jim Beam, commented: 'We are looking to build on our string of good finishes. Our focus is to get a win before the year ends and if we get one that should take care of the Rookie of the Year title. The racing is going to be as competitive as Chicago,so we'll need to be able to run all day with a good race set-up and not make any mistakes.'

-www.danwheldon.com

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Jim Beam