IRL: Homestead open test Notebook 2003-02-17

Homestead-Miami Open Test Notebook: Brazilians to have special race section; Giaffone happy with IROC experience. HOMESTEAD, Fla., Monday, Feb. 17, 2003 -- Brazilians living in the Miami area are encouraged to celebrate the Brazilian holiday of...

Homestead-Miami Open Test Notebook:
Brazilians to have special race section; Giaffone happy with IROC experience.

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Monday, Feb. 17, 2003 -- Brazilians living in the Miami area are encouraged to celebrate the Brazilian holiday of Carnaval at the Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Section 220 of the main grandstand is reserved for "Carnaval Brazil," a section from which all Brazilian racing fans can cheer their favorite driver.

Brazilian drivers will be well represented in the Toyota Indy 300. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and two-time CART champion Gil de Ferran are from Brazil and now live in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., respectively. Other Brazilian drivers include Miami resident Tony Kanaan, who drives for Andretti Green Racing and Orlando, Fla., resident Felipe Giaffone, who drives for Mo Nunn Racing. Brazilian Vitor Meira also has tested during this offseason for Team Menard.

"The Brazilian fans should definitely go to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Toyota Indy 300," Castroneves said. "They will have the time of their life. The engine noise will be louder than the samba music at Carnaval, and the wheel-to-wheel racing will be incredible."

Said Giaffone: "That Carnaval Brazil section is going to be really neat. If you know Brazilians the way I know Brazilians, I'm sure you'll see what a real party crowd is all about. How can you possibly go wrong when you combine two things Brazilians are most passionate about: car racing and Carnaval?

"Seems like me and my fellow Brazilian drivers are going to feel very much at home racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway that day. Who knows? If I get a good result, I might go up and join them for a big celebration."

Tickets for the Toyota Indy 300 and the Carnaval Brazil reserved section can be ordered by calling (305) 230-RACE, logging on to www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com or at any Ticketmaster outlet.

***

Giaffone enjoys first IROC experience: Felipe Giaffone, the 2001 IRL IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year, enjoyed another rookie experience Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway, competing in his first True Value IROC event.

The True Value IROC series is racing's "all-star game." Twelve of the best drivers from various series compete in equally prepared stock cars in a four-race series. Giaffone competed in the series for the first time at Daytona with fellow IndyCar Series drivers Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr., who are in their second season of IROC competition.

NASCAR Winston Cup driver Mark Martin won the event, while Giaffone finished 10th. Hornish and Castroneves finished eighth and 11th, respectively.

"I had a great time there even though the result wasn't great," Giaffone said. "I had a lot of fun. There's a lot of bumps you have to get used to, and the draft is a different type of draft. It's not the same that we have here."

Giaffone got some tips from NASCAR Winston Cup star Jimmie Johnson, who finished third in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16.

"Johnson was very nice," Giaffone said. "It was actually nice to see that all of them (IROC drivers from NASCAR) did good in the (Daytona 500)."

Martin finished second in the Daytona 500 while Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, who also competed in the IROC race, finished second and fourth, respectively, in the rain-shortened event.

"We're running with the best guys," Giaffone said. "They're all very nice, very down-to-earth and no big egos."

The next IROC race is April 5 at Talladega Superspeedway, but Giaffone is now focused full time on the Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23 at Phoenix International Raceway, the first two IRL IndyCar Series events of the season.

"At IROC, once I get to the track, I'm fully dedicated to it," Giaffone said. "But to be honest, right now I'm not think about Talladega. I'm focused not just on Homestead but all the races. IROC is a part-time job."

***

Homestead-Miami Speedway gearing up: Curtis Gray, president of Homestead-Miami Speedway, said he and his staff eagerly await the Toyota Indy 300 IRL IndyCar Series race and the Miami 100 Infiniti Pro Series event.

"We're very excited to be the first race of the year," Gray said. "We have a very unique market, and I think it's a great market for the Indy Racing League right now because you have a good mixture of drivers, and especially from different nationalities. There are good American drivers, good Brazilian drivers and drivers from all over the world that are going to help us promote now and in the future.

"As people continue to learn how unique this type of racing is, it's going to continue to draw. This is a perfect market for IndyCar (Series) racing, and I think it has a really bright future."

***

Super Aguri Fernandez Racing pulling double duty: Super Aguri Fernandez Racing is one of two teams competing in both the Indy Racing League and CART in 2003. The team is a branch of Fernandez Racing, which is in its third year and owned by veteran CART driver Adrian Fernandez, who will compete in CART in 2003. Rookie Roger Yasukawa will compete for the team in the IndyCar Series.

Tom Anderson, managing director for the team, has been with Fernandez Racing since the inception of the team and will handle the business side of the CART effort while serving in a team manager role for the IndyCar Series effort.

"It's going to be a challenge having cars on both side of the fence, so to speak," Anderson said. "The cars are obviously extremely different, although on given weekends they do the same thing, as CART does do oval races as well. It's a learning curve for us and for our driver Roger Yasukawa, who did a great job in the (Toyota) Atlantic series last year and has looked really good in the preseason testing that we've done. We've tried to give him a lot of miles and keep him in race trim so the car is good and stable.

"There's an awful lot to learn, because you can learn a lot testing, but when it comes to racing, that's a different deal. No matter how much we test, he's not going to race until we get back here for the season opener."

Anderson indicated that the team is considering a second car for the Indianapolis 500 with Fernandez behind the wheel. Fernandez competed at Indy in 1994 and 1995, falling out of both races with mechanical failures and scoring a best finish of 21st in 1995 after completing 176 laps.

"We've given Indy a lot of thought, and we would really like to run Adrian at the Speedway," Anderson said. "It is not done yet. Right now, I'd say we're probably 50/50 on whether or not that could happen. It's obviously going to put a lot of strain on Adrian to do that as the first week of qualifying, Adrian will be in Germany at Lausitz (for a CART race), so it only gives him a few days.

"We've got a lot of confidence in our engineer, John Dick, who's been to Indy before and won in 1990 with Arie Luyendyk. If Roger's had a good month, and if we have a second car there, depending on what our friends at Honda say, it could be a good thing. I wouldn't rule anything out."

Team Rahal is the other team competing in the IndyCar Series and CART in 2003.

***

Castroneves still hearing about IROC: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is still hearing friends and fans talk about his amazing save during the season-opening True Value IROC race Feb. 14 at Daytona International Speedway.

Castroneves was running second to NASCAR Winston Cup star Jimmie Johnson. Another car touched Castroneves' car, sending Castroneves into a spin into the infield grass. Castroneves returned to the track at the pit road exit entering Turn 1 at the tail of the field, but he didn't lose the all-important aerodynamic draft from the pack of cars.

The crowd went wild. And many of the veteran stock-car drivers praised Castroneves -- in only his second year of IROC -- for the save after the race. When the tape of race was broadcast on ESPN on Feb. 16, Castroneves' phone starting ringing.

"Everybody said: 'I saw it. That was a hell of a job,'" Castroneves said. "Even Roger (Penske) came up to me and said, 'Hey, man, people are still talking about IROC and that save you did.' I saw it on the TV yesterday and said, 'Yeah, good job, Helio.'"

Castroneves finished 11th in the race.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Kurt Busch , Felipe Giaffone , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Tony Kanaan , Jimmie Johnson , Roger Yasukawa , Tom Anderson , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mark Martin , Mo Nunn , Vitor Meira