IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-04-11

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 11, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. IndyCar Series teams gear up for Infineon test 2. Kanaan, Wheldon earn First-Quarter Driver of Year nominations 3. Steady Bussell shows improvement 1. IndyCar Series...


Today's IRL headlines
1. IndyCar Series teams gear up for Infineon test
2. Kanaan, Wheldon earn First-Quarter Driver of Year nominations
3. Steady Bussell shows improvement

1. IndyCar Series teams gear up for Infineon test: Dario Franchitti has been approached with the question so often he's hearing it in his sleep.

"What's the course like at Infineon Raceway?"

IndyCar Series drivers and teams will have their first opportunity to get acclimated with the rolling terrain and sweeping corners of the 2.2-mile, 12-turn course during an Open Test on April 12-13. The first road-course event in the 10-year history of the IndyCar Series will be hosted by the facility in the scenic Napa Valley on Aug. 28.

Franchitti is the only driver with open-wheel experience at Infineon Raceway, having completed 70 laps in an Indy Racing League compatibility test in November.

"I've never seen a track with elevation changes like this," said Franchitti, who finished third in the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 3. "This place is going to be a challenge for drivers. It's a fun, quick track."

Teams will use the same brake and aerodynamic package that worked so well over the three days of practice, qualifying and racing in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"You hear a lot of the horror stories around street circuits, and I think that's a testament to our technical staff, the car that's been put together, and the quality of our teams and drivers that everything went off so well," IRL president and COO Brian Barnhart said. "They put on what I think in terms of street racing was one of the best street races I've seen. Our ability to do that in our debut event is a great testimony to our technical staff and teams, and I'm proud of them."

IRL senior technical director Les Mactaggart said the smooth transition of the package from oval racing to the street course (and now road course) is a product of development over the past two years. Road-course radiators and sidepods mandated as part of the 2004 update kits helped eliminate any cooling issues associated with taking cars from high-speed to low-speed circuits. Suspension and braking changes also were addressed during off-season testing.

"I don't think I was surprised really because of the testing we had done from December all the way up to the race at St. Petersburg," Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Darren Manning said. "The car's actually been driving and cornering probably better than the Champ car. You know how many years of development they've had for putting them on a road course. But the IRL did a great job of seeing what we needed to put a competitive race out there. The cars are fun to drive."

Mactaggart, with driver feedback and telemetry data available, said development of the package is on-going.

"We did have one mechanical failure, but in motor racing you expect some level of that," he said. "Regardless of series, you want to make the parts as reliable as possible, but you also want to make it as light as possible. Until you get that aspect right, you expect mechanical issues. There are a number of things that cause the failure to occur. So for the very few we faced, we were pleasantly surprised."

Race fans will be admitted free to the test sessions (12:30-4:30 p.m. local time April 12 and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. April 13). The main grandstand at the start-finish line will be open, and there will be a driver Q&A session with fans at 11:30 a.m. April 12.


2. Kanaan, Wheldon earn First-Quarter Driver of Year nominations: Reigning IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan and his Andretti Green Racing teammate Dan Wheldon are among the first-quarter nominees for the Speed Channel Driver of the Year.

Wheldon, driver of the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone and current series pointsleader, recorded two victories in the first three IndyCar Series events of the year to earn his nomination, while Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda Firestone, recorded three top-three finishes.

Wheldon and Kanaan are joined on the fan's online ballot by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick and World of Outlaws standouts Steve Kinser and Craig Dollansky. The ballot, however, is not limited to the drivers nominated for the fan's ballot.

An 18-member panel will select the winner of the award. Fans can participate in voting via an online ballot, located at Speed Channel's web site,, through April 20. Results will be released on April 23.

At the end of the year, a special separate vote will be held for the Speed Channel 2005 Driver of the Year.


3. Steady Bussell shows improvement: Nick Bussell keeps moving forward. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series rookie, who opened the season with sixth- and fifth-place finishes, recorded his first podium finish April 3 in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"I'm happy with the result," said Bussell, who celebrated his 22nd birthday during race weekend. "It was great to be on the podium in the first-ever Indy Racing League race on the street course. The course is one of the finest in the world, and the fans were awesome. I met lots of people at the autograph session and many were attending their first race. They were all genuinely fired up. It really helps to be around that kind of enthusiasm."

Bussell, a native of Ionia, Mich., was consistently quick all weekend. In Friday practice, he was among a group of four drivers who at one point were third-quick in the session. He finished the day sixth, but was less than a second off the pace of the fastest car.

In qualifying, Bussell turned in the fourth-best time to earn a starting position on the outside of Row 2.

Bussell avoided a Turn 1 accident at the start of the race, which eliminated the second- and fifth-place starters. Bussell held on to fourth place until Lap 13 of the 40-lap race when he moved into third for the remainder of the event.

"There were three really good passing spots and one more difficult one," he said. "I was struggling with a bit of understeer in two corners, so the only way I was going to pass was if one of the cars in front of me made a mistake. Unfortunately, we didn't get that opportunity."

The strong finish moved Bussell, a former World Karting Association champion, into fourth place in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series standings. He'll soon begin preparations for the Futaba Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27.


The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Indy Japan 300 on April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast by ESPN at Noon (EDT) on April 30 and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 29. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Darren Manning , Kevin Harvick , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Jimmie Johnson , Dan Wheldon , Steve Kinser , Carl Edwards , Chip Ganassi , Craig Dollansky , Nick Bussell , Brian Barnhart , Jim Beam
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing