IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-04-19

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- April 19, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Road To Indy: Rice Aims For Back-To-Back Indy 500 Victories 2. Liberty Challenge at Indianapolis set for June 18 1. Road To Indy: Rice Aims For Back-To-Back Indy 500...

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- April 19, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Road To Indy: Rice Aims For Back-To-Back Indy 500 Victories
2. Liberty Challenge at Indianapolis set for June 18

1. Road To Indy: Rice Aims For Back-To-Back Indy 500 Victories: Buddy Rice returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May with an unfamiliar title -- defending Indianapolis 500 Champion. Rice will attempt to become the fifth driver in race history to score back-to-back Indianapolis 500 victories, a feat last accomplished by fellow IRL IndyCar® Series competitor Helio Castroneves in 2002.

"Right now my main focus is to keep running up front and come back here (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and try to do the double-up," Rice said. "It's definitely possible. I'm with the right team and the right package to do that. So that would be great to come back here in 2005 and win again and go from there."

Last season, Rice came to Indianapolis as a substitute driver for the injured Kenny Brack. Rice completed a hat trick during the month of May, winning the MBNA Pole Award, the Checkers/Rally Pit Stop Competition and of course, the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500.

"I had to come in and fill in for a former points winner and 500 winner with Kenny (Brack), and those were big shoes to fill. That guy, he's done a lot in his lifetime and to step into that kind of position, and have to work with that team that fast on all the new adjustments they made, but also they had to overcome that crash that he had. And to go from there, obviously you knew early on in the season I was in for the full season but still we had a lot of makeup to do and things to take care of," Rice said.

The Indianapolis 500 win jump-started the momentum in Rice's chase for the 2004 IndyCar Series championship. Following his win at Indianapolis, Rice scored victories at Kansas Speedway and Michigan International Speedway and finished third in the championship driver point standings. During the off-season, Rice signed a multi-year contract with Rahal Letterman Racing to pilot the No. 15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer car.

"Finally by the 500, everything had come together for us and that got the ball rolling for us, and that helped us chase to third in the championship. Obviously, we had some unfortunate incidents throughout the year, but some were self-inflicted on our own, and some we couldn't control. But we had an excellent '04 season, and I come back for my second full year, not only with Rahal Letterman, but for my second full year in the IRL, and we're hoping for big things. Obviously, we haven't started off exactly how we wanted to, but I think there's plenty of time right now to make up the ground and do what we have to do this year," Rice said.

The Indy 500 victory set off a whirlwind tour of events, including a trip to the White House to meet President Bush, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a New York Yankees game and ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. But its Rice's win at Indianapolis, his first in the IndyCar Series, he'll savor most.

"It's been just a dream come true. I mean, to be able to do, one, just to even come and race at this facility and be someone that can take part in is one thing and then to be one of the elites that wins it. I still don't think it's settled and it will be another few years probably before I completely understand the full effect of winning the 500," Rice said.

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2. Liberty Challenge at Indianapolis set for June 18: The date and name for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù race on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been determined, Indy Racing League officials announced. The Liberty Challenge will take place on Saturday, June 18 at 5:45 p.m. EDT as part of the United States Grand Prix weekend.

"We couldn't be happier," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. "We expect an enthusiastic crowd at the track that afternoon for Formula One qualifying, and we look forward to putting on a good show for them."

The Liberty Challenge will mark the first time that the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, the top ladder series for the Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series, will race independently of the IndyCar Series.

Practice and qualifying for the Liberty Challenge will take place on Friday, June 17 at 10:15 a.m. EDT and 1:30 p.m. EDT, respectively, and will bookend Formula One's first practice session.

The 25-lap Liberty Challenge will conclude a day that includes F1 practice and qualifying as well as support races by Formula BMW USA and Porsche Supercup.

The Menards Infiniti Pro Series will be the first series to race on both the 2.5-mile oval and the 2.605-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Futaba Freedom 100 will be conducted on the oval on Miller Lite Carb Day, Friday, May 27 as part of the Indianapolis 500 race weekend. The cars will race on the road course just 22 days later.

"Indianapolis has more racing history than any other track I can think of," said Travis Gregg, the series points leader after three races. "Every young racer growing up dreams of racing at Indy. We not only get to race there once but twice, which is unbelievable. Racing on Carb Day, and then coming back and racing in front of the Formula One fans during the Formula One weekend, it doesn't get much better than that."

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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" and webcast on indycar.com. 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.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Kenny Brack , Roger Bailey , Travis Gregg