IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-08-01

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 1, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. AGR's 'team player' scores popular win at Michigan 2. AGR continues impressive streak 3. Several share post-race rewards 4. Firestone poster to benefit charity 5. Foyt ...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 1, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. AGR's 'team player' scores popular win at Michigan
2. AGR continues impressive streak
3. Several share post-race rewards
4. Firestone poster to benefit charity
5. Foyt prepares for big screen debut

1. AGR's 'team player' scores popular win at Michigan: Over the last two seasons, Bryan Herta has received a lot of credit for Andretti Green Racing's success, but had little to show for it in terms of results.

As the veteran of Andretti Green Racing's four-driver lineup, Herta's role was to be the "team player." His knowledge and technical feedback was essential in AGR's development into the IRL IndyCar® Series' most-dominant team, and his influence showed in the results of teammates Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti, who had combined to win 14 of the last 25 IndyCar Series events.

Herta, though, hadn't won a race since Kansas Speedway in 2003 as Franchitti's replacement. His 34-race span without a win was the longest drought of any previous winner in the series.

That all changed on July 31.

Herta, who had led a total of 152 laps in his previous 37 IndyCar Series starts, dominated the Firestone Indy 400, leading 159 of the 200 laps.

"I know from the outside, it's easy to see that Dan had won four races, Tony and Dario had won a race, and I hadn't won a race, and I'm on the same team as they are," Herta said. "Clearly, I should have the same opportunities. It was frustrating in a way."

Herta, who started first after claiming his third Marlboro Pole Award of the season, dominated the first half of the race. He steadily pulled away from the pack and built a lead of nearly 13 seconds, surrendering the lead only briefly to pit his Honda-powered Dallara for four tires and fuel.

"Our strategy for the start of the race clearly was to just run full rich and try and lead," Herta said. "This is a race a lot of times nobody wants to lead because it can be a fuel economy run. We just decided this year, so many times we got off strategy, tried to do funky things to win a race, we just said, 'We're going to try to win it on speed today.' We trimmed the car out, tried to do everything to put as much speed as we could, try to sit on the front as much as we could, and it worked."

But the win didn't come without some excitement in the latter stages of the 400-mile race. Herta needed some luck to stay on the lead lap when the caution flag came out during his final pit stop. IRL officials deemed Herta was past the blend line and ahead of the lead pack when the field was frozen, allowing him to remain on the lead lap.

He then showed patience in working his way back to the front and holding off the challenges of Kanaan, Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Tomas Scheckter in the final 20 laps.

"Certainly I knew Tony was taking shots at me and then Dan was," Herta said. "I knew they weren't going -- they weren't looking to gift me a win, and I don't want to win a race that way anyways. It wasn't that they were blocking for me or holding position. It's just I feel most comfortable racing my teammates 'cause I know that we can race close. I have the most confidence racing with my teammates."

And his teammates also took joy in seeing Herta reach victory lane. Wheldon, Kanaan and Franchitti joined the rest of the XM Satellite Radio crew in celebrating.

"It was Herta's day," said Wheldon, who finished second and extended his series points lead. "There's nobody more deserving of a victory than him. He busts his ass for this team more than the other three, and I think sometimes we take the glory. It's just very, very good to see him in victory lane."

***

2. AGR continues impressive streak: Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon's 1-2 finish continued Andretti Green Racing's streak of placing at least one car in the top three of every IndyCar Series race since the Michigan race in 2003.

"It's just been a dream year. Actually for me, it's been a dream since I got out of the car, the way everything has gone with this team," said team co-owner Michael Andretti. "It's just been pure pleasure for me. Working with these guys, it's just been so much fun. To have the success along with the fun has been just amazing to me. I hope we never wake up from this dream.

"Sooner or later you know it's going to come to an end. That's the scary part. When it does, I think it's going to be quite interesting to see how the team reacts, how we can get ourselves back when we lose our way. But that's always a challenge. But right now we're really enjoying this."

***

3. Several share post-race rewards: Several IndyCar Series drivers reaped benefits following the Firestone Indy 400.

Race winner Bryan Herta was presented with an engraved Formula One timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Formula One timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.

The design of the TAG Heuer Formula 1 has been upgraded and redesigned from its original version. It features a titanium-coated steel bezel, protective bumpers, and the six legendary features that define a TAG Heuer sportswatch -- screw-in crown, unidirectional turning bezel, luminescent hands and hour markers, scratch resistant sapphire crystal, water resistance to 200m and a double safety clasp.

Herta also collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 114 of the race, while Townsend Bell posted the fastest race lap, making him eligible for the season-long race for the Argent Mortgage Fastest Lap Award.

Tomas Enge and Dario Franchitti lead in the season-long standings award. Argent will award $25,000 to the entrant of the driver who completes the fastest lap the most number of times in the 2005 IndyCar Series season. Enge and Franchitti each have two fastest laps.

***

4. Firestone poster to benefit charity: Firestone Racing and IndyCar Series magazine are offering fans the chance to own a unique print of Firestone's 10-year anniversary commemorative poster -- signed by all the winning drivers.

A collector's dream, the poster is one of 25 from a limited-edition run signed and numbered by artist Paul Laguette. Over the next two months, it is being transported across the globe to gather the autographs of the 30 drivers who have won IndyCar Series races using Firestone Firehawk tires -- a list that includes nine Indianapolis 500 winners and seven IndyCar Series champions.

The centerpiece of any memorabilia collection, the 24-inch by 38-inch poster will then be put up for auction on eBay in October, with proceeds from the highest bid being split between the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and CARA Charities. The winning bid will be announced after the IndyCar Series season-end celebration on Oct. 17.

For further details of how to bid on this piece of motorsports history, go to indycar.com. A PDF version of the poster is available at www.indycar.com, and a special gatefold version of the Firestone anniversary poster is in the September issue of IndyCar Series magazine and the October issue of Racer magazine.

***

5. Foyt prepares for big screen debut: A.J. Foyt IV hoped he would have a chance to get behind the wheel of the "General Lee," but all he got were welts on his back courtesy of Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson).

Foyt, the grandson of the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, filmed two scenes -- both set in a fictional Hazzard County bar -- with the film's stars Johnny Knoxville (Luke Duke), Seann William Scott (Bo Duke) and Simpson last fall.

Set in present day, the story follows the adventures of cousins Bo and Luke Duke, who with the help of their eye-catching cousin Daisy and moonshine-running Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson), try to save the family farm from being destroyed by Hazzard County's corrupt commissioner Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds). Along the way, the Dukes stay one step ahead of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (M.C. Gainey) in the General Lee, their 1969 orange Dodge Charger.

The movie, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, opens nationwide Aug. 5.

"The first (scene) I was in was a bar scene where Johnny Knoxville threw me up against a wall," said Foyt, who turned 21 in May. "He was about to punch me and then Seann runs up and says, 'Don't hit him; that's A.J. Foyt.' Knoxville looks at me and says, 'Really?' And I say, 'The fourth.' And I actually get to punch him. Then I get brushed out of the scene at some point."

Apparently, name recognition helps in more situations than getting a better table at a restaurant.

"The next scene I'm at the bar with a beer in my hand and a fight is going on," said Foyt, who isn't old enough to have watched the TV series starring Catherine Bach, Tom Wopat and John Schneider that was a surprise Friday night hit on CBS.

"A cop is trying to break up the fight and he gets thrown into me and the beer goes all over me. As he's trying to walk away from me, I try to come up from behind and hit him over the head with a beer mug. When I go to do that, Jessica Simpson hits me over the back with a pool stick and continues to hit me as I go to the ground.

"It was kind of like a fake pool stick, so it didn't hurt really bad. We had to go through the scene about four times, so she was really apologetic. The last time she kept hitting me and hitting me after the stick was broken, and she left some welts on my back. It really was pretty funny. She kept saying she was sorry."

Foyt didn't have to audition for the cameo role, and heard about scenes being added while on a hunting expedition.

"I was at the (family) hunt ranch; it was deer season at the time," he said. "I got a call asking if I wanted to do it, and I said, 'Yeah' right away. So I went from there to San Antonio and flew to Houston and then to Baton Rouge. It kind of came up at the last minute."

Foyt didn't know what to expect when he arrived on the set. With a bare bones script and even less acting experience, he just ran with the limited direction.

"When I got there, we went through a couple of things without filming to make sure I knew basically what to do," he said. "Then we started filming and it took two or three times. It wasn't really hard and they said I did a good job.

"It seemed like a lot of people standing around doing nothing. It was a bunch of campers for makeup, bunch of people hanging around eating barbeque. There were people from the town who were chosen just to be in the background, which was a really cool thing for the town.

"I had a lot of fun with Johnny Knoxville, Seann and Jessica. I got to hang out with them for a night. She's a really cool girl, and I had a lot of fun with those three people. It was one very long day."

Foyt said he'll try not to critique his scenes when he joins others in the theater.

"I think it will be a good movie looking at the previews," he said.

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Amber Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries on Aug. 14 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The race broadcast will also be carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme). The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Courier-Journal 100 on Aug. 13 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 18.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , John Schneider , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.