IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-01-17

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 17, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Andretti passes rookie test 2. Hornish, Sharp picked for IROC 3. Wheldon to receive "Baby Borg" 4. Franchitti to visit Camp Heartland 1. Andretti passes rookie test:...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Jan. 17, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Andretti passes rookie test
2. Hornish, Sharp picked for IROC
3. Wheldon to receive "Baby Borg"
4. Franchitti to visit Camp Heartland

1. Andretti passes rookie test: Third-generation driver Marco Andretti passed his Indy Racing League rookie test during a two-day test at Sebring International Raceway.

Andretti, the 18-year-old grandson of auto racing legend Mario Andretti and son of IRL IndyCar® Series team owner Michael Andretti, was granted his license after thorough observation by IndyCar Series technical manager Kevin Blanch on Jan. 15 and 16. Andretti drove a Honda-powered Dallara prepared by Andretti Green Racing.

"Marco did very well," Blanch said. "He understood what the car was telling him and did everything we asked of him. The team made several big changes to the car, and he reacted to each of them. He's a smart kid and the more test time he gets, the better he's going to be."

Andretti finished 10th in the IRL Indy Pro Series^Ù point standings in 2005, despite competing in only six of the 14 events for Andretti Green Racing. He earned five top-three finishes, including victories on the street circuit at St. Petersburg, Fla., and the road courses at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Infineon Raceway.

"Everything was a bit of an unknown to me until I got into the car, but now the questions are starting to be answered," Andretti said. "So in that regard, it was good to finally get some time in the ArcaEx car. It was great working with (engineer) Eddie Jones and the No. 26 crew and getting to know what they need from me. It will take a little time, but we made good progress."

Andretti was named as the driver of the No. 26 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone on Dec. 20. He will be eligible for the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award.

"I am very impressed with the job Marco did both yesterday and today," Michael Andretti said. "He was on pace, gave the ArcaEx crew good feedback and didn't put a wheel wrong the whole time. He also held up well, physically. Overall, I'm very happy with his performance, as is the whole team. His initial test couldn't have gone any better."

2. Hornish, Sharp picked for IROC: Two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. relishes opportunities to test his driving skills against professionals from other disciplines. So he quickly accepted an invitation to represent the IndyCar Series -- along with Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp -- in the Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) Series.

The four-race invitational series matches 12 drivers from different disciplines of auto racing in equally prepared cars. Points areawarded for finishing positions, with the leader after four races being proclaimed the champion of champions. He receives the $1 million prize.

Last year, Buddy Rice and Helio Castroneves represented the IndyCar Series in the races at Daytona, Texas, Richmond and Atlanta. Sharp, the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion, has participated in the series in 1994, 2002 and '03.

"It's a great opportunity because it allows us to race against champions from other series," said Hornish, the Marlboro Team Penske driver who competed in the all-star series in 2002 and '03. "It's one of the most difficult things I've done because it puts me in something that I've raced eight times. Others guys race eight times in two months in similar cars. It's a lot different for us.

"When you go there and can be competitive and run well, it sure makes you feel good about your abilities."

The 30th anniversary season opener is Feb. 17 on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway oval, with races at Texas Motor Speedway (April 7), the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona (June 29) and Atlanta Motor Speedway (Oct. 28) to follow. A road-course event is part of the series for the first time in 14 years.

"A road-course race will help us a bit because we're used to some more road courses, but they are used to road courses in a stock car," Hornish said. "It will give us a good opportunity to go out there and see what we can do."

The drivers represent seven major racing series. Six won their respective series championship in 2005. Mark Martin will look to win his second series title in a row and sixth overall.

The lineup: Hornish (IndyCar Series), Sharp (IndyCar Series), Mark Martin (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, defending IROC champion), Tony Stewart (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion), Martin Truex Jr. (NASCAR Busch Series champion), Steve Kinser (World of Outlaws series champion), Ted Musgrave (NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion), Frank Kimmel (ARCA Re/Max Series champion), Max Angelelli/Wayne Taylor (Grand American Road Racing Daytona Prototype champions), Max Papis (Open-wheel and road racing disciplines), Carl Edwards (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup), Matt Kenseth (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup)

"For three decades, IROC has tried to bring together the very best champion drivers from all forms of racing disciplines," IROC president Jay Signore said. "This year, our 30th season, is no different. We have another strong field and look forward to the competition heating up at Daytona."

3. Wheldon to receive "Baby Borg": Dan Wheldon has waited for this day like an expectant father. Finally, after almost eight months, his "baby" will be coming home.

Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner, on Jan. 18 will receive his Borg-Warner Championship Driver's Trophy -- the "Baby Borg" -- during the Automotive News World Congress Gala in Dearborn, Mich. The one-of-a-kind replica of the famous Borg-Warner Trophy has a place of honor waiting at Wheldon's home in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The sterling silver trophy -- 14 inches high and weighing 5 pounds -- rests on a 4-inch by 8-inch beveled black marble base that includes a hand-crafted three-dimensional sterling silver image of the winning driver's face, and also includes an inscription of the winning driver and year of victory.

BorgWarner established the trophy in 1988 (Rick Mears was the initial recipient) as a keepsake for the winning driver -- in lieu of the 5-foot-plus Borg-Warner Trophy that is on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

"It's been an honor and privilege to win the Indianapolis 500, and it's one of the those races where you realize you can't take the big trophy home but you look forward to getting the 'Baby Borg,''' said Wheldon, who went on to win an IndyCar Series-record six races and 2005 series championship. "May to January seems like an awfully long time to wait.

"It's a great honor to collect that trophy, and I have a very special place for it at home."

Wheldon climbed from the 16th starting position to hold off Danica Patrick and then Vitor Meira and Bryan Herta for his first victory in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." It also was the first victory for Andretti Green Racing team co-owner Michael Andretti, a 14-time starter, as an owner or driver.

BorgWarner chairman and CEO Tim Manganello will present the Team Owner's Trophy to Andretti and team co-owners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. It also is a replica of the Borg-Warner Trophy, but has a band of art-deco racing cars accentuated in gold to symbolize the importance of teamwork in auto racing and the automotive business. It was initially presented in 1998 (to Fred Treadway) to mark the company's 70th year as a pioneering innovator in the automotive industry.

"Winning the Indianapolis 500 is one of the most coveted achievements in racing," Manganello said. "BorgWarner is extremely proud to have been associated with this legendary event since 1936. We congratulate Dan Wheldon and the Andretti Green team owners for their shared 2005 victory, and look forward to sending them home with tangible symbols of an exceptional feat."

Wheldon hopes to add to his collection. He'll be among the favorites in May for the 90th running of the 500-Mile Race, driving the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara.

"After accepting this award, we'll have to focus on trying to win another Indy 500, probably the most difficult race in the world to win," he said.

4. Franchitti to visit Camp Heartland: Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti will visit visit Camp Heartland, a year-round facility in Willow River, Minn., for children affected by HIV and AIDS, on Jan. 18

Franchitti's visit to the camp was arranged by Argent Mortgage, which presented Franchitti with the Argent Fastest Lap Award at the end of the 2005 season. Franchitti will meet with 45 participants from the camp. The visit will include a brief autograph session and a remote control car race.

"My wife does a lot of work with HIV and AIDS all over the world," Franchitti told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "This is something very close to my heart".

***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152, "XM Extreme" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition also opens on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Dario Franchitti , Bryan Herta , Wayne Taylor , Ted Musgrave , Frank Kimmel , Dan Wheldon , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Steve Kinser , Max Angelelli , Buddy Rice , Martin Truex Jr. , Marco Andretti , Kim Green , Carl Edwards , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Mark Martin , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing