INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 6, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Hornish, Sharp Ready For IROC at Texas 2. Roth's Big Week -- Race at St. Pete, Test At Indy, Get Married 3. Cheever enjoying return to racing 4. Simmons gets acquainted...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 6, 2006
Today's IRL headlines
1. Hornish, Sharp Ready For IROC at Texas
2. Roth's Big Week -- Race at St. Pete, Test At Indy, Get Married
3. Cheever enjoying return to racing
4. Simmons gets acquainted with team, car
5. New colors for Franchitti
1. Hornish, Sharp Ready For IROC at Texas: Two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. returns to the Crown Royal International Race of Champions Friday night (7 p.m. (ET) on Speed Channel) with his eyes on the prize at the end of the four-race series.
Hornish, who finished second in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, knows a good finish during the race at Texas Motor Speedway will help him in his hunt for the $1 million champion's prize.
"I'm second in points, but a long way back from Matt (Kenseth), so we want to go out there and have a good run," Hornish said. "I'm really excited about this race. I have a good opportunity to go out there and do well, but at the same time, the better you are in points, the worse you start."
Hornish, who went straight from the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to Texas Motor Speedway for IROC testing on April 3, will start 11th in the 12-car field of identically prepared stock cars. Fellow IndyCar Series driver Scott Sharp, who finished ninth at Daytona, will start fourth.
"The Texas race tends to be a little calmer race than the one at Daytona, where everyone is drafting and moving through the field all the time," Sharp said. "The field at Texas seems to get more spread out. It's important to do well at the start and gather as many positions you can on the restarts. It's just a good time for all of us, so I'm looking forward to going there."
Both hope to duplicate the feat of previous IROC Texas winners Danny Lasoski and Sebastien Bourdais, who outfoxed NASCAR stars to win races on the 1.5-mile quad-oval.
"At Texas it's difficult to pass and I think the last few guys who've won there have won from the front," Hornish said. "I think this race will be different. I'd love to win a race, but what I love about IROC is you don't need to win a race to win the championship. The key is getting as many good consistent finishes as you can."
2. Roth's Big Week -- Race at St. Pete, Test At Indy, Get Married: A big week is just the kickoff to a big month for Indy Pro Series driver Marty Roth.
After finishing 14th and 12th April 1-2 in two races at St. Petersburg, Fla., Roth flew to Indianapolis April 5 for an IndyCar® Series test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Roth is preparing to compete in his third Indianapolis 500 at the end of May.
To top off the week, Roth will marry Margaret Disher on April 8.
"It's a busy month to say the least," said Roth, who has finished 24th and 31st, respectively, in the last two Indianapolis 500s. "We're looking forward to a big party on Saturday. Then we'll be heading off to our honeymoon and coming back to do Indy."
Roth, a 47-year-old Toronto native, is a veteran of 33 starts in the Indy Pro Series, but he doesn't get many opportunities to drive his IndyCar Series machine.
"It's great to be back in the IndyCar Series car," said Roth, who has Honda power in the No. 25 Dallara for the first time. "I love that car. The Honda engine is so sweet. The power is so clean. It comes in and out of the pits - it's not jumping off the ground and burping. It's just so clean and smooth. It's a pleasure. It's like driving a street car out there. It's just smooth and fast."
Roth turned 121 laps on the 2.5-mile oval April 5, the earliest he's ever practiced for the 500. In 2004, Roth purchased the equipment for Roth Racing and practiced most of the month of May. Last year, he didn't finalize his plans until most of the month of May was over. The early preparation this year increases his expectations for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.
"We're here to win the Indy 500 just like everybody on this block," Roth said. "With the spec engine, this is going to be a fantastic opportunity for a lot of drivers out here. It's certainly reshuffled the deck this year. I'm really looking forward to the 500."
But the 500 will have to wait -- at least temporarily. The honeymoon comes first.
"We're going to head off in a sailboat and go sailing around," Roth said. "We haven't done that in a couple of years, and it's one of the things we miss doing. So we're going to head down south to the islands, jump on a sailboat and sail around."
3. Cheever enjoying return to racing: Since announcing his return to the cockpit after a three-year absence to concentrate on the ownership side of his IndyCar Series program, Eddie Cheever Jr. has said that early-season efforts were geared toward a successful Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Along the way, the IndyCar Series' first owner-driver has rediscovered the exhilaration of close and spirited competition and a measure of success.
He finished 10th in the season opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval March 26. After an 11th place on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 2, Cheever remarked, "I feel so good now, I think I could go another 100 laps if I had to."
The 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner said with each practice session he is more comfortable in the No. 51 Cheever Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone and with the crew's input and preparations.
"I'm proud of our team," he said. "It is so much stronger than it was when we left for Homestead. I know you can't see it on the surface, but it's all the little things that are gelling. Our preparation has been getting better and better every day."
Prior to the Open Test at the Speedway on April 5, he said the excitement level was building the night before.
"I felt like a 10-year-old just before Christmas, and it was going to be a good Christmas with lots of presents today because I was a good boy," he said. "They tell me it's the first day of practice, and I'm telling them I'm having too much fun."
Cheever was seventh quick on the 2.5-mile oval at 223.367 mph.
"Our goal has always been to perform well with a chance to win the Indianapolis 500," he said. "I feel so lucky that I can still come out here and run on pace. Driving Indy -- there's nothing compared to it."
Cheever said he'll have a teammate at the track in May.
"I expect we'll announce a driver after Japan," he said.
4. Simmons gets acquainted with team, car: A day after being named the driver, Jeff Simmons registered his first laps in the No. 17 Team Ethanol Rahal Letterman Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone.
"It's nice to finally get into the car and think only about that, think only about driving," he said. "They've got a great car, I noticed that right away. We were flat pretty quickly; they've got some extra downforce in my car, but it's a good car right off the bat. I'm sure we'll have the same thing at Japan.
"They've always been really competitive at Japan and Indy."
Simmons, who had two IndyCar Series starts in 2004, welcomed the track time after a whirlwind week. He finished second and fourth, respectively, in two Indy Pro Series races at St. Petersburg, and was introduced as the successor to the late Paul Dana for the No. 17 car on April 4.
"There's less pressure, and I can take my time," he said. "But there's not a lot of time before Japan. I think this is the only time I'm in the car before we go to do a race weekend, so it's still happening pretty quickly. But I'm definitely looking forward to having a full month this time and having a great run at the '500.'"
5. New colors for Franchitti: Dario Franchitti's No. 27 Dallara/Honda/Firestone will sport a black, white and gold look starting at 90th Indianapolis 500, as the colors of Canadian Club whisky will appear on the car.
Klein Tools will remain on the car as a major sponsor. The new paint scheme will be on Franchitti's car for the rest of the IndyCar Series season. Michael Andretti will carry the Jim Beam sponsorship on his No. 1 car for the Month of May. That car was driven by Bryan Herta during the Open Test.
The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Indy Japan 300 at midnight (EDT) on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi. ESPN2 will telecast the race at Noon (EDT) on April 22. The race will be broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network beginning at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 21. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 Friday, May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ESPN2's coverage of the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 7.