Today's IRL headlines 1. Road to Indy: Wheldon's Try for Indy Double Begins in Japan 2. Cheever tabs Enge for Motegi race 1. Road to Indy: Wheldon's Try for Indy Double Begins in Japan: (Note: First of a weekly series previewing the...
Today's IRL headlines
1. Road to Indy: Wheldon's Try for Indy Double Begins in Japan
2. Cheever tabs Enge for Motegi race
1. Road to Indy: Wheldon's Try for Indy Double Begins in Japan: (Note: First of a weekly series previewing the Indianapolis 500)
Dan Wheldon enters his fourth Indianapolis 500 wearing a bull's eye, and it's not just the one that serves as the logo of the company that sponsors his Honda-powered Dallara.
As reigning IRL IndyCar® Series and Indianapolis 500 champion, Wheldon knows he's considered among the favorites to win on nearly every circuit the IndyCar Series visits, a point he proved with his win at Homestead to open his tenure with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
"I think it's good to have a target on your back because that means you've done well," Wheldon said. "We may have a target on us, but right now, Helio (Castroneves) is leading the championship, and we've got to catch him, so he's my target."
Wheldon's pursuit of Castroneves begins with the Indy Japan 300 on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi. But beyond his standing in the early season championship race, the 27-year-old Englishman knows the Indy Japan 300 is important in setting the stage for successful Month of May.
"It's nice to talk about Indianapolis, but to tell the truth, we've got to worry about Motegi," Wheldon said. "To go into Indy with momentum is extremely important, and the only place to get that is Motegi."
Wheldon, who currently sits third in IndyCar Series points, has won the last two IndyCar Series races at Motegi. Those victories, he said, set the stage for his runner-up finish to Buddy Rice in 2004's 500 and his Indy 500 win last year.
"Motegi is a good race to win, and it's a track that's been kind to me," Wheldon said. "It is a good stage for Indy and will be again if I can win there three years in a row.
"It's always difficult when you keep winning a race to continue that streak without something going wrong. I hope this is not the year for that, and I hope that year never comes."
Wheldon, though, knows the task to repeat at any track is difficult, especially at Indianapolis, where only five of the previous 63 winners have successfully defended their race wins.
Still, he has confidence that he can join Wilbur Shaw (1939-40), Mauri Rose (1947-48), Bill Vukovich (1953-54), Al Unser (1970-71) and Castroneves (2001-02) as a repeat winner.
"Winning once at Indy is incredibly difficult," he said. "Do I think (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) have the capability to help me do it again? Absolutely.
"Indy is Indy. It doesn't matter how good you are, everything has got to go right to win there. You have to maximize every opportunity that you have. You have to work hard. You have to work as a team. If you do that, and things fall your way, we can. There's no doubt about it. But like I said, everything has got to go your way."
2. Cheever tabs Enge for Motegi race: Tomas Enge's frequent flier miles are piling up.
Enge, who competed in the IndyCar Series last year with Panther Racing, will drive the No. 51 Cheever Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone in the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi on April 22.
Team owner and regular driver Eddie Cheever Jr. will miss the Motegi race to compete with his Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series team at Virginia International Raceway. He will return to the seat May 9 when practice begins for the 90th Indianapolis 500.
Enge, 29, most recently won the A1GP race in China, representing the Czech Republic. In 2005, he had one top-five (Infineon Raceway) and four top-10 finishes with Panther Racing. He also competed in two IndyCar Series races in 2004 for Patrick Racing.
According to Team Czech Republic principal Antonin Charouz, Enge might return to the United States to compete in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and beyond.
Enge has an extensive racing resume, including three Formula One starts in 2001 with Prost. Among his F1 races was a 14th-place finish in the U.S Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Enge also served as test driver for Jordan in 2000. He won the GTS class in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2003 and won the German Formula Ford championship in 1996.
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. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's Carb Day coverage on May 26.