IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-05-16

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 16, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Chesson takes ride of a lifetime in F-16 Fighter 2. New Zealander Hamilton attempts to make his mark in Indy Pro Series 3. Scott Sharp, Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish Jr. and...


Today's IRL headlines
1. Chesson takes ride of a lifetime in F-16 Fighter
2. New Zealander Hamilton attempts to make his mark in Indy Pro Series
3. Scott Sharp, Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish Jr. and Nick Bussell guests on IRL teleconference

1. Chesson Takes Ride of a Lifetime in F-16 Fighter: P.J. Chesson's unofficial Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record isn't likely to be broken anytime soon.

The IndyCar Series rookie on May 16 buzzed the historic facility at about 300 knots (345 mph) in the back seat of an F-16D Fighting Falcon from the 181st Fighter Wing "The Racers" of the Indiana Air National Guard based at Hulman Field as part of the hour-plus adventure with Maj. Robert "Hook" Myer at the controls (most of the time).

"He said my entry into Turn 1 was good but I was too high in Turn 2," Myer said.

"I hope we woke up Tony George and Brian Barnhart," said Chesson, known to fly by the seat of his pants at times. "It was the coolest thing I've done in my life, and I've done some cool things.

"Bungy jumping and skydiving are nothing compared to a ride in an F-16 fighter. Those are for kids. I think I'm going to get a fighter jet tattooed on my arm."

Chesson's return to practice May 17 for the 90th Indianapolis 500 in the No. 91 CarMelo Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, when he'll turn laps on the 2.5-mile oval at more than 215 mph, will seem relatively tame. The New Jersey native, given the call sign "Sizzle," spent several hours with Wing personnel being briefed on the mission, safety and emergency procedures, and for the high G forces experienced in the multi-task fighter.

But he wasn't fully prepared for the 28,000 pounds of thrust in his back pocket during a vertical takeoff in which the pilot points the aircraft to the sky and switches on the afterburners to reach 15,000 feet in less than 30 seconds. Away we go now has an entirely new meaning.

"Takeoff was ridiculous; it felt like we were going to the moon," Chesson said. "Then we started doing some maneuvers. We hung in there for nine Gs. The plane was going to break before we were going to give in on it. What a trip."

Myer, like a driving instructor, even entrusted Chesson with the controls to an extent. It was like letting a 10 year old loose in a candy store.

"The plane is so responsive; there are no limitations," Chesson said. "I did a roll and a loop. 'Hook' is telling me, 'Nose down, get back on the stick and give it some throttle,' and whoa! I'm like a little kid."

Wing Commander Col. Jeff Hauser also was along for the ride, piloting an F-16 with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's signature Wing & Wheel logo on the tail, signifying the Wing's association with the venerable facility.

Chesson, an outspoken supporter of U.S. military personnel deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and worldwide, gave a shout out to the air crew, pilots and brass of the Indiana Air National Guard.

"I'm so ecstatic that the Indiana Air National Guard gave me this opportunity," he said. "The 181st Fighter Wing is the best in the Guard and the best pilots are here at the Hulman Field. We all appreciate everyone in the Armed Forces for what they do, and I want them to know they are not forgotten."

2. New Zealander Hamilton attempts to make his mark in Indy Pro Series: New Zealanders have a successful history in the Indy Racing League. In 2003, Scott Dixon won the IndyCar Series championship. Last year, Wade Cunningham captured the Indy Pro Series title. This year, 23-year-old Matthew Hamilton is trying to make his mark.

Hamilton, a native of Christchurch, New Zealand -- a city on the country's Pacific coast, has the help of two fellow Kiwis in his maiden voyage in the United States.

Dave McMillan, a former open-wheel champion in New Zealand, is owner of the No. 2 Indy Pro Series car that Hamilton drives while Dixon's father, Ron, also is helping.

"Dave's team has a lot of experience, and they're a great bunch of guys," Hamilton said. "Having Ron around is a big help. He knows a lot of people, and he's also teaching me a bit. I also talk to Scott every now and then. He certainly knows what he's doing."

Hamilton will take as much help as he can get. A winner of multiple karting championships in New Zealand, he has only two seasons of racing cars under his belt.

"These cars are a bit more of a race car," Hamilton said of the 420-horsepower Indy Pro Series cars. "They have a lot more horsepower than what I've driven before. In New Zealand, those cars were about 210. I thoroughly enjoy them."

Hamilton is also taking things in stride -- not satisfied with the results to date, but also acknowledging that he has much to learn.

"It's alright. It's all been a bit new," he said about his first career oval race at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he finished 14th and his first-ever street-course races at St. Petersburg, Fla. where he recorded two sevenths.

"I haven't met my expectations so far. I'm not used to being mid-field. It's my first season, so there's a lot to learn."

McMillan echoed those sentiments.

"I think Matthew has adapted well and has gotten himself into a safety zone," the team owner said. "I think he has a lot more talent than we've seen so far, and hopefully we'll see it come out soon."

Hamilton hopes the breakthrough is right around the corner. Following the Freedom 100 on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26, the Indy Pro Series goes to two natural terrain road courses, Watkins Glen International on June 4 and the Liberty Challenge at Indianapolis on July 1.

"I'm certainly hoping to do a lot better, especially at Watkins Glen and the Liberty Challenge since road courses are my background," Hamilton said.

For now, he takes every opportunity he can to learn.

"I'll spend a lot of time at Indy this month," he said. "It'll be very beneficial to me to watch those guys practice for the Indy 500."

3. Scott Sharp, Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish Jr. and Nick Bussell guests on IRL teleconference: The front row from the 2005 Indianapolis 500 -- pole sitter Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish Jr. and Scott Sharp -- and Indy Pro Series driver Nick Bussell of Cheever Racing were guests on the Indy Racing League teleconference. A transcript is available at Contact the Public Relations department at (317) 492-6579 if you don't have the username and password.


The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the 90th Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, May 28. The race will be broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network beginning at noon (EDT). The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and 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.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tony George , Nick Bussell , P.J. Chesson , Wade Cunningham , Matthew Hamilton , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr.