IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-08-15

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 15, 2006 Today's IRL headlines 1. Title race reminiscent of 2003 chase 2. Iowa Corn to sponsor Iowa Speedway event: 3. Andretti Foundation makes donation to Schmidt Foundation 1. Title race reminiscent...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- Aug. 15, 2006

Today's IRL headlines
1. Title race reminiscent of 2003 chase
2. Iowa Corn to sponsor Iowa Speedway event:
3. Andretti Foundation makes donation to Schmidt Foundation

1. Title race reminiscent of 2003 chase: With two events remaining in the 2006 IndyCar Series season, the championship battle has come down to six drivers: Marlboro Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves; Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon; Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan and Panther Racing's Vitor Meira.

But it's not like most of them haven't been here before.

Wheldon, Kanaan, Dixon and Hornish have combined to win the last five IndyCar Series titles, and in 2003, Dixon, Castroneves, Kanaan and Hornish were part of one of the tightest championship fights in motorsports history.

Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, says this season reminds him of the 2003 title race when five drivers entered the final race at Texas with a chance to claim the title.

"I think we're in a little worse of a position now," Kanaan said. "For the guys up in the front (of the points), it all seems very similar."

Dixon, who won the 2003 series title by 18 points over Gil de Ferran, disagreed saying the title fight, which will finish with the 2.26-mile road course at Infineon Raceway and 1.5-mile oval at Chicagoland Speedway this season, plays even more in his favor.

"The whole championship seems to be a lot different than in '03," Dixon said "In '03, I think I would have rather had all mile tracks to go at the end. This year, I'm glad that it's not all mile tracks because we've been toilet on them all year. I'm actually looking forward to racing on the road course and at Chicagoland."

Hornish, who used a win at Kentucky Speedway in 2003 to propel himself back into the title fight, finds himself in the point lead this season. Though he has a slim lead over his teammate Castroneves, he also has his eyes on his title rivals.

"In 2003, it was win or you didn't have a chance to win the championship, and we went into the last race 19 points behind with an opportunity to win, and the engine blew up," the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner said. "Today, it's starting to open up just a little bit, but you know, it's still tough. Scott and Dan are not that far back. It doesn't really give us an opportunity to make any mistakes, having those guys as close as they are."

2. Iowa Corn to sponsor Iowa Speedway event: The Iowa Corn Promotion Board officials announced Aug. 15, it will be the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series' inaugural event at Iowa Speedway.

The Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Ethanol will be held at the 7/8-mile oval in Newton, Iowa on June 24, 2007. The inaugural race is scheduled to showcase ethanol before a live national television audience by ABC.

The announcement was made at the Iowa State Fair by IndyCar Series broadcaster and former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace, who designed Iowa Speedway. Wallace was joined by Team Ethanol IndyCar Series driver Jeff Simmons, Iowa Speedway officials, and representatives of Iowa Corn and presenting sponsor the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC).

"I've watched the impact ethanol fuel is making on racing, especially the Indy Racing League," Wallace said, "It's an honor for us to have a major sponsorship -- for a major race -- from a major industry group here in the state of Iowa. It's really great for racing, for Iowa Speedway, and for the many folks here in Iowa who make their living growing corn."

Kyle Phillips, ICPB chair-elect and a corn grower from Knoxville, Iowa, said Iowa Corn is proud to carry their ethanol message to consumers nationwide by sponsoring the race.

"This is a great opportunity to show the entire U.S. that ethanol is a winner," Phillips said. "With all the Indy Racing League cars running on 100 percent ethanol in 2007, it's an ideal fit."

Iowa Speedway President, Stan Clement said Iowa Corn, Iowa Speedway, and the Indy Racing League make a nice fit.

"If you're a farm kid growing up in Iowa, or anywhere in the Midwest, you usually have a pretty good understanding of corn, cattle, and auto racing," Clement said. "I think the Indy Racing League also has a good understanding of what ethanol fuel can mean for racing, too. So, we're delighted to have Iowa Corn as our title sponsor for next year's Iowa Corn Indy 250.

3. Andretti Foundation makes donation to Schmidt Foundation: The Michael Andretti Foundation recently donated $30,000 to the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation to support paralysis research programs. The money was raised from an eBay auction for a VIP trip to the 2006 Indianapolis 500 as guests of Michael Andretti.

"We're so happy that we were able to put together a fun auction package to raise money for such a great cause," the IndyCar Series championship-winning team co-owner said. "The response to the auction was overwhelming, and we had such a great weekend entertaining the winning couple at Indy,"

The donation for the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF) will be used to further spinal cord research by supporting the work of the most accomplished medial investigators throughout the world.

Through the Foundation's Quality of Life Programs, funds will be distributed to organizations that directly impact the lives of individuals who have spinal cord injuries and other types of disabilities.

Additionally, the donation will help to expand SSPF's 'Day at the Races' program. Since the program's inception, SSPF, along with the generosity of Andretti Green Racing, have entertained more than 1,000 spinal cord individuals, including patients from rehabilitation hospitals, VA hospitals and members of the Paralyzed Veterans Association and provided resource materials, mentoring opportunities and the chance for an up-close experience of IndyCar racing.

"It doesn't surprise me, but at the same time, I'm almost embarrassed by what they've given us this year," Schmidt said.. "They sponsored the gala in May, they sponsor all of our Day at the Races programs at the track - with lunch and everything else. We've got a great business relationship with them in the Indy Pro Series. They're so generous."

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 13 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live by ABC Sports and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. 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 Sonoma 100 doubleheader on Aug. 26-27 at Infineon Raceway. ESPN2's coverage of the doubleheader races will be televised at 2 p.m. on Aug. 31.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing