IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2006-09-29

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. Increase in prize money helps teams succeed 2. AGR restructures executive team 3. Patrick helps Honda christen Honda Center 4. Of note 1. Increase in prize money helps teams succeed: Team...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. Increase in prize money helps teams succeed
2. AGR restructures executive team
3. Patrick helps Honda christen Honda Center
4. Of note

1. Increase in prize money helps teams succeed: Team owners in the Indy Pro Series have a passion for racing, a passion for winning and a passion for molding young drivers into future stars. But the fuel that takes passion to the racetrack is cold, hard cash. It was no surprise that team owners reacted enthusiastically last winter when the series announced it would triple its prize purse to a total of $3 million.

"I think it's meant more to the series as a whole than it's meant just to our team," said Sam Schmidt, whose team fielded cars for Indy Pro Series champions Jay Howard in 2006 and Thiago Medeiros in 2004. "You see more cars competing out here week in and week out because the prize money is a lot better. It affords everyone the opportunity. It's not rocket science that sponsorship money in open-wheel racing is tough to get, and the prize money helps fill the gap."

While many teams ask drivers to provide a portion of the budget, the increased purse eased that burden.

"The increase is prize money has helped us run the cars," said Brian Stewart, whose team has won the past two entrant championships with driver Wade Cunningham. "The budget that Wade has is not enough to run the car, and the prize money helps to run the car. It's fabulous.

"When we started the season, (team manager) Doug (Hoy) and I said, 'If we go to Florida for the first three races and really do crummy, we'll be hard-pressed to leave without about $80,000.' We were factoring all that into the budget when we were doing it."

Perhaps one of the most critical developments due to the increase -- it gave new teams a chance to compete and survive.

"Our first year team succeeded at participating in all twelve races with two race cars," said Michael Crawford, whose team had eight top-10 finishes. "This feat was achieved in large part due to the substantial winnings available at each event. I can comfortably say, after analyzing our financial results, the prize money sustained us this year."

The extra money also gives teams the opportunity to improve their on-track performance.

"Sponsorship money, as we know, is tough to come by, so we're able to do things as a team -- additional testing, nice uniforms, the whole gamut that goes into the cost of motorsports -- that in previous years we really struggled to do," said Kenn Hardley, whose team won races with both Indy Pro Series graduate Jeff Simmons and Bobby Wilson in 2006.

"The other thing that we're able to do, we share some of it with the crew guys -- more than we have in the past. From top to bottom, starting with me and filtering on down to even some part-time people, everyone on our team has benefited from the increased prize money."

Overall in 2006, seven teams grossed more than $250,000.

"The prize money is spectacular," said Stewart, a long-time team owner who also has won championships in Indy Lights and several other formula series. "I can't see why anybody would go and race anywhere else."

2. AGR restructures executive team: Andretti Green Racing, one of the winningest teams in IndyCar Series history, announced it has restructured its executive management in response to the recent growth of the company. Co-owners Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree have all assumed new roles as part of the move. Andretti is now Andretti Green Racing's chairman, while Green moves from the position of president to that of chief executive officer. Savoree, who was chief operating officer (COO) and vice president finance, will continue as COO and is also now president of Andretti Green. In addition, J.F. Thormann, a member of the board of directors of Andretti Green since it began competing in 2003, has assumed the newly-created position of executive vice president. The position includes managerial, administrative, and business development duties at Andretti Green.

3. Patrick helps Honda christen Honda Center: IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick will help Honda launch the re-naming of the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim during a private news event at 11 a.m. (PDT) on Oct. 3.

The Arrowhead Pond, home to the NHL's Anaheim Ducks and other entertainment, becomes Honda Center on Oct. 3. The naming rights deal is the first such agreement for Torrance, Calif.-based American Honda and the first name change for the 13-year-old arena.

4. Of note: Wade Cunningham, the 2005 Indy Pro Series champion, will be rooting for his brother to follow in his footsteps this weekend. Mitchell Cunningham will be competing at the CIK-FIA World Karting Championship in Angerville, France. Wade Cunningham, who will attend the event, won the World Karting Championship in 2003 when the event was held in Sarno, Italy. Mitchell is one of 68 competitors vying for the title...Veronica McCann, an Australian sprint car driver who made her Indy Pro Series debut at Chicagoland earlier this month, will be a celebrity bartender on Sept. 29. The event in Zionsville, Ind. will raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Sam Schmidt , Kim Green , Jeff Simmons , Wade Cunningham , Bobby Wilson , Jay Howard , Danica Patrick , Thiago Medeiros