IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2007-02-02

INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES -- Feb. 2, 2007 Today's IndyCar Series 1. Drivers give new fuel 100 percent support 2. Meira, Panther happy after test 3. Danica Patrick-inspired bike build featured on American Chopper 4. Panther Racing has ties to...


Today's IndyCar Series
1. Drivers give new fuel 100 percent support
2. Meira, Panther happy after test
3. Danica Patrick-inspired bike build featured on American Chopper
4. Panther Racing has ties to Indianapolis Colts:

1. Drivers give new fuel 100 percent support: The Daytona International Speedway Open Test was the first opportunity for the full IndyCar Series field to use the 100-percent fuel grade ethanol in its 3.5-liter Honda Indy V-8 engine, which will power the series in 2007. The 17 IndyCar Series drivers and teams who participated recorded nearly 1,700 laps on the 10-turn, 2.72-mile road course with no major issues.

"I really didn't notice any difference at all, which I think is the point," said 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon, who ran the 100 percent fuel grade ethanol for the first time at the test. "It's better for the environment, fuel efficient and hasn't affected engine performance." The IndyCar Series is the first and only in motorsports to run on a renewable fuel. Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti noted the absence of fumes, which in the past bothered his eyes while a few drivers noticed a different, but familiar smell while running in traffic. "I think it smelled like popcorn," joked A.J. Foyt Racing's Darren Manning.

The IndyCar Series next opportunity to demonstrate the power of ethanol will be during its next Open Test scheduled Feb 21-22 at Homestead Miami Speedway."


Here are several IndyCar Series' drivers impression of using 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol:

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Patron Tequila Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This was a milestone week for ethanol and the IndyCar Series since every car at the test was running on 100 percent (fuel-grade) ethanol. The best thing about the test was that there wasn't a huge difference between how the cars were last year and how the cars were running the last couple of days. In fact, the few slight differences were all positive. That is a huge credit to Honda, the IndyCar Series and ethanol for making sure that the transition to a renewable fuel source has been so smooth."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "One of the first things I get asked as the Team Ethanol driver is if ethanol is good for a street car.The proof is in what you saw the last few days. The entire IndyCar Series field that ran at Daytona was powered without issue on 100 percent (fuel-grade) ethanol, a renewable energy source that is grown right here in the United States. Ethanol performed wonderfully during the test, and if it is good enough for our high-tech, high horse-powered IndyCars, it will certainly get you to around town and back. This is an exciting and historic day for the ethanol industry and the IndyCar Series. We know it is going to be a historic season for ethanol and it is great to kick it off with such a positive test at Daytona.

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think the IndyCar Series is doing a great job with the use of 100 percent ethanol this season. It's pretty innovative, and I think sets a good example for the rest of the United States on using this source of fuel. I remember the first go-kart I ever drove in Brazil was ethanol-powered, and I feel like I've come full circle since my Delphi Panther car is now running on ethanol."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The car runs the same and you really can't tell the difference. They only difference is that is smells a lot better."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think it's a big plus for the IndyCar Series to run 100 percent (fuel-grade) ethanol. It shows the series is heading in the right direction. And after this test, there's no question in my mind that it won't make our car any different this year."

2. Meira, Panther happy after test: Panther Racing came into preseason testing in 2006 without a sponsor or a driver for its No. 4 car. It showed up at Daytona with two-fully sponsored cars for Vitor Meira and Kosuke Matsuura. What a difference a year makes. Meira, who recently signed a three-year extension with the team, finished the test with the seventh quickest lap time 1:12.9935, 134.149 mph. Super Aguri Panther driver Matsuura completed his first test with Panther, posting the 11th-quick lap of the test at 133.006 mph, 73.6206 seconds.

"I felt this test was a good one for us," Meira said. "It's nice to be back at Daytona after the compatibility test we did here at the end of last season. The Delphi Panther car feels good and I think we learned some things that will help us at St. Pete this year and, hopefully, the decision will be made to race here in the future. Daytona is a special place, and I think it would be good for open-wheel racing and for the track to have the IndyCar Series participate in an event here."

3. Danica Patrick-inspired bike build featured on American Chopper:, an associate sponsor of Danica Patrick's No. 7 Team Motorola IndyCar Series entry, was the focus of TLC's "American Chopper" program titled "GoDaddy 1" that premiered Feb. 1. The show opened with members of the Orange County Choppers crew visiting GoDaddy's headquarters in Phoenix. While the Teutel family was there to discuss e-commerce opportunities, GoDaddy CEO and founder Bob Parsons commissioned the group to build a custom GoDaddy motorcycle. "Danica Patrick is about speed," Parsons said to the Teutels while shots of Patrick's IndyCar Series car were shown. "She's exciting, she's a winner. That's what we think GoDaddy is. That's what we want our bike to be." The Orange County Chopper crew returned to their workshop in New York and began design and production of the custom chopper that will be unveiled during the Super Bowl. The episode contained additional footage of Patrick and her black and blue car, and a GoDaddy commercial featuring Patrick that was filmed recently at Phoenix International Raceway aired halfway through the show. "GoDaddy 2," which will show the completion of the bike, is scheduled to debut on TLC on Feb. 8 at 9 p.m. EST.

4. Panther Racing has ties to Indianapolis Colts: At Panther Racing, when one of your most recognizable team owners is a member of the Indianapolis Colts "Ring of Honor," and the CEO is a die-hard fan of the AFC Champions, there is little debate about who will win Super Bowl XLI. "There better not be any Bears fans in this building," said Panther CEO John Barnes, who is attending the Super Bowl in Miami. Of course when your boss is former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, and one of the team's IndyCar Series machines carries the number he wore as a Colt, it's probably a good idea to keep your Chicago Bears hat at home -- even if Harbaugh did play for the Bears, too.

"I'm just so happy for the Irsay family, for Peyton (Manning) and for all those people that are still with Indianapolis," Harbaugh said during his visit to the Panther shop late last month. "They were so great to me it's great to see them enjoying this moment."

The race shop has been buzzing with Colts fans the past month; team owner Mike Griffin and race engineer Bill Pappas wore Peyton Manning's No. 18 jersey to work, and Panther Education Center employee Jon Temple, a season ticket holder, is one of the loudest and proudest in the shop. His sidekick on the PEC project, Sue Keene, proudly wore her No. 21 Bob Sanders jersey on Feb. 2. The other staffer known to wear a Sanders jersey is CFO Nic Baumann, who is just as superstitious as he is passionate about the Colts. Public Relations Director Mike Kitchel, whose father Gary has been a season ticker holder since the team moved to Indy in 1984, is happy to see a winner here after years of watching the likes of Mike Pagel, Scott Erickson and Jeff George.

"Look where I live and work, man. You think I have a choice of who to root for this weekend?" team driver Vitor Meira said. "I've watched about three football games in my life, but the AFC game a week ago was the best football game I've ever seen. The Colts are going to win this game."


The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (EST) 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 and The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Homestead-Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast on at 5 p.m. (EST) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Dario Franchitti , Dan Wheldon , Kosuke Matsuura , Chip Ganassi , John Barnes , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing