IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2003-7-9

Sharp to replace Giaffone in IROC; Giaffone on the mend INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 9, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar Series standouts Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves and Scott Sharp will spend their weekend off in a race car -- one with a roof,...

Sharp to replace Giaffone in IROC; Giaffone on the mend

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 9, 2003 -- IRL IndyCar Series standouts Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves and Scott Sharp will spend their weekend off in a race car -- one with a roof, though -- as they climb into a stock car for the third round of the True Value International Race of Champions Series on July 12 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Hornish, Castroneves and Sharp are representing the IndyCar Series in racing's "all-star game," in which 12 top drivers from a variety of North American series compete in four oval races in equally prepared stock cars.

1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Sharp is replacing 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone for the final two rounds, including the IROC at Indy on Aug. 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Giaffone suffered a fractured right femur and fractured pelvis in an accident during the Kansas Indy 300 on July 6 at Kansas Speedway. Sharp previously competed in IROC in 1994 and 2002.

"Felipe is a great guy, and I have a lot of respect for him," Sharp said. "It's a shame to see what happened to him last weekend, and I hope with the little bit of experience I gained last year in the IROC series, I might be able to help him out and will try hard to finish as far up in the standings as possible for him. I'm really glad to do it."

The 100-mile race at Chicagoland will be televised at 9 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN on July 12.

"We're very sorry for Felipe, and we'll miss him here at Chicagoland and at the finale at Indy," IROC President Jay Signore said. "The important thing now is for him to take the time to heal properly and completely before he climbs back into a race car, because we'd like to have him back in the series soon.

"I'm sure, with his talent, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to be back in IROC. He had a great test with us here at Chicagoland in June and was up to speed very quickly. He really impressed everybody.

"I'm very happy to announce that Scott Sharp will return to IROC as a substitute for Felipe. It is important to us to have IRL IndyCar Series representation as a replacement for Felipe, and with Scott's recent IROC experience, his current position in the (IndyCar Series) point standings and his availability, all the pieces fell into place for it to be him, and we're very proud to have him back in IROC for Felipe."

Two-time IRL champion Hornish is the leading IndyCar Series driver in the series, sixth in the point standings after two rounds. He is 24 points behind IROC series leader Kurt Busch. Giaffone is 11th in the standings; Castroneves is 12th.

Hornish participated in a rain-shortened test July 8 at Chicagoland with fellow IROC competitors Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski, both World of Outlaws champions.

"Everything felt pretty good," Hornish said. "I wish we could have kept the rain clouds away a little bit longer, but I got a pretty good feel for the car. It will probably be a little bit different come race day, but I could pretty much put the car wherever I wanted to, and that's a good feeling."

There's another reason for Hornish, Castroneves and Sharp to feel good about this round of the series: Last year, 2000 IndyCar Series champion Buddy Lazier led a sweep of the top three positions by IndyCar Series drivers. It was the greatest performance by Indy-style drivers in the 26-year history of IROC.

Giaffone thankful for support: IRL IndyCar Series standout Felipe Giaffone continues to recover from surgery to repair a fractured right femur suffered in a crash during the Kansas Indy 300 on July 6.

Giaffone and rookie Dan Wheldon crashed on Lap 56 of the 1.5-mile race. Giaffone also suffered a fractured pelvis. Wheldon was unhurt.

Dr. Kevin Scheid, orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedics Indianapolis, performed surgery July 7 on Giaffone's leg at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Giaffone remains in good condition.

"I'm glad to say I'm feeling fine right now," Giaffone said. "I still feel some pain, but the doctors say it's normal, as it's been only a couple of days since the surgery. I can already bend my right leg, and sit down to eat, for example. Doctors said I'll be ready to start physiotherapy next Thursday (July 17)."

Giaffone's wife, Alice, and his manager, Marcello Hirsch, continue to keep him company at the hospital. Giaffone's father and mother, Zeca and Lia Giaffone, are scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis on July 10 from their native Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"Since the accident, I've received an incredible amount of support from the entire Indy Racing community," Felipe Giaffone said. "Brian Barnhart (Indy Racing League senior vice president of racing operations) came here on Tuesday. Morris (Nunn, team owner) comes every day. Other drivers and friends have sent nice messages, and these things help me to keep on going."

"It's just amazing how the rescue team, the doctors and all of the IRL staff have given all the best for me so far, in a very professional and lovely way. It's in these hard times that we feel how important the love is that we get from people we work with and compete against."

Fisher to conduct Girl Scout workshop: IndyCar Series standout Sarah Fisher will conduct a special Car Care Badge workshop for Junior, Cadette and Senior Girls Scouts from the Girl Scouts -- Irish Hills (Michigan) Council on July 25.

The event is in conjunction with the annual Jackson RaceWeek Festival -- a series of community events that leads into the Firestone Indy 400 weekend July 25-27 at MIS.

The workshop will take place from 4:30-5:30 p.m. (EDT) July 25 as a part of Jackson's Pit Row in downtown that evening. The events include an autograph session with all of the IRL IndyCar Series and Infiniti Pro Series drivers and many of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers. The evening will also feature a classic car show and go-kart challenge race that will feature several drivers who will be competing at MIS throughout the weekend.

This May, Fisher announced that she's supporting the Girl Scouts' new "Girls Go Tech" campaign throughout the remainder of the Indy Racing League season. The "Girls Go Tech" campaign encourages girls to explore and excel in science, math, engineering and technology. Fisher's car wing and driver suit will sport the Girl Scout servicemark throughout the remainder of the IndyCar Series season, including the Firestone Indy 400 on Sunday, July 27 at MIS.

For Firestone Indy 400 ticket information, visit MIS' official Web site, www.mispeedway.com, or call the MIS ticket hotline at (800) 354-1010.

Thrilling Kansas Pro Series race on ESPN2: ESPN2 will broadcast highlights of the Aventis Racing For Kids 100 at Kansas Speedway at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, July 10.

IRL Infiniti Pro Series points leader Mark Taylor edged Ed Carpenter for victory by .1666 of a second in a stirring, wheel-to-wheel duel on the 1.5-mile oval. It was the third victory of the season in the No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for Taylor, who started 13th in the race.

Nashville IndyCar Series race on ESPN2: The Firestone Indy 200 IndyCar Series race at Nashville Superspeedway will be televised live at 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, July 19 on ESPN2.

Pa. city supporting IndyCar Series:

The City of Allentown's (Pa.) Special Events and Promotions Committee has teamed up with Nazareth Speedway to bring the IRL IndyCar Series closer than ever before to race fans, with two days of exciting events planned the week leading up to the Firestone Indy 225 IRL IndyCar Series event, Aug. 22-24 at Nazareth Speedway.

Events include the Checkered Flag Gala on Aug. 20 and a street festival on Aug. 21.

The Checkered Flag Gala will feature event grand marshal Michael Andretti, co-owner of IRL IndyCar Series team Andretti Green Racing. Andretti, who retired from his illustrious driving career after the 2003 Indianapolis 500, is a native and resident of the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania.

The gala will raise money for the Michael Andretti Foundation, which then will donate the money to the Allentown-based Fund to Benefit Children and Youth. The event, which takes place at the PPL Plaza in Allentown, starts at 6 p.m. (EDT). Tables of eight are available for purchase at $1,000 and can be secured by contacting Mary Ellen Koval at (610) 437-7530 or Lyndsay Ford at (610) 759-8000.

Fast-paced activities continue with a free race-themed street festival on Hamilton Street, between Seventh and Ninth Streets, from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 21 in Allentown. The festival will be include a driver autograph session and the traveling Indy Racing Fan Experience.

In addition to the large-scale displays, Nazareth Speedway pace cars, IRL race cars, a driver "meet and greet" autograph session, vintage race cars and 25-cent hot dogs, there also will be many displays and race merchandise vendors.

"We couldn't be more excited about the enthusiasm the City of Allentown has shown in support of our upcoming Firestone Indy 225 event weekend," said Speedway President Craig Rust. "Race-themed events like this provide us with the unique opportunity to showcase our product -- the IRL IndyCar Series -- to race fans away from the track, with the hope that they'll travel to the track to see these electrifying cars in action."

Tickets for the 2003 Firestone Indy 225 weekend, Aug. 22-24, are available. For tickets and additional information, contact the Nazareth Speedway ticket office at (888) 629-7223) or online at www.nazarethspeedway.com.

Hemelgarn continues support of USAC race:

Hemelgarn Racing, which won the 2000 IRL IndyCar Series title with Buddy Lazier, will sponsor the Stoops Freightliner USAC Sprint Car Series race July 11 at Toledo Speedway. It's the fourth consecutive year the team is backing the race.

The winner of the 40-lap feature will be given an opportunity to test an IRL IndyCar Series car owned by 1996 Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Ron Hemelgarn.

"Each year, the event just gets better," Hemelgarn said. "We continue to draw larger crowds and car counts. The Toledo Speedway continues to make more improvements to the track, pit area and overall appearance of the facility."

Michigan International Speedway officials will be on hand at the track to promote the Firestone Indy 400 IndyCar Series race July 27 at the 2-mile MIS oval. Throughout the evening, there will be a $10 discount on tickets to the MIS race, courtesy of Hemelgarn Racing and Toledo Speedway.

A Hemelgarn race car will be on display at the ½-mile paved Toledo Speedway.

Unser's company unveils new car: A new race car produced by Merloy Racing, co-owned by IRL IndyCar Series star Al Unser Jr., was unveiled at the recent June Sprints event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

The cost-efficient D-Sports Racer (DSR) was designed by Galmer, Inc. and built by renown engineer Alan Mertens of Albuquerque-based Merloy Racing.

Mertens, formerly the owner of Galmer Engineer Ltd., owns Merloy Racing in partnership with Unser and construction company executive Mike Maloy. Mertens has designed, manufactured and engineered cars at the international levels of the sport, with race victories and/or championships in Formula 2000, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1, CART and the IRL.

The car, which received rave reviews, was included in a display prepared by Racer Parts Wholesale (RPW). Tom Volk, who owns that award-winning, Indianapolis-based parts company, is the Merloy DSR's exclusive distributor.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mark Taylor , Kurt Busch , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Dan Wheldon , Danny Lasoski , Steve Kinser , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter