IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2004-08-04

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Aug. 4, 2004 Today's IRL headlines 1. Casey's Wealth Of Knowledge Helps Everyone 2. IRL Drivers To Visit X Games 3. Rice Gets New Ride From Argent Mortgage 4. Fans Get Up-Close Look At IndyCar Series Cars 1.

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Aug. 4, 2004

Today's IRL headlines
1. Casey's Wealth Of Knowledge Helps Everyone
2. IRL Drivers To Visit X Games
3. Rice Gets New Ride From Argent Mortgage
4. Fans Get Up-Close Look At IndyCar Series Cars

1. Casey's Wealth Of Knowledge Helps Everyone

Note: This is the first in a series of releases in advance of the IRL IndyCar® Series' 100th race, The Firestone Indy 225 on Aug. 27 at Nazareth Speedway.

Phil Casey's tenure with the Indy Racing League began before the IndyCar Series turned its first wheel and continues almost 10 years later.

Casey, the IRL's senior technical director, began his association with the IRL in 1995, when the veteran mechanic and car builder was asked to advise the league. He has been to every race and Open Test.

"There were a lot of new teams starting, and a lot of them weren't well equipped," Casey said about the series' early days. "You can see how the series has improved with the number of transporters, the quality of the teams and the quality of the competition that we have now."

The first race of the IndyCar Series took place at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 27, 1996. That race, won by Buzz Calkins, remains one of Casey's fondest memories of the first 100 races.

"The race at Disney was one of my favorites," he said. "It was really nice going there in the wintertime, and I liked the racetrack. It was very nice. It was designed by Kevin Forbes from the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. It was a real competitive race track, a lot like Phoenix in a way. It took a lot of ability and experience to drive the track, so we always had very good races there."

Casey said a highlight was the closest finish in IndyCar Series history at Chicagoland Speedway, when Sam Hornish Jr. beat Al Unser Jr. by .0024 of a second in September 2002, and said he has enjoyed several races at Texas Motor Speedway, site of some the IndyCar Series closest races.

"Texas is always been one of the favorites with the competition that we've had there," he said. "We've always had close races. I don't think we've ever had a race there where the first- and second-place car weren't right there. A lot of times, we had three cars competing for the win."

The depth of the current IndyCar Series field also impresses Casey, who served as chief mechanic for drivers Art Pollard, Gary Bettenhausen, Jim Hurtubise, George Snider, Jim Malloy, Johnny Rutherford and Jimmy Vasser.

"When we first started, the first year any ways, we had four or five guys that could win races," he said. "Now the whole field is almost capable of winning races. The quality of competition has really increased since the beginning."

Joining the Indy Racing League also let Casey rekindle a friendship that began in the mid-1980s when Les Mactaggart joined the league as technical consultant. Together they oversee all technical aspects of the league.

"I've known Les (Mactaggart) from the days we've worked on March cars," he said. "We were building cars over here and we needed someone from the Europe-side to oversee the project, so we hired Les. Les has been a consultant and done an excellent job getting the car working along with the manufacturers to achieve where we're at."

But most of all, Casey remembers all the people with whom he's worked with at the Indy Racing League.

"We've had a lot of good people working with the IRL," he said. "We had Jack Long and Leo Mehl. Then Brian (Barnhart) took over, and he's done an excellent job. John Lewis came on board. A lot of people have come on board and done a nice job. That's been very positive."

***

2. IRL Drivers To Visit X Games: Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and IndyCar Series driver Darren Manning will be among the fans attending the X Games this weekend in Los Angeles.

Rice, who started his racing career in elementary school by riding in Bicycle Motocross, said he is looking forward to watching many of his friends in the SuperMoto division, Freestyle Motorcycles and Bicycle Motocross events at the 10th action sports event.

"I have a lot of buddies that will be in action, including Ben and Eric Bostrom in the SuperMoto," Rice said. "One of my sponsors, Red Bull, has a lot of athletes competing in a variety of events, so it will be fun to kick back and watch those guys and gals this time. After three races in a row, I can use a little time to relax with my friends."

Manning, driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, will support several Target-sponsored participants, including skateboarder Shaun White, who met Manning at a go-karting event before the Indianapolis 500.

In addition, the Pennzoil IndyCar Series showcar and the IRL Fan Experience war wagon, which features four IndyCar Series video game stations, will appear at the California Speedway booth.

***

3. Rice Gets New Ride From Argent Mortgage: A trip to the X Games wasn't the only reason Buddy Rice was looking forward to this off weekend.

A supercharged 1949 Mercury hot rod, a gift from team sponsor Argent Mortgage, was delivered to his Phoenix home while he was racing at Michigan International Speedway.

"Wayne Lee at Argent said he would buy me any car I wanted after winning Indy," said Rice, who also owns a '57 Chevy, '65 Nova and '67 Lincoln Continental. "He thought I would want a Ferrari, or Porsche, or something like that. I said, 'No, I want a '49 Merc.' Wayne laughed at first, but I explained how I grew up in a drag racing family, and I love the big hot rods. I guess I am 'Old School' when it comes to cars."

Pioneer, which shares primary sponsorship of the No. 15 Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone with Argent Mortgage, will outfit the interior of Rice's new car.

"I'm very excited about that and want thank Argent and Pioneer for their gifts," Rice said. "They're great sponsors."

***

4. Fans Get Up-Close Look At IndyCar Series Cars: Race fans of all ages got an up-close look at the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Rahal Letterman Racing show cars during the Race Fan Rally Day on Aug. 4 at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.

The event, sponsored by Argent Mortgage Company in conjunction with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was a hit with race fans and those who were just touring the three-floor museum.

"It enables a kid to have that experience of getting into an IndyCar Series car and see what the drivers see," said Mike King, host of the IndyCar Series broadcasts on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and an organizer of the event. "When they walk out of here with a Buddy Rice poster or a picture of them in the Purex IndyCar, it will be a big deal to them and have a lasting impression."

Kevin Blanch, the IndyCar Series' technical manager and crew chief with Panther Racing when Sam Hornish Jr. won IndyCar Series championships in 2000 and '01, addressed the audience in formal question and answer sessions throughout the day in the Grand Lobby of the museum.

***

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 15 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series Kentucky 100 will take place at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 14. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 6 p.m. on Aug. 14.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Buzz Calkins , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Buddy Rice , Eric Bostrom , Chip Ganassi , John Lewis , Sam Hornish Jr. , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing