IRL: IndyCar Series stars prepare for IROC opener

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2004 -- IRL IndyCar® Series stars Scott Sharp, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves will start sixth, 10th and 12th, respectively, in the first Crown Royal International Race of Champions of the year on Feb. 13 at ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2004 -- IRL IndyCar® Series stars Scott Sharp, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves will start sixth, 10th and 12th, respectively, in the first Crown Royal International Race of Champions of the year on Feb. 13 at Daytona International Speedway.

Starting positions for the 100-mile race on the 2.5-mile, high-banked oval were selected in a draw on Feb. 11. The Crown Royal IROC series puts 12 top drivers from different North American series in equally prepared stock cars in a four-race series.

The first race starts at 5 p.m. (EST) Friday, Feb. 13, in Daytona Beach, Fla. It will be televised live by Speed TV.

"It's certainly a big challenge for us open-wheel guys," Sharp said. "There couldn't be much more difference in a race car, and certainly for the stock car drivers, it's old hand. It's a good challenge for us, but it's for fun. It's more an honor to be a part of it and a fun event to do."

The event adds to an already hectic schedule for the IndyCar® Series drivers, who have had limited time in the stock cars because the IRL Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway conflicted with IROC practice times at Daytona.

"The schedule didn't really work out this year," Sharp said. "Scott Dixon and myself were both in cars for a couple of sessions on (Feb. 6), and due to some stuff we had to do with the team last weekend and now the test here, I haven't had a chance to get back. I think we're all going into it with a little less time than what we'd like."

Castroneves tested an IROC car at Daytona on Feb. 8, but his practice session ended early when he made contact with the outside retaining wall between Turns 1 and 2. He was uninjured in the incident, but the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner joked that IROC officials may be punishing him for damaging his car.

"I crashed their car, and they make me start last," Castroneves said. "I guess when you push the limit, that's what happens sometimes. Everybody is really excited, especially with the $1 million prize. Nobody wants to take it easy out there, but I'll just try to do my best."

Dixon, the 2003 IRL IndyCar® Series champion, also starts from the rear of the field, but thinks he and Castroneves could be capable of drafting their way to the front of the field.

"They're not a real difficult kind of car to drive," Dixon said. "The thing you need to work on a lot and how they win races is the drafting. It's so different from our kind of drafting. Time in the car would obviously help, but it's hard with what we're trying to do with the test out here. Still, I think it will help me as a driver, and I'm looking forward to it."

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About this article
Series IndyCar , IROC
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon