Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Franchitti expects another close fight for 2010 title 2. Beatriz gets noticed on Streets of Sao Paulo 3. Straight ethanol for the cars 4. Brazil race holds ...
Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Franchitti expects another close fight for 2010 title
2. Beatriz gets noticed on Streets of Sao Paulo
3. Straight ethanol for the cars
4. Brazil race holds special place in de Ferran's heart
1. Franchitti expects another close fight for 2010 title: Through 17 events in 2009, on the most diverse set of racetracks in motorsports, four IZOD IndyCar Series drivers swapped the points lead a record 15 times. Dario Franchitti earned the driver championship by outdueling Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe in a season-finale shootout at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
That the title was determined in the closing stages of the race was fitting - the three competitors entered the 200-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval separated by eight points. The final margin was 11 points (the third-closest in series history and the fourth consecutive year it's been less than 20 points). No more than 33 points separated first to third in the standings over the course of the season.
Franchitti's second series championship in three years was forged by five victories, eight other top-five finishes that piled up points and 11 bonus points from pole starts and race laps led.
"I didn't think I'd win five races and a championship in my first year back (after the shortened by economics foray into stock cars)," Franchitti said. "Scott is a better driver than he was in '07 and Ryan came in every single week, as well as other people who made appearances and won races. It just seemed that Scott and Ryan every week were tough competition."
Franchitti expects Dixon to again contend for the title during the 17-race schedule that kicks off March 14 on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil, along with the Team Penske triumvirate of Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power, and Tony Kanaan of Andretti Autosport. He also expects a couple of dark horses to emerge, such as Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and former Formula One driver Takuma Sato.
Again, the road to the championship will be challenging - with the first four races on road/street circuits and the final four on 1.5-mile ovals; in between is a mix of short and long ovals and street/road courses.
"(At dinner recently with team members) I said this year is going to be harder than last year and we all kind of nodded," Franchitti said. "We know the competition is going to be tougher. There will be the usual suspects that were in the title fight last year and I think you'll add a couple more. We'll have to work harder if we want to come home with another championship.
"To even challenge for another championship we'll have to work even harder. If we do our best, we'll see if we can repeat. Right now, we're just going to with the same attitude as last year, which was let's do our best and hopefully that will put us in contention."
Of the 40 drivers who started at least one race last season, 27 earned a top-10 finish, 18 a top five and 15 wound up on the podium. Castroneves, who has won the Indianapolis 500 three times but is looking for his first series title, has been in the hunt almost every year since entering full time in 2002. He finished fourth in '09 -- missing the season opener because of his federal tax evasion trial.
Briscoe, who recorded three victories in '09 and tied the series record with eight runner-up finishes, predicted that several title contenders will emerge because of the diverse schedule.
"This year, with nine road and street courses, it's going to be very challenging," he said. "There are going to be lots of different drivers vying for wins so we're going to have to be very focused and paying attention all the time."
Franchitti became the fifth different series champion in the past six years. Another battle to the finale is expected.
Attempting to repeat
Dario Franchitti will attempt to be the third driver to follow up an IZOD IndyCar Series championship season with another.
2. Beatriz gets noticed on Streets of Sao Paulo: Ana Beatriz, who will make her IZOD IndyCar Series debut in her home country this weekend in a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-prepared car, had an early morning wakeup call to drive the Indy Racing Experience street-legal two-seater in sections of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
It wasn't a simple morning commute. Under the auspices of the CET (Traffic Engineering Company of Sao Paulo), the operation incorporated about 400 people. There really isn't a time when streets in the largest city in South America are not congested. The helicopter hovered overhead as TV Bandeirantes filmed the five-mile ride for promotion of the race event.
"I would like to thank São Paulo City and Bandeirantes Group for believing in the making of this race," Beatriz said. "I have driven so many times by the Marginal (Tietê River road) at 40 kilometers an hour that I can hardly wait to ride here at 300 kilometers an hour without getting a ticket."
On March 8, the two-seater was transported to the Northeastern region of the state of São Paulo for media rides and display. Team Penske's Helio Castroneves was honored with the title of Citizen of Ribeirão Preto (his hometown) by Mayor Dárcy Vera and he showed her around the car (photo above). The city of 570,000 is a technology business hub in Brazil.
On March 9, the mayor of Piderão Preto will be one of the riders in the two-seater. Castroneves will attend the public event with a few of his former race cars/karts.
3. Straight ethanol for the cars:The sugar cane ethanol that will fuel IZOD IndyCar Series cars this weekend won't be denatured with 2 percent gasoline (as in other race markets). It will be 100 percent ethanol with a red dye added that has no chemical properties other then adding color to the fuel.
The IZOD IndyCar Series is the only form of motorsports that utilizes a renewable and environmentally conscious fuel to power its engines.
4. Brazil race holds special place in de Ferran's heart: The São Paulo Indy 300 will mark the IZOD IndyCar Series' first race in Brazil and its first trip to South America. CART hosted five races on a 1.864-mile oval in Rio de Janeiro from 1996 to 2000.
It will have special significance to Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports president and 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who grew up in Brazil and raced at the Rio circuit.
"All races count the same number of points and pay the same money, so why should I approach racing in Brazil any different, right?" he said. "This race, however, has many special landmarks for me personally. Although I have owned a (sports car) team for the past two seasons, it is my debut in IndyCars, a series that has had a great significance in my motorsports career. In addition, racing at home at a location where in fact I learned to drive karts at age 6 will be quite special."
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season begins March 14 with the Sao Paulo Indy 300 on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season opens with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 28 on the streets of St. Petersburg. The race will air live on indycar.com.