Series news and notes 2010-08-18

Series news and notes 2010-08-18
Aug 19, 2010, 12:35 PM

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines: 1. Texas to host Firestone Twin 275s in 2011 2. Kanaan featured on Travel Channel's Man v. Food 3. Ellis to make Firestone Indy Lights debut at Infineon 4. Miller ...

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Texas to host Firestone Twin 275s in 2011
2. Kanaan featured on Travel Channel's Man v. Food
3. Ellis to make Firestone Indy Lights debut at Infineon
4. Miller joins Bryan Herta Autosport for Carneros 100

1. Texas to host Firestone Twin 275s in 2011: Bobby Unser vividly remembers winning both ends of an Indy car doubleheader in June 1979 at Trenton, N.J., while prevailing in the second of twin 126-mile races five weeks later at Michigan International after starting 18th was particularly memorable to the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion.

"It's two completely different races, which is exciting for the drivers and fans," Unser said. "It was like a trophy dash; just run like heck for however many miles it was and then come in and redo the car."

On June 11, 2011, the IZOD IndyCar Series and Texas Motor Speedway will revisit the exciting twin race format on the same evening. The Firestone Texas Two-Step was introduced Aug. 17 by IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard, three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage before a crowd of more than 1,600 at the House of Blues in Dallas.

The newly named Firestone Twin 275s - formerly the Firestone 550k - will consist of two full-field 275-kilometer races (171 miles/114 laps each) with two race winners being recognized by the sanctioning body. Half points will be awarded in both races. How the starting field for either or both races on the 1.5-mile oval - along with the time allotment between races - is still to be determined, according to IZOD IndyCar Series president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart.

"I think it is important that we elevate all of our races to give them a big-event feel," said Bernard, noting the format will be a first for the series and racetrack. "Eddie Gossage and Texas Motor Speedway certainly are taking things to the next level with the Firestone Texas Two-Step doubleheader. It was a concept that was first run by USAC in the 1960s, so it plays on an Indy car tradition but also brings a new no limits feel to the event.

"Texas has been known for producing some of the most exciting races on the circuit, so fans will be able to double their fun in 2011."

The Texas date will be the first race following the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 and return the off-week between the events that was scheduled from Texas Motor Speedway's inaugural 1997 season through 2005. The IZOD IndyCar Series has raced at the facility in Fort Worth, Texas, 21 times, including twice in the same season seven times.

"We have a special racing season in store for the fans of Texas Motor Speedway," Gossage said. "Randy and I discussed hosting twin races when he first took the job heading the Indy Racing League. The concept has Indy car history to it, but at the same time provides a new dynamic event to our fans as well as the drivers themselves.

"Texas Motor Speedway traditionally has hosted some of the series' most exciting races and the Firestone Twin 275s' format should provide plenty more in the future. Drivers have two shots at winning and fans get an opportunity to see not one but two great races in one evening. It should be a tremendous show."

There were 17 doubleheaders (nine on ovals) under USAC and CART sanction from 1967-81, with a driver sweeping both races 10 times. The grid for the second race was determined by finishing order in the first contest in all 17 events.

On July 15, 1979, at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, Unser started from the pole and led eight of the first 21 laps in the first of the Norton Twin 125s before the Penske Norton Spirit PC-9 blew an engine.

"There wasn't much time between races," Unser said. "In our particular case, we had to change the engine so the mechanics had to really work fast."

Starting 18th of 21 in the second race, Unser worked his way to the front and led the final 35 laps. Tom Sneva finished second and Al Unser third. Gordon Johncock, who won the first race and started from the pole in the second, finished fourth.

"I just had to guess at everything, start the race and if it was OK then I guess I was pretty good," Unser said. "I guess I was pretty good."

Indy car racing doubleheaders with race winners

USAC sanction

-July 1, 1967: Mosport, Canada (road course; Bobby Unser and Bobby Unser)

-Aug. 6, 1967: St. Jovite, Canada (road course; Mario Andretti and Mario Andretti)

-June 15, 1968: Mosport, Canada (road course; Dan Gurney and Dan Gurney)

-July 21, 1968: Indianapolis Raceway Park (road course; Al Unser and Al Unser)

-July 28, 1968: Langhorne, Pa. (Al Unser and Al Unser)

-Aug. 4, 1968: St. Jovite, Canada (road course; Mario Andretti and Mario Andretti)

-July 27, 1969: Indianapolis Raceway Park (road course; Dan Gurney and Peter Revson)

-Sept. 14, 1969: Brainard, Minn. (road course; Gordon Johncock and Dan Gurney)

-Oct. 19, 1969: Kent, Wash. (road course; Mario Andretti and Al Unser)

-Feb. 28, 1971: Rafaela, Argentina (Al Unser and Al Unser)

-April 15, 1973: Trenton, N.J. (A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti)

-Sept. 16, 1973: Michigan International (Billy Vukovich and Johnny Rutherford)

-Sept. 22, 1974: Trenton, N.J. (A.J. Foyt and Bobby Unser)

CART sanction

- April 22, 1979: Atlanta (Johnny Rutherford and Johnny Rutherford) - June 10, 1979: Trenton, N.J. (Bobby Unser and Bobby Unser) - July 15, 1979: Michigan International (Gordon Johncock and Bobby Unser) - June 28, 1981: Atlanta (Rick Mears and Rick Mears)

Note: "Twin" races were held as qualifying events for the Ontario 500 Mile Races of 1973, '74 and '75, but they employed odd and even qualifiers rather than all contestants together in the same races.


2. Kanaan featured on Travel Channel's Man v. Food: Andretti Autosport driver Tony Kanaan is featured in an episode of the popular show "Man v. Food" in which host Adam Richman takes The Big Ugly Burger Challenge at Bub's Burgers and Ice Cream in Carmel, Ind., and tackles a jumbo tenderloin at Edward's Drive-In.

The Big Ugly Burger Challenge: That's 22 ounces of ground beef on a roll. Hold the mayo.

Richman travels the country to sample and savor some of the best eats around and take on some of the zaniest food challenges.


3. Ellis to make Firestone Indy Lights debut at Infineon: Up-and-coming driver Alex Ellis will make his Firestone Indy Lights debut with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in conjunction with the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School.

The 18-year-old Canadian was awarded a one-race deal to run the Carneros 100 at the Infineon Raceway on Aug. 22 after winning the Jim Russell Race of Champions, a six-race series held at Infineon Raceway.

"It's all happened so fast, but just the way I'd like it to," Ellis said. "I'm really pleased with the professionalism of Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and I'm really enjoying the support from Jim Russell. The last few days have been a blur, but I have loved every second of it. I just can't wait to get on track again at Infineon."

Ellis tested a Firestone Indy Lights car for the first time at Putnam Park Road Course near Indianapolis on Aug. 11. The young driver was surprised at how quickly he was able to adapt to the vehicle.

"The test at Putnam Park went amazingly well," Ellis said. "I was so pleased with how quickly I was able to get up to speed in the car. As odd as it sounds, I feel that the faster a car gets, the more power and grip that I have, I feel more at home and comfortable.

"I love the Firestone Indy Lights car as it is a truly fast vehicle. The transition wasn't that hard to make."

To provide Ellis the opportunity to run a Firestone Indy Lights car gives team owner, Sam Schmidt, great satisfaction.

"Sam Schmidt Motorsports is honored to work with Chip Pankow and the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School to provide this series champion with a Firestone Indy Lights test and seat for the upcoming Carneros 100 event at Infineon Raceway," Schmidt said. "At Putnam Park, Alex proved the Jim Russell series and school was a great learning tool as he adapted quickly to the Firestone Indy Lights chassis and turned really impressive times, I'm quite positive that, combined with a full day test and his knowledge already of Infineon Raceway, he will have a very good run during the upcoming race."


4. Miller joins Bryan Herta Autosport for Carneros 100: Joel Miller will make his second career Firestone Indy Lights start this weekend, driving for Bryan Herta Autosport in the Carneros 100 at Infineon Raceway.

"We are excited to welcome Joel to the team this weekend," said team co-owner Bryan Herta. "Joel has worked hard and creatively to put together the budget to compete at Sonoma and we want to provide him with the best opportunity to showcase his talents as he focuses on a full Indy Lights campaign next year."

Miller, 22, of Hesperia, Calif., made his Firestone Indy Lights debut at Long Beach earlier this season finishing 11th for Andersen Racing in a solid performance after losing second gear in the race.

A mechanical engineering student at the University of California, Riverside and sales representative for Sparco USA, Miller began his racing career in the karting ranks. Among his credits are the 2006 Stars of Karting national title in the ICA division, the 2007 Skip Barber National Championship and runner-up in the 2008 Star Mazda Championship in his rookie season. He was also a Team USA Scholarship recipient contesting the 2007 Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy Series in England.

"I have known Bryan since I was seven years old in go karts and I am happy to come full circle and finally be able to drive a car for him," Miller said. "I have run at Sonoma in various formulas and I am very familiar with the track. This is a local race for me and I am really looking forward to the weekend because I know the place and I also know that I will have a good car under me. My goal is a full season in Indy Lights next year. I did Long Beach for the experience and now this weekend at Sonoma. Everything we are doing is for next year. Hopefully, we can keep the sponsors we have on the car for this coming weekend involved for a full-time effort and, hopefully, with Bryan's team."

Miller will fill in for Stefan Wilson who drove the No. 28 car for the first nine races this season while Wilson and BHA work to secure the funding to return Wilson to the cockpit for the remaining races on the schedule.

"Obviously I am disappointed to not be driving this weekend but that is the economics of racing sometimes," said Wilson. "I will be there to support Joel as much as I can and help him to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Bryan has worked hard to try to raise the necessary funding to keep me in the car this weekend but time was not on our side. We will keep working and, hopefully, I can be back to finish out the season."


The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 22 with the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 212. The race also will be carried on The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Carneros 100 on Aug. 22 at Infineon Raceway.

-source: irl

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