Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines: 1. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A - Championship Contenders 2. Cunningham, IZOD back with SSM for Firestone Indy Lights finale 3. Two big drives in one day 4. New ...
Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A - Championship Contenders
2. Cunningham, IZOD back with SSM for Firestone Indy Lights finale
3. Two big drives in one day
4. New sponsor for Long Beach race
1. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A - Championship Contenders: IZOD IndyCar Series championship contenders Will Power and Dario Franchitti and the two men who lead their championship winning teams Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, and Mike Hull, managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing participated in a IZOD IndyCar Series teleconference earlier today
Power, who came back from a serious back injury in 2009 to be one of dominant drivers in the series in 2010, leads Franchitti, a two-time series champion who seeks his second consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series title, by 12 points entering the season-ending Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It is the fifth-straight season that the IZOD IndyCar Series title will be decided in the final race.
Below are select quotes from their interview. A full transcript and MP3 audio file can be downloaded at the IZOD IndyCar Series media website at www.indycar.com/media.
. For the third straight year, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske will battle for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. What is it about these two organizations that keep putting drivers in the position to win the title? Tim, since your team leads the points with Will, we'll start with you.
TIM CINDRIC: Again, it comes down to the people. And whether it's the drivers or the team, I think those are the things that really put you in a position to compete for the championship.
Unfortunately, Mike and his group have got the best of us over the past couple of years. But we'll give it a shot on Saturday.
MIKE HULL: I think we drive each other to begin with. First of all, I think Penske racing has set really a high standard for a lot of years. And that's what we've tried to do. We've tried to achieve records.
We've tried to achieve goals with, as Tim said, the people process. But, you know, probably as important as this intangible thing you have when you get down towards the end of the year, with the drivers themselves and the people that are supporting and surrounding the drivers, that's where the fun begins.
It's a key to actually who gets it up when it counts, that's why it's fun to race with Penske Racing.
Q. Tim, when you signed Will Power last year to substitute for Helio and then brought him back in after his back injury at the start of the season, did you think he'd have this kind of season?
TIM CINDRIC: It's interesting, Will ‑-- from the minute we sat down and talked to him about filling in for Helio, back the beginning of 2009, he was adamant that he felt like he could win this championship.
He continued to say, "I know I can compete for this championship. I know I can get there, I just need the chance," and that's continued to be really the thing that he's been very consistent in his belief.
And it wasn't as much as I can win races or I'm fast enough. In his head, it's always been about trying to be a champion. And to see it I guess so early in our relationship, I can't say that I would have expected him to be in this position. In his first full season with us, would I have said that? I guess I would have probably said I wouldn't have expected him to be leading the championship, but obviously I think we felt like he was a championship contender or we wouldn't have had much interest in fielding a third car.
Q. Mike, you brought Dario back last year and he paid off with winning a title. This year he's back in title contention. What is it about Dario Franchitti that keeps him up at the front for three of the last four years, actually?
MIKE HULL: I think the fact that he ---- his desire to win races and he understands that desire with compounding wins leads to championships is the common denominator with him throughout his career.
We were lucky enough that he was available to drive for us last year. You said we brought him back; it was actually our first opportunity to work with him in an Indy car. And from the very first day, it's very easy to understand that not only why he's able to win races. But what I like about him is the fact that he understands how important it is for the direction that he's going and from the direction he's come.
And he has a great degree of respect for motor racing. I think when you respect motor racing or what it's meant to all of us, and you combine that with the challenge of power, then you find a very rare individual like Dario to lead you to winning championships.
Q. Will, Can you just talk a little bit about the season that you've had so far and about fighting it out with Dario for what could be your first championship here in America.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, it's been my best season to date, my entire career. And going into this season I guess a few months, I wasn't even sure I would be full time.
So it was a great start. And it continued through the whole season. And I think this is the first time I've been in the position in my career where I've got all the tools to win races. A fantastic team that has all the engineering and all the personnel to give you the best possible chance of winning, the best equipment.
So the only thing that I saw coming this season that would be tough for me is really getting up to speed on ovals, which I have. And I feel as though I've learned a lot and I feel I'm in a position to win on ovals now.
So, yeah, it's been a great season.
Q Dario, you've been in this title fight situation before. And you came out on top last year and in 2007. Do you approach this final race any differently from the years past?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't think so. We know how to get the job done. The guys at Team Target know how to win it too. We're not going to go out and change our game plan. We're going to go out to win the race. We've got to make up the points. We've got to get a 13‑point advantage, which is not going to be easy, but we think we've got ---- we've got the equipment to do it. We know how to do it. So we've been talking about a lot this week about the ins and outs and the championships and the points.
At this point we just want to get on the track and fight out there.
2. IZOD, Cunningham back with SSM for finale: Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced Sept. 28 that Wade Cunningham will return to the cockpit of the #77 IZOD/Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry for the Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka 100, the season finale of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The trio of IZOD, Cunningham, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports had a successful debut in May where the New Zealander scored his third Firestone Freedom 100 win at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"We're excited to have IZOD on board with us for the season finale, and I have to thank them for affording us the opportunity to put Wade in the car," team owner, Sam Schmidt, said. "This was a strong combination of sponsor and driver in May, and we're confident that we can produce a similar performance this weekend in Miami."
Cunningham, who hasn't competed in Firestone Indy Lights since his Indianapolis win, is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel. Cunningham's best finish at Homestead was a fourth as a rookie in 2005.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get into a competitive car with the Sam Schmidt team," Cunningham said. "They've been a good bunch to work with, and I know anytime I step into one of their cars, I've got a good shot to win. I also have to thank IZOD for getting involved in the program. We had a good run in Indy, and I hope we can deliver for them again in Homestead and head into the off-season with some good momentum to try and build a program to step up into IndyCar in some capacity with the partners we've been working with."
3. Two big drives in one day: LPGA Tour rookie Beatriz Recari will offer swing tips to Newman/Haas Racing driver Graham Rahal early in the afternoon Oct. 2 and then get a ride in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater with Mario Andretti at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
4. New sponsor for Long Beach race: Tix, a leading provider of integrated box office software and online ticket sales and services for arts, entertainment and sporting events, has signed on as an Official Sponsor and ticketing services provider for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Tickets to the April 15-17 on the streets of Long Beach (Calif.) go on sale Oct. 12 at www.gplb.com and 888-82-SPEED.
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season concludes with the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race, which will decide the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, will be telecast live in High Definition at 6 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 www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season concludes with the Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka 100 on Oct. 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.