IPS: News and notes 2004-09-29

Today's MIPS headlines 1. Unser To Miss California Race Due To Broken Thumb 2. Medeiros, Schmidt Set to Clinch First Championships 3. Simmons to Finish Season with Kenn Hardley Racing 24. Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation to Entertain Guests from...

Today's MIPS headlines
1. Unser To Miss California Race Due To Broken Thumb
2. Medeiros, Schmidt Set to Clinch First Championships
3. Simmons to Finish Season with Kenn Hardley Racing 24. Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation to Entertain Guests from Joni And Friends

1. Unser To Miss California Race Due To Broken Thumb: Al Unser will not compete in the Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series® California 100 on Oct. 2 after undergoing surgery on Sept. 28 for a broken left thumb.

Unser suffered a fracture and dislocation at the base of his left thumb in an off-road motorcycle accident Sept. 24 at his home in Albuquerque, N.M. After consulting with Dr. Henry Bock, IRL senior director of medical services, Unser flew to Indianapolis for evaluation by Dr. Terry Trammell. Trammell performed the surgery, inserting one screw and one pin to repair the injuries. A full recovery is expected.

"I have been advised by Dr. Trammell to just take it easy this weekend and wait for the thumb to heal completely before I attempt to drive again," Unser said. "I recognize the significant personal and professional sacrifices that the team and my guys have made to field a winning car for me at California. I was really looking forward to this weekend's race. I apologize to my team, my primary sponsor, Western Union, and my fans."

Unser will be in California to honor all appearances and autograph sessions to which he has committed.

Unser, 21, is the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. Unser made his debut in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series at Kansas Speedway in July and has recorded five top-five finishes in seven starts. He expects to be back in the No. 2 Western Union Speed Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for the season finale on Oct. 16 at Texas Motor Speedway.

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2. Medeiros, Schmidt Set to Clinch First Championships: The goal for Thiago Medeiros has been the same since Day One of the 2004 season: win the Menards Infiniti Pro Series® championship.

After capping his rookie season with a victory in the 2003 season finale at Texas Motor Speedway, the 22-year-old Brazilian set his sights on winning the 2004 championship as the next step to reaching his ultimate goal of racing full-time in the IRL IndyCar® Series in 2005.

He will claim the title when he starts the California 100 on Oct. 2. However, Medeiros doesn't just want to start the race at California - he wants another victory.

"We have one priority: to win the race," Medeiros said. "I don't want to share Victory Circle with anybody. I want to keep winning. That will make it easier to find a ride in the IndyCar Series next year."

Medeiros enters the race with a 95-point lead over Hemelgarn 91 Johnson Motorsports driver Paul Dana. Medeiros built the lead in dominating fashion, winning five of the first 10 races. At one point, Medeiros rolled off four consecutive victories, establishing a new Indy Racing League record.

Sharing the excitement of an anticipated title with Medeiros is team owner Sam Schmidt. Schmidt's team joined the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2002 and entered the season winless in 38 starts.

"It's just been an absolutely fantastic ride," Schmidt said. "As many owners will tell you in motorsports - and drivers for that matter -- it's kind of all about the people. We made a few personnel changes over the winter and kind of just laid it all on the line, so to speak.

"It does take a lot of energy for me to travel and to manage the team and everything else. I just kind of came to the decision that if we weren't winning races, competing for the championship, it almost wasn't worth doing. We made some good changes. Of course, Thiago is a heck of a driver. To me, the program has finally been what it needs to be, with the proper level of testing, just the right people in place. Everything's gone remarkably smooth."

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3. Simmons to Finish Season with Kenn Hardley Racing: American driver Jeff Simmons will finish the season in the No. 24 Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone fielded by Kenn Hardley Racing. Simmons joined the team in mid-August for the Pikes Peak 100, where he qualified on the pole. The 27-year-old followed up with a second-place finish at Chicagoland.

"When Kenn Hardley called me about finishing the season for him, I was very excited, as the team has quality personnel with chief mechanic Mark Olsen and engineer Dave Conti," Simmons said. "Both of these guys know their way around, having worked with some top drivers in this business for several years."

Simmons finished second in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series point standings in 2003. His first race in 2004 was the Futaba Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he finished second.

Simmons' effort so impressed IRL IndyCar® Series team owner Morris Nunn that Nunn gave Simmons a ride for the 88th Indianapolis 500, where Simmons finished 16th.

"When we were in position to put a new driver in the car and Jeff was available, he seemed like the perfect guy to put in the seat," Hardley said. "The crew is real excited with his performance so far and are looking forward to finishing the season with Jeff as the driver."

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4. Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation to Entertain Guests from Joni and Friends: The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation will entertain 50 guests associated with Joni and Friends as part of its "Disability Day" program at California Speedway on Oct. 2.

The program provides patients suffering from a disabling injury with a behind-the-scenes look at the Indy Racing League. The guests will enjoy lunch in the infield and one-on-one conversations with Sam Schmidt and drivers from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and the IndyCar Series. They will watch the Menards Infiniti Pro Series California 100 as well as IndyCar Series qualifying.

Schmidt was a top IndyCar Series driver until he was paralyzed in 2000. He is a team owner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and the founder of SSPF.

"We want to thank California Speedway for their continued support and the access they've provided for these patients," Schmidt said.

Joni and Friends was founded 25 years ago by Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident in 1967. The organization's goal is to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those affected by disabilities.

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The Menards Infiniti Pro Series California 100 will take place at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 2 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 7 by ESPN2. The IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Indy 400 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 3 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.

-irl-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Morris Nunn , Jeff Simmons , Paul Dana , Al Unser , Thiago Medeiros