Friday, March 28, 2008

March 28 newsstand: We're back

We had to take a self-imposed two-week break due to a simple lack of time on my part, thanks to some really busy stuff going on at work.

Now that the season is starting, we'll be back on a more regular basis.

First off, the stuff for Saturday's race:
Gainsco Insurance Indy 300 @ Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5 oval)
Time: 8 p.m. EDT
Broadcast: ESPN2/IMS Radio Network
Entry list | Schedule | Driver performance (all links from

Season previews & commentaries
Indy Star: TG eager for season to begin
A couple of notes: TG wants to use the Vanderbilt Cup as the series championship trophy (rather than the IRL's championship hardware, which I always thought was a pretty cool trophy itself). Also, the name "IRL" might be changed if there is ever a title sponsor.

SI: So happy together
Bruce Martin has a comprehensive must-read season preview. Races to watch, drivers to watch, intriguing storylines. Martin mentions Coca-Cola and DirecTV are both showing interest in series sponsorship.

Speed TV: Robin Miller's season preview
It's usually a good read, full of facts, opinions and analysis.
Says Robin: "While 24-26 cars figure to be the norm on the rest of the IRL’s 19-race schedule, another set of numbers isn’t likely to change for quite a while. Since 2005, three teams have won 45 of the 47 races. Andretti Green, Target-Ganassi and Penske Racing have also combined to claim the last five IRL titles and seven of the last eight Indy 500s."

AP: New teams, new equipment, same old names likely in title chase
Says Vitor Meira: "I think it will be very competitive but, realistically, we won't find out till Homestead, and not only in Homestead, because a lot of people will still be adjusting. I can only predict it will be very good and very hard for our teams, but fans will get the best of it. If I was a fan, I'd definitely be watching the first race."

ESPN: From Dan to Danica, 2008 campaign won't be lacking in drama
John Oreovicz picks eight drivers to watch.

Cincinnati Enquirer: Open wheels ready to roll
Five storylines, five drivers to watch for 2008.

Cincinnati Enquirer: Big changes in store
A primer on the changes in the IndyCar Series this year.

Detroit Free Press: New IndyCar Series debuts
The Freep's Mike Brundell previews the season, focusing mostly on unification.
"I'm extremely excited about having one series again. I've always been outspoken about that. One strong open-wheel series is going to be the best for everyone, not only the drivers, not only for the teams, not only for the press, but especially for all the fans."

ESPN: From contenders to pretenders, 2008 packed with drama
John Oreovicz handicaps the 2008 field.

ESPN: Q&A with Oreo: Could the ICS be on the verge of great things?
Says Oreo: "From a competition standpoint, it means there will be 26 cars on the grid for Saturday's season opener, the most since 2001 and a similar number to what many people consider IndyCar racing's most successful era, the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s. Several other teams have announced part-time programs that could occasionally swell the field to 28 or even 30 cars, and there should be enough meaningful bumping to restore drama to Indianapolis 500 qualifying."

Yahoo: Re-starting open-wheel's engines
Bob Margolis gives us the storylines for the 2008 season.

Grand Rapids Press: IRL season opener worth watching
Steve Kaminski predicts his Top 10 for 2008.

San Diego Union-Tribune: IndyCar restarts engines, but will fans notice?
A season preview with a capsule look at every team.

The AP has a capsule look at each team

Toronto Sun: IRL smoke clears
It's a look at the future of racing in Canada -- Edmonton is on the schedule for this year, while Toronto is a possibility for 2009.

CC defector stories
Indy Star: New faces of the IRL
A program will be necessary. Says TK: "Part of me makes me say, 'Who are these guys?' We definitely have to learn about each other if we're going to race this close together."

Indy Star: Ex-CC drivers search for speed
Marty Roth beat them all at the Homestead test. Yes, you read that right.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: CC drivers face uphill climb
One thing that will be interesting is how the CC guys handle the ovals.
Says Will Power: "It is evident after two days of testing here that we are lacking quite a bit of speed in comparison to the IRL guys."

CBS Sportsline: CC defectors hope to get up to speed
Says Will Power: "We've got to judge the competition when we get there, but it's going to be a tough road because we have no time in these cars, let alone the fact that most of us have very little experience on ovals. We've got to be realistic and these first few races are going to be very difficult."

St. Petersburg Times: NHL struggles to adjust
Says NHL GM Brian Lisles: "You reset your goals. We'll be happy if we finish on the lead lap at Homestead."

Fort Myers News-Press: Danica cautious about new IRL drivers
Says DP: "You're going to have to be really careful, especially until we get to know the tendencies of these drivers. I think it's going to be a tip-toe game at the beginning a little bit if you want to stay in the race."

PCM won't be there
Obviously, given they're not on the entry list. There have been rumblings about Pacific Coast Motorsports joining with RLR for some road course races later in the year.

Salinas Californian: A preview of Long Beach

Homestead preview
Palm Beach Post: Will IRL have a bang-up opener?
Says Oriol Servia: “Hopefully, we’ll finish the race and add more miles to our testing, because this is the way it is for all of us here - the first few races are actually testing, learning the cars."

ESPN: If it's Homestead, the favorite has to be Wheldon
John Oreovicz previews the season opener.
Says Wheldon: "It's one of those racetracks you race as little downforce as possible; we practice mostly in the daytime, the race is at night and that makes it exciting because it changes how the car handles and you have to judge it correctly. But for whatever reason, it just works for me and I'm not going to try and jinx that by saying anything different. I just love the place."

Driver stories
Miami Herald: Helio's star burns bright
The Herald catches up with Helio Castroneves in the wake of his DWTS victory.
Says Tim Cindric: "'In the past, he's always tried to figure out how can he become mainstream because he has a personality that is addictive. Now he has a connection as a winner on and off the track -- and when he does win, and people see his name go across the SportsCenter ticker, they will know him. Before, it was just another driver who won a race. It gives the IRL a celebrity who's a winner, which is something they haven't had.''

Easton (PA) Express-Times: Optimism abounds for Marco Andretti
Says Marco: "I was pretty beat up about last year. But I couldn't wait to get going again this year, basically to redeem myself. I know we can turn things around."

USA Today: Gifted Wheldon looks to extend Homestead streak
Says the newly-married Brit: "I have always been gifted with great race cars there. I certainly am not afraid to run wheel to wheel with anybody, and I have a good feel for what you need to be quick on that style of track, but you've got to have competitive equipment." Dan also has some advice for Dario Franchitti for when Chip "goes postal" on his Cup team's failures so far -- don't be around when it happens. Unfinished business for Dixon
The 2007 runner-up has a little bit more to do.
Says Dixon of the final lap of 2007: "It was one of those surreal instances where you don't really want to believe it, though I was definitely angry for a few days after. A couple days later you're still thinking about it, but then you just tend to forget about it and understand what a great year you had. At least you were fighting at the end."

USA Today: Kanaan's family expands, as does IRL's, for 2008
Says TK: "I have four kids, three on the team and one at home."

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: RHR in right place at right time
Says RHR: "I know we've got a lot of work to do on the 1 1/2-mile ovals. We're a 12th-place car right now and we're better than that. We're better than that on the road courses. That said, I want to consistently finish in the top seven ... to be there in the end for a championship. I'd like to get a race win and a couple of podiums. And I believe we can."

Autosport: Viso confident in mid-season progress
Says HVM's Keith Wiggins: "Ernesto showed maturity and professionalism well beyond his years, and not only was he quick in the car, he was a very useful tool for the engineering staff."

Rahal out
One of the potential warts of unification has come to roost already: Graham Rahal will miss the Homestead race because he wadded his car up in testing and enough spare parts aren't yet available.
Says Rahal: "Our team wasn't in position to rush things, and it wasn't worth the risk. Our guys has been working very hard just to get to the point, and they need some rest. We'll focus on getting a good start on next week because we ought to have a good shot at finishing on the podium there."
Other notes from the story: The TEAM incentive is now $1.3 million, and there are lots of Brazilians in the ICS.

GR tells the Tampa Tribune that searching for someone else's backup was initially a possibility, but NHL was worried about not getting it up to their standards.

A cool perk
Not only are the races going to be in HD this year, you can have access to six HD views yourself.
Says IMS Productions' Charlie Morgan: "The clarity from those cameras is so amazing you can actually read the telemetry lights on the steering wheel. That sense of being in the cockpit has never been so real. And with the 360-degree capability, the (on-track) passes are even more dramatic. It's really cool in the pits. You can show all four corners of the car in a continuous sweep."

Other stuff
Palm Beach Post: Heavy IndyCar racers get even field
A piece on the cars being weighed with driver this year. Robby Gordon was not available for comment. rounds up the changes on ovals for 2008
Four-lap qualifying, back to multiple fuel mixture settings, paddle shifting are all on the docket for this year.

Official IRL news & notes
Press conference with Dan Wheldon, Donoso to IPS, stuff on TV.

Menards back in IRL with Vision Racing

Indy Lights stuff
The IPS is now Firestone Indy Lights

The Gary (IN) Post-Tribune has a piece on Logan Gomez
Says Gomez: "Teams like to say they want to win races, but they want championships with consistent top 5, top 10 finishes. Overall I want to be winning races by the end while in contention for a championship. ... With all the drivers coming over (in the merger), I see some seats opening up next year or maybe halfway through this year."

And finally ...
This isn't IRL related, but it is awesome to see Cristiano da Matta getting back into a racecar

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