INDYCAR SERIES OPENS 2008 SEASON WITH OPEN TEST AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
HOMESTEAD, FLA., Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 – Fifteen IndyCar Series drivers tested under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for the start of the 2008 season. A 16th driver, Andretti Green Racing’s Danica Patrick, sat out the first night of testing due to illness.
Testing from 4-10 p.m. (ET) on the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval marked the first official on-track activity of the year. The series will continue testing at the facility Feb. 28 before returning for the season-opening race on March 29.
Nineteen Indy Pro Series cars also will test at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Feb. 28.
OPEN TEST NOTES:
Sarah Fisher, a veteran of 67 IndyCar Series starts, announced the formation of Sarah Fisher Racing. Fisher, who will drive the No. 67 car in honor of her successful USAC midget car, will begin competing in 2008 at the Indianapolis 500.
Fisher was joined at a press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway by female racing pioneers Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James. Guthrie was the first woman to start the Indianapolis 500 in 1978 while St. James earned Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors in 1992. The two combined for 10 Indianapolis 500 starts.
SARAH FISHER (Driver/co-owner Sarah Fisher Racing): “We're trying to build outwards from (Indy)," said Fisher, 27, who has 67 IndyCar Series starts and will drive the No. 67 car in honor of her successful USAC midget car. "We have things in place. We're in final negotiations contract-wise with our primary sponsor. Things are looking really good. We would love to run Texas, Chicago and Kentucky. We would love to have some more opportunities, and we're working on those constructively.
"As a first-year start-up team, we know it's small. We want to build the right way. Our 2009 program actually looks a lot better than our 2008 program. That's real exciting to us and hopefully we can be in a lot more races come that time.
“Going into the off-season this year, I kind of looked at all my options and evaluated sort of where I wanted to go and what my plans were big picture-wise. The best option for me was to start my own team because I think in the long run that's a better plan for us and for me going forward.
"It didn't start just one day in January that we decided we were going to start Sarah Fisher Racing. It's been in the plans and it's been in the works since around August. I didn't just wake up one morning and do it. I consulted a lot of the partners that I have in the league. I have consulted a lot of the partners in marketing that I've worked with and said, 'Do you think this is going to be a good idea? Am I crazy for doing this or is this something that everybody thinks would be a good plan?' I had absolutely no negativity going forward. I was very excited to continue on those plans."
JANET GUTHRIE: “She's the one who in the 21st century broke the records that I set before she was born, qualifying on the pole at Kentucky, finishing second here at Homestead.
“It's hard to believe that 30 years have past since I was in Sarah's shoes, doing what she is doing, grappling with the mind-boggling complexities and details of forming and managing my own team for the Indianapolis 500. Well, times have changed. Technology has changed. The rules of the game have changed. Back then, we didn't have onboard telemetry, spec chassis or spec engines, and differences between the cars were much greater back then than they are now. But drivers haven't changed. It still takes a ferocious desire plus concentration, judgment, emotional detachment, not getting angry or excited behind the wheel of a car, and concentration again and again. Sarah Fisher is a driver, as she has demonstrated beyond any doubt.
LYN ST. JAMES: “We all know the ingredients it takes to be successful in this sport, which of course is talent, experience, it takes the equipment. Everybody talks about the sponsors. Sarah has had some of those opportunities to get all those together, but the other key ingredient we don't talk much about much externally in the sport is team chemistry. It's very hard to identify. It's a tangible that's an intangible. I'm hoping that this is something that will exist. I sense that it will be an added element that should make this a very strong effort. If it takes a while, that's OK. The key is to keep it all together and pull all the elements together as much as you can.”
Panther Racing announced that the Army National Guard will be a co-primary sponsor of the No. 4 IndyCar Series car driven by Vitor Meira. Delphi will continue as the other co-primary sponsor.
The National Guard's activation plan surrounding its sponsorship is to recruit, enlist and retain soldiers. It is the oldest component of the United States Armed Forces with the duel mission of providing states with units trained and equipped to protect life and property while serving the nation with units ready to defend the country and its interests around the world.
There are about 350,000 men and women in the Army National Guard. Combined with about 150,000 Delphi employees worldwide, the third-year Panther Racing driver will have a strong fan base.
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard Team): “"It's fantastic. We've been working on this for the whole off-season. It really paid off. It's really, really good to have National Guard on board with us. It's unbelievable how much not only the know-how but respect and everything that comes with what they have. To be representing that, it's going to be awesome. We have a lot to learn with each other. It's a new season for us. It's a new adventure for the National Guard."
JOHN BARNES (Co-owner Delphi National Guard Team): “In all my years of racing, I have never been so proud to see a sponsor's logo on the side of my race car.”
COL. MIKE JONES (National Guard Recruitment and Retention bureau): "IndyCar Series racing offers an exciting opportunity for the Army National Guard to not only expand its award-winning racing program, but also to display our image and traditions with a new audience of racing fans.
The IndyCar Series announced additional pre-season Open Test dates for new teams that will join the series following the recent unification announcement.
New teams will be able to prepare for the 2008 season with Open Tests at Sebring International Raceway March 19-20 and under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 24-25.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing announced that it has signed Milka Duno to drive the No. 23 CITGO-sponsored car in select IndyCar Series races this season. She will team with Buddy Rice, who returns for his second season with the team in the No. 15 car.
Duno made seven starts with SAMAX Motorsport in the IndyCar Series in 2007, with a best finish of 11th at Texas Motor Speedway.
MILKA DUNO (No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): “"I'm very pleased to get an opportunity with Dreyer & Reinbold to take the next step in my career. I felt comfortable with them right away in the first few meetings. I think that working together with them will make me move forward.
"I learned a lot last year with the team I was with, especially from my engineer, Steve Challis, and my spotter, Pancho Carter, but I still have many lessons to learn. I hope I learn everything I need to improve and become competitive. This is another step for me."
"We need to test a lot, but I'm excited about driving on a road course in these cars. We should have a lot of fun running the car at Sebring. I'm especially happy that almost all the time we spend on the track in the beginning of the season is in Florida where I live."
DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): “We're excited to bring Milka on board. We want to provide her with every opportunity we can to develop as a driver. Her great attitude and hunger for success, combined with her networking opportunities, should make for an exciting race season on and off the track.
"We are also proud to welcome CITGO to our family of sponsors and look forward to working with them this season."
Vision Racing has re-signed drivers Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV to the team for the 2008 IndyCar Series season. Carpenter will be participating in his fourth consecutive season with Vision Racing in the No. 20 entry while Foyt is returning for his second season with the team. Foyt will drive the No. 2 machine this year.
Carpenter recorded six top-10 finishes for the team in 2007 while Foyt recorded his first career top-five finish.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Vision Racing): “I wasn't able to capitalize on the team's growth in 2007 like I wanted. I had some good runs last season, but I expected more. It seemed that more often than not we were the victim of bad luck last year and we've got to look to create our own good fortune this year. The potential, both in myself and the team are there, we just have to make it happen this season.
"I am excited to get back to racing this season. Like last year, we need to get off to a good start like we did at Homestead, but only this time, we need to keep that going and build off of it during the entire season."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Vision Racing): “Last season was really good for me in that I was able to prove to myself that I can be successful in these cars. After a taste of what the team and I can do together, I am excited about getting back out there this season and working together to be even better.”
Meijer today announced a newly-expanded sponsorship program with Andretti Green Racing’s No. 26 entry and driver Marco Andretti which will allow Meijer the opportunity to rise to the level of major sponsor in two of its key markets during the 2008 IndyCar Series season.
Meijer, the Midwest-based retail and grocery supercenter giant, will serve as an associate sponsor on the No. 26 Honda-powered entry driven by the 2006 IndyCar Series rookie of the year at all but two events. Meijer will be featured as Andretti’s major sponsor during event weekends at Kentucky Speedway and The Raceway at Belle Isle.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Co-owner Andretti Green Racing): “We're excited to see Meijer’s program evolve with us in this way and feel it will be a great step forward for both Meijer and Marco. Meijer has always done a great job activating its program through all 181 of its Midwest stores, but having an opportunity to stand tall as a major sponsor at Kentucky and Belle Isle will surely take the program to a new level.”
FRANK GUGLIELMI (Director of Public Relations, Meijer): “Meijer is proud of its heritage as a family business. “It is only fitting that we continue our strong motorsports commitment through a relationship with the third generation of an iconic racing family.”
UNIFICATION REACTION QUOTES:
TONY GEORGE (Founder, Indy Racing League): “This is all about looking forward. At the risk of taking a glance back, it was just last fall on the anniversary of my grandfather's death that I was thinking to myself that it really had been 30 years since the sport of open-wheel racing had been truly unified. There were periods of years over the last 30 years where we worked more closely together and better together. But by and large, there were periods of years where we weren't so good at that.
“Last month when the calendar turned over to 2008, I was wondering to myself, ‘Is it possible this could ever happen?’ Lo and behold, I got a call that just made me feel really warm. I felt like this was perhaps going to be the best year of my 48 to have a chance to do something that's very important to me and very close to me, and that is to help bring about the unification of open-wheel racing.
“But it wouldn't have been possible without Kevin and Gerry (Forsythe), in particular, coming to me, expressing a desire to work with me, to do what's right and what's best for all of the drivers and the sponsors and, most importantly, the fans, the suppliers that make open-wheel racing in North America a great sport, something close to all of us.
“They've been a pleasure to work with in helping bring this about. I think we've all realized that there's a lot of challenges. The thing about having a long offseason, it's good and bad. You start thinking about things. Fortunately, it's long enough that we have a really good shot at bringing this together, albeit very late in the year. We have put our teams together to work on coming up with a good plan to integrate teams into one series, to integrate some events where we have the opportunity to fill some slots. We've got a lot of challenges that go along with doing all those things, but I think we're going to successfully overcome those.
“But this day is really all about the fans, the fans who supported open-wheel racing, in general, who supported Champ Car, who supported IndyCar through the years. There are some that have supported them individually, and there are some that have supported them collectively. To all those, we appreciate your support.”
BRIAN BARNHART (President, Competition and Operations, Indy Racing League): (About how many teams may join the IndyCar Series) “It’s going to be a little more telling when we have to do the engine deal because I think it has some more commitments associated with it. And then to join the Leader’s Circle, to be eligible for the TEAM program, the Leader’s Circle fee to join that consists of a full-season entry, Open Test fees, Open Test fuel, and full season fuel. So there’s a significant fee associated with making the commitment to join the series. Of course at that point in time, you get a better feel for who is just saying ‘I’m interested in a chassis’ and making the commitment based around the Leader’s Circle agreement and the engine agreement. There’s additional costs associated with the engine agreement. We’re going to do the base engine lease. They’re obviously responsible for crash damage, over-revs, shipping, and all the ancillary costs associated with it. So when you have to make that commitment on the engine side and have to make that commitment on the Leader’s Circle program, that’s when we think we’ll get a much better feel for the interest level.”
“Our season entries, historically, when you combine season fuel, Open Test fees, Open Test fuel, and season entries, it’s about $135,000. We’re discounting the program to join the Leader’s Circle and make a full commitment to $115,000 per car. That’s all up front, so that will make the commitment for you to run for the entire season.”
(About potential new venues) “If we are successful with the events that Tony and everybody has been referencing, between Edmonton and Australia, I think the conversations have gone great with those two venues. I think there’s a strong possibility we’ll get 18 events this season. I think one of the most important aspects to keep in mind around both Edmonton and Australia is that both of those events are pending FIA approval because they are international events and when we come to agreement on those, we’ll have to make sure we go through the proper channels with the FIA. If those get added, we’ll be at 18 races, and the $1.2 (million) will bump up to $1.3 (million).”
TERRY ANGSTADT (President, Commercial Division, Indy Racing League): (About league momentum) “We’ve got a couple (sponsorship announcements) in the queue to be announced very soon – major ones, and well-known brands. So we could just not be more excited. It’s a lot of hard work ahead, but it’s looking great.
“We have felt good about our direction and the momentum that we have built. I think if you give us three or four years, you will see dramatic differences. But I think you will also see immediate differences – bigger crowds, better TV ratings. We’re very optimistic that this is going to have a pretty quick impact.
“I think there are lots of fans out there that are motorsports fans. And we all embrace them. And we’ve worked very hard at having very identifiable brand attributes. We’re a lot faster. We have a higher technology and innovation platform. We have a more diverse driver lineup and run on more diverse venues. And we have a green platform – we’re the only form of motorsports running on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol. So we like those assets. Those are unique, and a lot of other brands, and a lot of other consumer product companies can identify with those, we feel. We have a lot to sell, and we’re a great value.”
The 2008 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 2008 schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with ESPN. All races in 2008 will be telecast in High Definition. The 2008 Indy Pro Series season also begins on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 16-race schedule, which features eight ovals and four road/street course doubleheader weekends, will be televised by ESPN2.
John Griffin, Indy Racing League, (317) 492-6579, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Konrath, Indy Racing League, (317) 492-6453, email@example.com
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