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Category: Indy Racing League

IndyCar's Andretti Autosport releases Tony Kanaan, re-signs Ryan Hunter-Reay

Former IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan is seeking a new ride after being released Friday by the Andretti Autosport team.Kanaan

At the same time, Andretti announced a two-year contract extension for driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won this year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the seaside streets in Long Beach, Calif. Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti also drive for Andretti Autosport.

Kanaan, the 2004 champion in what is now the Izod IndyCar Series, had been with Andretti for eight years. But his future there was jeopardized early this month when convenience-store giant 7-Eleven said it would not return as Kanaan's primary sponsor.

Reay"We were left with a very challenging situation" and ultimately decided "the best option for both Tony and the team is to allow him the freedom to sign with another team," Andretti Autosport Chairman Michael Andretti said in a statement.

"I want to thank Tony for all the effort and passion he shared with our race team and the fans," Andretti said.

Kanaan, a 35-year-old Brazilian, has 14 career IndyCar wins, including a victory this year at Iowa that was his first since June 2008. He finished sixth in the series championship standings.

--Jim Peltz

Photos: (Top) IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida on Oct. 1; Credit: Alan Diaz / Associated Press. (Bottom) Ryan Hunter-Reay after winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18; Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times


Long Beach is third race in 2011 IndyCar schedule

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be held April 17 next year, the third race in the 2011 IndyCar Series schedule announced Friday.

The schedule starts with a street race in St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 27, includes a return to the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin on June 19 and for the first time features a street race in Baltimore, on Sept. 4. IndyCar's crown jewel, the Indianapolis 500, is scheduled May 29.

A site for the season finale in October hasn't yet been chosen, although there is speculation it might be held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ryan Hunter-Reay won this year's Long Beach grand prix, which is run on a 1.97-mile, 11-turn course through the city's seaside streets.

--Jim Peltz

Australian Will Power wins IndyCar race in Sonoma


Australian Will Power drove to a dominant win Sunday at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma to widen his lead in the IndyCar championship standings with four races remaining in the season.

Driving the No. 12 car prepared by Team Penske, Power started on the pole and led nearly all of the race's 75 laps at Infineon Raceway en route to his series-high fifth win of the season in the Izod IndyCar Series.

Power was tested late in the race when a crash involving rookie Bertrand Baguette brought out a caution period, bunching up the field for a restart with six laps remaining.

But Power held off a charging Scott Dixon, who finished second, and Dixon teammate Dario Franchitti, the defending Sonoma winner and reigning IndyCar champion.

Power's victory widened his lead in the standings to 59 points over Franchitti and 95 over Dixon, both of whom drive for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team.

"It's unreal, what a perfect weekend," said Power, who broke his back in a practice crash at Infineon a year ago and then spent months recuperating. "I want to win this championship."

However, the final four races are on oval tracks, as opposed to twisty road courses such as Infineon, and Dixon and Franchitti have much more experience on ovals.

-- Jim Peltz in Sonoma, Calif.

Photo: Australian driver Will Power leads the field on his way to winning the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sunday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Danica Patrick set to rejoin NASCAR in Michigan

Can Danica Patrick crack the top 20 this time?

The popular IndyCar driver returns to NASCAR on Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway, one of several races she's entering in NASCAR's second-tier series this year to see how she likes stock-car racing.

Danica This will be her sixth Nationwide race; in her first four events she finished 30th or worse, in some cases because she was collected in accidents. But in her most recent NASCAR race, at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., on July 9, she finished 24th while keeping her car out of trouble.

Now she'll be driving her No. 7 Chevrolet, prepared by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports team, at the two-mile Michigan oval that's nearly identical to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Patrick finished 31st in her second NASCAR race in February.

"Looking back at Chicagoland, I think it was a very positive race for me," Patrick said in notes released by her team. "We were able to run the entire race fairly clean, which was something we needed. Getting laps and more laps are what I'm focused on right now."

In the Izod IndyCar Series, meanwhile, Patrick often has struggled this season (she's 11th in the point standings), fueling the debate about whether splitting her time between IndyCar and NASCAR in the same season is hurting her in both. It's a notion she's repeatedly rejected. Now in her sixth season of IndyCar racing, Patrick has one win on that circuit, in Motegi, Japan, in 2008.

After Michigan, Patrick returns to IndyCar racing Aug. 22 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Danica Patrick following a practice session July 24 for the Izod IndyCar Series race in Edmonton,  Canada. Credit: Jeff McIntosh / Associated Press-The Canadian Press

IndyCar sticks with Dallara for new race cars, but what will they look like?

After months of deliberation, the Izod IndyCar Series said Wednesday it would stick with current chassis designer Dallara to provide the chassis for its new race cars set to debut in the 2012 season.

But in a twist, the series said other manufacturers and engineering firms -- including those not currently involved in motor sports -- would be invited to "dress" the chassis with different body work, or aero kits, that could include front and rear wings, side pods and so forth.

So the final look of the cars would vary for IndyCar drivers, who currently include this year's Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick.

Here's a general idea from IndyCar's website:

In a sport where the cars reach speeds of 225 mph at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the kits would be subject to the series' safety testing before they could be made available to IndyCar teams. Each team would be able to race two different aero kits during the season.

IndycarThe new chassis would have enhanced driver safety features and be nearly 200 pounds lighter, at 1,380 pounds, than the current IndyCar chassis made by Italian-based Dallara. Also, the new chassis, at $349,000, would cost about 40% less than the current version.

That reduction "is a game-changer for the sport," said Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, a member of the committee that chose Dallara's entry instead of four other candidates. "We've ensured that team owners currently in the sport can continue to participate and we can entice new teams to join."

At a press conference at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, series officials also said Dallara would build the new chassis at a facility in Speedway, Ind., just outside Indianapolis.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Alex Tagliani leads Helio Castroneves through a corner in the Izod IndyCar Series race last Sunday in Watkins Glen, N.Y., with cars using the current Dallara chassis. Credit: David Boe / Associated Press

Indy Racing League cites 'human error' in crew's response to Simona De Silvestro fire

The criticized response to a fire that threatened IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro at Texas Motor Speedway this month was due to "human error" by safety crews, and changes will be immediately introduced, the Indy Racing League said Wednesday.

The IRL, the governing body for the Izod IndyCar Series, said its review of the accident revealed that a fire hose that crews tried to use malfunctioned because it had not been properly repacked in the truck after a pre-race test.

The crew also failed to use pressurized fire-extinguishing canisters "as a first response" as called for by the IRL's protocol, the IRL said.

De Silvestro, a 21-year-old Swiss driver and IndyCar rookie, suffered only first-degree burns on her right hand after being pulled from her car by rescue workers. The fire erupted after she slammed into the wall during the race June 5.

A rescue worker tried to free De Silvestro immediately. But she remained in the burning car for 30-plus seconds before being freed. At  the same time, the first fire hose that rescue workers used in their response remained limp, with nothing flowing from the nozzle.

After the race, Imran Safiulla, a principal with De Silvestro's Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing, called the response "a circus," and Keith Wiggins, another team principal, said "the safety crew should be ashamed of themselves."

Brian Barnhart, the IRL's president of competition and racing operations, said in a statement that "the safety of our teams, drivers and officials on the racetrack remains our No. 1  priority," but that "what happened at Texas was a result of human error and we will work diligently to prevent this in the future."

Barnhart also was quoted on the IndyCar website as saying that when the safety team pulled up to De Silvestro's car, "There was a sense of urgency and they chose at that time to go with the big hose instead of the [canister] first.

"The only reason our track safety team is having attention called to them is because they didn't perform to their usual outstanding standards," he said. "No one feels worse about it than they do. They have a lot of pride in what they do and they have full league support."

Mike Yates, the IRL's track safety manager, said the circuit is "modifying hoses on all the trucks beginning this weekend in Iowa to prevent this from happening again," referring to Sunday's race at Iowa Speedway.

In addition, "We have determined that the [fire-extinguishing] canisters are a more efficient and effective way to quickly suppress on-track fires," Yates said. "This will be reviewed with all safety team members."

-- Jim Peltz


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