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Category: IndyCar Series

Indianapolis 500 Preview: Warm day dawns for 100th anniversary race

Indydawn

After a week of rain, cold and tornado warnings in central Indiana, there were partly sunny skies and warmer conditions Sunday morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 100th-anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500.

Indeed, temperatures were expected to reach the high 80s and the chance of rain was listed at only 10% for the race, which many observers said was shaping up to be one of the more compelling Indy 500s in recent years.

Though Canadian Alex Tagliani is on the pole, with a qualifying speed of 227.472 mph, many of the top drivers in the Izod IndyCar Series are starting deep in the 33-car field. That's likely to spark lots of passing in the 200-lap race as those drivers charge to the front.

Defending race winner and reigning IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti is starting ninth. Helio Castroneves, looking to become only the fourth driver in history to win the race four times, is starting 16th.

Simona De Silvestro, the young Swiss driver who burned her hand in a crash at practice but returned to qualifying anyway, starts 23rd. And the popular Danica Patrick starts 25th.

The race starts at noon EDT, and look for in-race updates at latimes.com/sports.

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The history of the Indianapolis 500

-- Jim Peltz in Indianapolis

Photo: The front-stretch grandstands at dawn Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire

Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani lead final practice for Indianapolis 500

Photo: Drivers pose next to their cars after qualifying on the front row for the Indianapolis 500. Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images. Scott Dixon and pole-sitter Alex Tagliani topped the speed charts Friday in the final practice for Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

Dixon, who won the iconic race in 2008, turned the fastest lap of 225.474 mph at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on "Carb Day," a throwback term to the days when the cars' engines still had carburetors and mechanics made final adjustments.

Tagliani was second at 224.739 mph and Dario Franchitti, the defending Indy 500 winner and Dixon's teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, was third at 224.658 mph.

"I was quite happy with the balance of the car," said Tagliani, a Canadian who drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the Izod IndyCar Series. "I was trying to find myself some traffic because I wanted to see what the car was capable of doing in turbulence.

"It’s been a pleasure for me to drive a very competitive car, hopefully it will continue," he said.

Continue reading »

British driver Mike Conway wins Long Beach Grand Prix

Mike-conway_300 Mike Conway, badly injured in a crash at last year's Indianapolis 500, completed his comeback Sunday by winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, his first victory in the Izod IndyCar Series.

The 27-year-old Englishman passed Ryan Briscoe for the lead with 14 laps left in the 85-lap race and held on to win by more than six seconds on the 1.97-mile, 11-turn course on Long Beach's seaside streets.

"On the restarts the car was awesome, it just came to life," Conway told a television audience as he basked in Victory Lane. "Just had to make the right moves and hang in there and keep it clean.”

Briscoe finished second and Dario Franchitti, the reigning IndyCar champion, was third.

Danica Patrick, Conway's teammate at the Andretti Autosport team, finished seventh.

Pole-sitter Will Power finished 10th after his car was hit from behind by Helio Castroneves, his teammate at Team Penske, as they tried to maneuver through Turn 1.

Conway crashed near the end of last year's Indy 500, his car going airborne, flying over Ryan Hunter-Reay's car and then slamming into the catchfence in front of the grandstands.

The crash ended Conway's season because he suffered multiple fractures to his lower left leg, among other injuries, requiring months of rehabilitation.

Hunter-Reay, last year's Long Beach winner, finished 23rd after his car had late mechanical problems.

ALSO:

Australian Will Power wins pole for Long Beach Grand Prix

IndyCar's season to end in Las Vegas -- with a $5-million twist

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Mike Conway leaves the track after a crash during the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27. Credit: Chris O'Meara / Associated Press

Australian Will Power wins pole for Long Beach Grand Prix

Power

Three races, three poles.

Will Power on Saturday won the pole position for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the third consecutive year that he's started first in the Izod IndyCar Series race.

Power also has captured the pole for all three of the series’ races so far this season, and he won the second race last weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

The Australian also won the Long Beach Grand Prix in 2008, when the race was sanctioned by the Champ Car World Series. That series then reunited with IndyCar to form a single series for U.S. open-wheel racing.

"It's one of my favorite tracks," Power said of the 1.97-mile, 11-turn Long Beach street course. "I love it around here."

The Team Penske driver won the pole with a lap of 102.582 mph Saturday. Ryan Hunter-Reay of the Andretti Autosport team, who won the Long Beach Grand Prix last year, was second at 102.469 mph.

Mike Conway qualified third in the 27-car field and Oriol Servia was fourth. Helio Castroneves was sixth, Ryan Briscoe was 12th and Danica Patrick qualified 20th. Charlie Kimball, a rookie from Camarillo, was 24th.

Reigning IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, who won the Long Beach race in 2009, qualified seventh. Power finished second to Franchitti by a mere five points in last year's championship battle.

ALSO:

British driver Mike Conway wins Long Beach Grand Prix

IndyCar's season to end in Las Vegas -- with a $5-million twist

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Will Power, left, shakes hands with Ryan Hunter-Reay on Saturday after Power won the pole position for the Toyota Grarnd Prix of Long Beach. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Motor racing on tap from Alabama to Malaysia

Vettel

While the Formula One series holds its second race of the season Sunday in Malaysia, the Izod IndyCar Series is racing in Alabama and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has a Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Formula One and IndyCar opened their seasons with both of their reigning champions claiming victory. Sebastian Vettel won F1's Australian Grand Prix, and Dario Franchitti won IndyCar's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.

Now, Vettel and his Red Bull team will try to make it two in a row at F1's Malaysian Grand Prix on the Sepang International Circuit outside of Kuala Lumpur. But thunderstorms are predicted for Sunday's race, which could upset expectations for Vettel, McLaren Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and other favorites.

Fans also will be keeping a close eye on Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who finished third in Australia to become the first Russian to earn an F1 podium (top-three) finish.

"We are realistic and know that the Red Bulls, the McLarens and the Ferraris are the benchmark," Petrov said this week. "And to take a podium again you have to outperform at least four of their drivers, which is a pretty huge task."

Continue reading »

Donald Trump to drive pace car at Indianapolis 500

Donald Trump hasn't yet given the green light to a presidential bid, but the business mogul will lead 33 cars to the green flag as driver of the pace car at this year's Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

111657870ML016_DONALD_TRUMPThis will be the 100th anniversary of the famed race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and "it's a great honor to be selected as the pace-car driver," Trump said in a statement. "I can't wait to get behind the wheel."

The Donald will drive a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro ahead of such IndyCar drivers as defending 500 winner Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves.

Last year, actor Jack Nicholson waved the green flag as honorary starter of the Memorial Day weekend classic.

ALSO:

Dario Franchitti easily wins IndyCar opener

Photos: Helio Castroneves wins his third Indy 500

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Donald Trump at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York for the announcement that he'll drive the pace car at this year's Indianapolis 500. Credit: Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti visits L.A. Live

 

Dario Franchitti, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion, is coming off a dream season.

His IndyCar Series championship was his second in a row and his third in the past four seasons. His Indy 500 win was the second of his career.

During a visit to the ESPN Zone at L.A. Live, Franchitti talked about how his return to IndyCar racing after a year in NASCAR reignited his passion for motor sports. He also talked about what he would like to accomplish after winning three IndyCar Series championships, two Indianapolis 500s, the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Go to Haddock in the Paddock for more on Franchitti and the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series.

ALSO:

IndyCar's season to end in Las Vegas -- with a $5-million twist

Danica Patrick's NASCAR plans, IndyCar to exit Japan, and a repave in Phoenix

-- Tim Haddock

IndyCar's season to end in Las Vegas -- with a $5-million twist

Ryan

The IZOD IndyCar Series, as expected, said Tuesday that it plans to end its 17-race season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

But IndyCar, which lags NASCAR stock car racing in popularity, threw in a promotional twist that wasn't expected: a $5-million prize for any professional race car driver outside of the IndyCar series who wins the race.

"We showcase our drivers as being the very best, fastest and most versatile in the world, and we are putting our money where our mouth is," IndyCar Chief Executive Randy Bernard said in a statement. The series said it would accept up to five drivers for the challenge.

IndyCar -- whose drivers include reigning champion Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick -- had been expected to finish its season at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval, but the deal wasn't formally announced until Tuesday.

The series also said any fans buying tickets to any IndyCar race earlier this season would be eligible for a complementary ticket to the Las Vegas finale.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers racing this weekend in Phoenix no doubt will be asked about the $5-million challenge, because they likely could be in Las Vegas in time to compete. The Cup series race that weekend is Saturday night, Oct. 15.

The IndyCar Series opens March 27 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and its third race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the city's seaside streets April 17.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay rounds a corner on his way to winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 10, 2010. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Motor racing: Danica Patrick's NASCAR plans, IndyCar to exit Japan, and a repave in Phoenix

Danica
 

Danica Patrick plans to compete in 12 NASCAR Nationwide Series races this season as the popular IndyCar Series driver enters her second year of stock-car racing in and around her IndyCar schedule.

Patrick, 28, already had said she would drive in the first four races in NASCAR's second-level series, starting with the season opener Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway. That will be followed by races in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Bristol, Tenn.

Her remaining Nationwide schedule includes the series' road race in Montreal on Aug. 20 and the final three races of the season at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, her JR Motorsports team announced Wednesday.

Patrick's schedule does not include Auto Club Speedway in Fontana this year because the Nationwide race there, on March 26, is the same weekend as the IndyCar season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Patrick drove in 13 Nationwide races last year and mostly struggled. Her best finish, 19th, came in the season finale at Homestead-Miami.

But as she gains the experience of a second NASCAR season, there's widespread speculation that she will decide whether to compete full-time in NASCAR in 2012 or stay with IndyCar racing.

"I have a much different perspective heading into this season," Patrick said in a statement. "I know a little more of what to expect, and I'm not as out of my element."

In 2008, Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar race with a victory at the 1.5-mile track in Motegi, Japan. But in a separate announcement, IndyCar said it would not return to Motegi in 2012. Because of time-zone differences, the race was televised late at night in the United States.

"It is important that the final few events on our schedule give us the opportunity to be broadcast live during times that maximize our viewing audience as we build up to the championship," said Terry Angstadt, president of IndyCar's commercial division.

Phoenix International Raceway, meanwhile, said it plans to repave and modify the quirky one-mile track after its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Feb. 27.

The changes, which include widening the front stretch by 10 feet and tightening the track's signature dog-leg bend on the back stretch, are aimed at promoting more side-by-side racing. The makeover is scheduled to be finished before NASCAR returns to Phoenix in mid-November.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Danica Patrick sits in her car prior to qualifying in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover, Del., on Sept. 25, 2010. Credit: Nick Wass / Associated Press

 

Sebastien Bourdais might return to Long Beach in IndyCar Series

Between 2005 and 2007, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was the playground of Sebastien Bourdais, who won the race on the city's seaside streets for three consecutive years.

Bourdais At the time, the race was part of the Champ Car World Series, and Bourdais also won the Champ Car championship in 2007 for the fourth consecutive year for the Newman-Haas-Lanigan team.

Then in 2008, when Champ Car was reunited with the IndyCar Series, the French driver left for what would be an unsuccessful foray into Formula One and, after he was fired from that ride in mid-2009, other European circuits.

But Bourdais might be back for another shot at the Long Beach race this year.

The IndyCar team of Dale Coyne Racing said this week that Bourdais recently tested one of its cars at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway with an eye toward being hired to race on the so-called road courses -- curvy tracks and street circuits -- on IndyCar's schedule  this year. The Long Beach grand prix is one of those races.

"We have talked with Sebastien before and this is an opportunity that has great potential," team owner Dale Coyne said in a statement.

Bourdais, who turns 32 on Feb. 28 and was born in the famous racing city of Le Mans, France, said in the same release that he looked forward "to putting together the pieces to get back into Indy car racing."

Coyne told Speed.com  that he expected to finalize his driver lineup for this season in about two weeks. Other candidates include Alex Lloyd, one of Coyne's drivers last year.

The 17-race Izod IndyCar Series season opens March 27 with a street race in St. Petersburg, Fla., and this year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is April 17.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Sebastien Bourdais is congratulated after winning the Toyota Grand prix of Long Beach for the third consecutive year on April 15, 2007. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

 

IndyCar Series seeks to bolster Hollywood ties with Santa Monica office

The Izod IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Tuesday they're opening an office in Santa Monica to further develop marketing opportunities with Hollywood.

JackThe series' marquee event is the Indianapolis 500 at the famed speedway on Memorial Day weekend in May, and the series schedule also includes the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach each April.

IndyCar said the new office's goal is to heighten the presence of the series and the Indy 500 -- which will hold its 100th anniversary race this year on May 29 -- in "film, television, music and emerging media."

"If we want to grow the sport, we need to be fully vested in relationships with the entertainment community that can tell the story lines of our sport," series chief executive Randy Bernard said in a statement.

IndyCar said the new office would be managed by Sarah Nettinga, who held a similar post with NASCAR stock-car racing and earlier worked in the television industry.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: Actor Jack Nicholson waves the green flag to start the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May 30. Credit: Darron Cummings / Associated Press

 

 

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