Camara replaces Perera at Conquest Drivers think about environment Firestone Indy Lights return to action
1. Camara replaces Perera at Conquest: Jaime Camara didn’t take the express route to the IndyCar Series, but three years of seasoning in Firestone Indy Lights will serve him well straight away.
Conquest Racing announced that Camara will drive the No. 34 Dallara/Honda/Firestone for the remainder of the season, beginning with the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway this weekend. It also announced an extension to the sponsorship program with Sangari.
Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart said the loss of sponsors Opes Prime, which recently went into receivership, and ARES necessitated the change. Franck Perera competed in three races, with a high of sixth place on the streets of Long Beach (Calif.) last weekend.
“As much as we are happy to have Jaime join the team, we are saddened that it is at Franck’s expense,” Bachelart said. “He has done exceptionally well in his IndyCar Series debut as well as in his one and only Champ Car race and we are keeping him as our reserve driver for the remainder of the year, but he will be released should a racing seat be available for him with another team.”
Camara, a native of Goiania, Brazil, finished fifth in his Firestone Indy Lights rookie season in 2005 for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He recorded two victories, including the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and three pole starts. In 2006, Camara posted his third victory and set a series record by qualifying in the top 10 in 18 consecutive races while finishing sixth in the championship race.
Last year, Camara record seven top-five finishes again finishing sixth in the standings. Overall, he set a series record with 42 consecutive starts.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to be driving for Conquest Racing,” said Camara, who has had IndyCar Series testing seat time in the No. 11 Andretti Green Racing car. “This has always been a goal for me, to get to the IndyCar Series. It’s been hard work since 2005 when I came to the United States to race. I want to thank Eric Bachelart for giving me this opportunity as well as Sangari and Geraldo Rodrigues, my manager, that worked for this to happen.
“It’s just a dream come true. My goal was always to go to IndyCar, I never looked at going to Europe to try different series. It was always here. It’s a good feeling that I have now, I am happy that it happened with the merger going on because now all the teams are here and the series is gaining momentum and that’s going to be great.”
Camara is the eighth Firestone Indy Lights graduate to compete in the IndyCar Series this season and is eligible for Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year honors.
“Jaime will be a great addition to our team,” Bachelart said. “With his oval experience and Enrique Bernoldi’s road and street course experience, it will be a good combination. Jaime has proved himself in Indy Lights and I think he will fare well in the IndyCar Series.”
2. Drivers think about environment: From recycling to energy-efficient appliances to using ethanol-blended gasoline in their personal cars, IndyCar Series drivers are always thinking about the environment.
It’s fitting that a group of drivers who power their IndyCar Series cars up to 230 mph on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol would be so conscious of the environment.
“We have a lot of recycling that we do,” 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice said. “And, my wife buys a lot of organic stuff. As you get more educated, you get more and more involved with being green.”
Danica Patrick spent the offseason changing the lightbulbs in her house to compact flourescent bulbs while Ed Carpenter installed high-efficiency appliances. Vitor Meira uses ethanol in his personal car and contributes to a company that plants trees to offset carbon emissions.
“Full on recycling,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay, who drives the No. 17 Team Ethanol car. “I’m a surfer, so I’m in the ocean and see the pollution and how it affects that. In every way, I’m an environmental freak.”
3. Firestone Indy Lights return to action: After a two-week layoff, the Firestone Indy Lights returns to action with the Kansas Lottery 100 at Kansas Speedway on April 27.
The race will be the series' first on the 1.5-mile oval since 2004 and the first time the race has been held in April.
"I just think it's going to be really close racing," said Arie Luyendyk Jr. of Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing. "We saw in Homestead the cars were pretty difficult to drive from last year for some reason, but I think Kansas is a place that will bring all of the guys together. It's a track similar to Chicago, and I think it's just going to really make it interesting for the fans to watch.
"I think a lot of cars are going to be running really close together. I think it's going to be really important to qualify well and to have a car that will run anywhere on the racetrack, low, high; so it's going to be a lot of fun."
Kansas played host to the first race of what was known as the Infiniti Pro Series in July 2002. Luyendyk, the only driver to race in the series in each of its previous six seasons, said the series has come a long way since that first race at Kansas.
"The competition level has definitely stepped up from then," he said. "You have a lot of guys trying to get to the IndyCar (Series) and now it seems to be the best route, the only route that seems to be as far as development series is concerned. And we just have a really solid field of 22 to 24 cars consistently now, and that makes the racing that much more fun. And to race with a really good group of guys is always a good thing."
The three previous winners at Kansas – A.J. Foyt IV, Mark Taylor and Thiago Medeiros --- went on to win the series title.
*** The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 on April 27 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 27 at Kansas. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 1 by ESPN2.