Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci teleconference Teams announce driver changes for 2009
1. Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci teleconference: IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon, 2007 series champion Dario Franchitti and Firestone Indy Lights championship contenders Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci were guests on today’s Indy Racing League teleconference.
Background on Scott Dixon: Scott Dixon is in his seventh season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He will attempt to win his second series championship Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Age: 28 (Birthday is July 22, 1980) 2008 Starts: 16 2008 Victories: 6 2008 Top-Five Finishes: 13 2008 Top-10 Finishes: 13 2008 Poles: 6 Career Highlights: Won the IndyCar Series championship as a rookie in 2003. Has 16 career victories and 14 career poles. 2008 Highlights: Holds a 30-point lead in the championship heading into the season finale. Has recorded a record-tying six victories, including the Indianapolis 500.
Background on Dario Franchitti: Dario Franchitti will return to the IndyCar Series in 2009 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing for his sixth season.
Age: 35 (Birthday is May 19, 1983) Career Starts: 67 Career Victories: 8 Career Top-Five Finishes: 30 Career Top-10 Finishes: 46 Career Poles: 7 Career Highlights: Won the IndyCar Series championship in 2007 with four victories, including the Indianapolis 500 while driving for Andretti Green Racing.
Background on Raphael Matos: Raphael Matos is in his first full season in Firestone Indy Lights, driving for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing. He will attempt to win the series championship Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Age: 27 (Birthday is Aug. 28, 1981) 2008 Starts: 15 2008 Victories: 3 2008 Top-Five Finishes: 7 2008 Top-10 Finishes: 12 2008 Poles: 4 Career Highlights: Won the Champ Car Atlantic championship in 2007 with six wins in 12 starts. Won the Star Mazda championship in 2005 with four wins in 12 races. 2008 Highlights: Holds a three-point lead in the championship heading into the season finale. Recorded victories at St. Petersburg 1, Watkins Glen 1 and Mid-Ohio 1. Won the pole on the 1.5-mile ovals at Homestead-Miami and Kentucky.
Background on Richard Antinucci: Richard Antinucci is in his first full season in Firestone Indy Lights, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He will attempt to win the series championship Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Age: 27 (Birthday is Jan. 26, 1981) 2008 Starts: 15 2008 Victories: 2 2008 Top-Five Finishes: 9 2008 Top-10 Finishes: 11 2008 Poles: 0 Career Highlights: Competed in nine Firestone Indy Lights road/street course events in 2007, recording two victories. Competed in Europe from 1998-2006, winning numerous races. 2008 Highlights: Earned victories at St. Petersburg 2 and Watkins Glen 2. Has six additional podium finishes, including at Indianapolis.
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today’s teleconference. Numbers in parentheses indicate approximate time codes from the audio recording.
*** Q. You've had a lot of success on the mile-and-a-half ovals this season with three wins in five starts. Chicago is a place you haven't had a victory yet. Tell us a little bit about what you expect on the track this weekend as you go for the championship.
SCOTT DIXON: I think Chicago's going to be very tough. It's a tough circuit. It's one of those ones that provides great racing and definitely nailbiting for a championship race, which is exactly what the fans want and everybody that's watching. I guess they'll definitely get that.
I think for me it's been a mixed bag in the way of how we've done there and things like that. To never have won there is definitely frustrating. We're hoping that we can definitely turn that around this weekend. But there's a lot of other people that are going to be trying to do the same thing.
The mile-and-a-half ovals I think throughout this year have been very tough. Almost 10 more cars on the track than we had last year. If you make any little mistake, it makes it that much worse. We still definitely have to finish extremely well. But I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait to get there.
*** Q. Give us your perspective on returning to the IndyCar Series and doing it with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm very excited to be coming back to the IndyCar Series. I think the unified series is excellent news. I think the schedule for next year was a big part of my decision, plus the chance to drive for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which is a great team. I have competed against the team for I guess 10 or 11 years in open-wheel. I know how difficult they are to beat. I'm really looking forward to being a part of the team going forward and having Scott as a teammate.
*** Q. This is your first season really competing on ovals. The championship battle comes down to a race on a mile-and-a-half oval. Tell us a little bit about your approach to the weekend and having to win a championship on an oval.
RAPHAEL MATOS: I think the approach will be pretty much the same as everywhere we've been. We show great speed pretty much everywhere we've been. Obviously we won three races on a road course, but we had two pole positions at the mile-and-a-half oval courses. We tested last week at Chicago, and we showed great speed. We definitely have a great car for that track. I'm looking forward to it. I think will be a tough weekend, will be hard racing, but I think we're ready for it. I think we'll have an extremely good package for that race.
*** Q. With the championship coming down to a mile-and-a-half oval, tell us a little bit about your approach to the weekend, what you expect in the race.
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: I'm really looking forward to this last race because we've brought ourselves to this point and we have a chance. We're almost going in even, as if the championship race started this race. It's almost a fair crack at it.
We've done pretty well on our last superspeedway, which is also very important. We're coming in there with momentum. We know we're very good at least in the race, which it counts. I think we can pull out a good result this weekend, hopefully good enough to put two cars between us and our main contender (Raphael) Matos.
2. Teams announce driver changes for 2009: Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Panther Racing announced changes to their driver lineups for the 2009 season. Dan Wheldon, who has driven the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry the past two seasons, will move to Panther Racing in 2009. The move creates an opening for 2007 IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti to return to the series with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Wheldon made his first two IndyCar Series starts for Panther Racing before moving to Andretti Green Racing from 2003-05. Franchitti competed for AGR from 2003-07.
“It’s hard to describe the level of excitement and emotions all of us at Panther have knowing that Dan has come back to drive for us,” Panther Racing CEO John Barnes said. “I remember watching him drive for the first time in the Indy Lights series years ago, and I knew he was going to be a special talent. Since then he’s become one of the best open-wheel drivers in the world, and for him to make his return to our team at the height of his racing career is a tremendous compliment to our team. I know he’s excited about getting into the No. 4 car for the first time, and we’ve got a tremendous future ahead of us.”
“I have enjoyed these last three seasons with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, but I’m very excited to be joining the entire Panther Racing crew,” Wheldon said. “This is the place where I started my career in 2002 and with the personnel and leadership that John Barnes has put together, I know that we’ll be fighting for outright victories, the Indianapolis 500 title and the league championship.”
Franchitti competed for AGR from 2003-07.
“It is going to be very exciting to have Dario in one of our IndyCar Series cars next year,” Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi said. “I have always admired his competitive spirit when he raced against us and have really grown to see more of what he is about this season while he raced in NASCAR. When there was a possibility of an opening on our IndyCar Series team, the only person I thought about was Dario. This is going to be a great move for Dario and for our team.”
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. 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 concludes Sept. 7 with the SunRichGourmet.com 100 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will air live at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 7 on ESPN2.