Six IndyCar Series drivers earn AARWBA All-America nominations Firestone Indy Lights will modify engine for 2009 Drivers eye karting title Genoa Indy Lights hosts Open House at Homestead-Miami
1. Six IndyCar Series drivers earn AARWBA All-America nominations:Six IndyCar Series drivers are on the ballot for the Auto Racing All-America team, which will be voted on by more than 300 members of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association.
Two nominees from each of seven categories will be named to the first team, to be honored at the annual AARWBA banquet Jan. 10 in Ontario, Calif. The winner of the Jerry Titus Award, which honors the top vote-getter regardless of category -- also will be announced.
Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe is a first-time nominee in the open-wheel racing category. Former Jerry Titus Award winners Dan Wheldon (2005) and Tony Kannan (2004) also are on the ballot, along with IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Scott Dixon, series championship runner-up Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick.
Raphael Matos, the reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion who will move to the IndyCar Series in 2009 with Luczo Dragon Racing, is nominated in the at-large category.
Briscoe won at The Milwaukee Mile and Mid-Ohio Sports Car course in his first season driving the No. 6 Team Penske car. He also won the non-points race at Surfers Paradise, Australia. Kanaan finished third and Wheldon fourth in the championship race. Patrick, the first female to win a major closed-course auto race in April, finished a career-high sixth in the standings.
Balloting also will determine a second team of the drivers placing third and fourth in each category, and honorable mentions to all other drivers receiving at least 5 percent of the vote. AARWBA members have chosen an All-America Auto Racing Team since 1970.
2. Firestone Indy Lights modify engine for 2009: Firestone Indy Lights engines will undergo a modification for 2009. The 90-degree crankshaft used in the engines since the series' inception in 2002 has been changed to a 180-degree crankshaft.
"We primarily made the change to make the car sound more like they have single-seater racing engines," said Roger Bailey, executive director of Firestone Indy Lights. "The change will help the car's performance as well. It doesn't really change the horsepower, but the drivers will see an improvement in the power-band in the mid-range. And that will help our cars get off the corner better."
"From the outward appearance, there won't be any changes to the motor," said Speedway Engine Development’s Jeff Gordon, Firestone Indy Lights program manager. "The noticeable difference is the sound the engine makes is more similar to the IndyCar Series engine.
"Our goal is to make the engines the same so they are not a factor in any way. Our goal is be reliable and consistent and make the teams forget about the engines."
So far the modified engine has been both reliable and consistent.
"It pulls more off the corners," said Richard Antinucci, the 2008 series runner-up who tested recently with the new spec engine. "And it's a lot quieter in the cockpit. I was pleasantly surprised by that."
Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which ran the crankshaft during test sessions throughout the 2008 season, and Panther Racing have taken delivery of the engines utilizing the new crankshaft. The remainder of Firestone Indy Lights teams will have access to them when the holiday testing break ends in January.
3. Drivers eye karting title: IndyCar Series drivers Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon are scheduled to compete in the 12th annual SKUSA SuperNationals Nov. 20-23 in Las Vegas. They will be joined by 2007 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year Phil Giebler and Firestone Indy Lights veteran Bobby Wilson.
Wheldon, Rice and Wilson will compete in the TaG Pro class, while Giebler is entered in the SuperPro class.
“Karting is something that I’m very passionate about, and I have to say all the young guys that are aspiring to join the IndyCar Series and compete in the Indianapolis 500 are going to be desperate to beat us this weekend,” Wheldon said. “Our offseason is very long, and this is a perfect time for me to get back into what I consider an incredibly competitive environment. I’m going to enjoy myself and have a good weekend, and I’m always proud anytime I can fly the colors of Panther Racing and the National Guard.”
4. Genoa Indy Lights hosts Open House at Homestead-Miami: Genoa Indy Lights has yet to test its Firestone Indy Lights cars, but the team is moving forward with plans to return to the series with two cars in 2009. The team, which has won Firestone Indy Lights events with drivers Ryan Hampton (2002) and Thiago Medeiros (2003), will hold an Open House at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19 in conjunction with testing activities by several other teams.
The Open House will be attended by current and prospective drivers and will display Genoa Indy Lights cars.
"By the very nature of this developmental series, the current crop of drivers may be unaware of our championship legacy," said Thomas Knapp, who helped Greg Ray win the IndyCar Series title in 1999 and will serve as Genoa Indy Lights general manager and chief engineer. "It is very important to re-introduce ourselves to the current and future participants. With cars that have been on pole at Indy and ran up front throughout 2007, and with Genoa’s 30 years of championship-winning performance, we’re obviously proud of where we’re at, and we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to show it off a bit.”
Firestone Indy Lights veteran C.R. Crews has taken a driver development position with the team and is working with Knapp and team president Mark Olson as Genoa Indy Lights secures its driver lineup.
“Facing a long winter off-season, most of the other teams have packed it in for the year," said Crews. "The top drivers are all in Florida this weekend to determine who has the resources to put them on the top of the box. We certainly have the equipment, personnel, and commitment to compete with the premier teams in the league, and we’re excited to demonstrate it at Homestead.”
The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg.