Can Dixon repeat? IndyCar Series drivers geared up for Rolex 24 at Daytona Fisher signs endorsement contract Duno featured in parade
1. Can Dixon repeat?: Three months from the start of the IndyCar Series season and reigning champion Scott Dixon is being pressed for a prediction. Can he make it two in a row against another formidable field on the most diverse set of racetracks in motorsports?
Dixon takes the middle of the road - attempting not to appear arrogant while not devaluing confidence in his abilities or those of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew.
"Winning is tough, but to defend is harder," said Dixon, who though he won a series record-tying six races in 2008 claimed his second IndyCar Series championship by a scant 17 points over Team Penske's Helio Castroneves. "Last time we tried it, it didn't work out too well. But next year I think the team looks very strong, the development has been good in the off-season, already the car is super fast and I have a new teammate (Dario Franchitti) joining me."
Dixon led a series record-high 899 laps and started from the pole six times over the 17-race 2008 season. He remained the points leader after winning the 92nd Indianapolis 500 from the pole, and finished out of the top 10 only three times all season in race fields that averaged 26 cars.
"I think there's definitely momentum one season over another, though '03 to '04 is probably a bad choice," said Dixon, who followed the championship in his rookie season with a 10th-place points ranking. "There wasn't much carryover. Actually, for the first three or four races there was. I led at Homestead in '04 and finished second at Phoenix. Then we went into the Month of May (started fourth and finished 17th at Indianapolis)."
The 28-year-old New Zealander sees the 2007 season, in which he finished runner-up to Franchitti by 13 points in another title battle that wasn't decided until the final race, as setting up his '08 success. In the five-race closing stretch, Dixon won at Infineon and finished second at Kentucky and the Chicagoland finale.
"2007 to '08 was a scenario where momentum definitely carries on," he said. "We were very strong in the latter part and carried that right through winning the first race (from the pole at Homestead) in '08."
Dixon again closed strong last season, finishing first or second in three of the final five events (three street/road circuits, two 1.5-mile ovals).
"I hope we can definitely carry that on," he said.
2. IndyCar Series drivers geared up for Rolex 24 at Daytona: The past two IndyCar Series champions and the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion will co-drive one of the two Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates cars in the 47th Rolex 24 At Daytona later this month.
Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti will join Alex Lloyd in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX Daytona Prototype. The drivers participated in testing at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 2-4.
Chip Ganassi and co-owner Felix Sabates are the first team owners to win three consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona overall titles. Last year, Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas teamed up to win the race on the 3.56-mile circuit.
Other IndyCar Series drivers entered in the twice-around-the-clock race in the Daytona Prototype class include:
● Danica Patrick with Childress-Howard Motorsports (Casey Mears, Andy Wallace and Rob Finlay teammates).● Ryan Briscoe with Penske Racing (Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas teammates).● Buddy Rice with Brumos Racing (Darren Law, David Donohue and Antonio Garcia teammates).● Ryan Hunter-Reay with Michael Shank Racing (Colin Braun, Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson teammates).● Darren Manning with Orbit Racing (Kyle Petty, Marc Goossens and Leo Hindery Jr. teammates).
Also competing in Daytona Prototypes are: KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser, who will co-drive the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Daytona Prototype with Jimmie Johnson, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, Tomas Enge, who will compete with Alegra Motorsports, and former Firestone Indy Lights competitor Brad Jaeger, who will compete with Doran Racing.
Vision Racing co-owner Patrick Dempsey heads the Dempsey Racing lineup in the GT class with Joe Foster, Tim Lewis Jr. and Charles Espenlaub. IndyCar Series competitors Max Papis (Mastercar-Coast 2 Costa Racing) and Jeff Bucknum (Stevenson Motorsports) also will compete in the GT class.
Also competing in the GT class will be Jim Michaelian, race director of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights will headline the annual street race for the first time April 19.
3. Fisher signs endorsement contract: IndyCar Series team owner and driver Sarah Fisher signed an endorsement deal with SimCraft Racing Simulators. Fisher will appear at the company’s booth Jan. 8-11 at the 2009 International CES when it launches its series of racing simulators.
SimCraft's car racing simulators include the APEX SC830 and the APEX SC320, patent-pending military-grade simulators that bring the sense of touch to the home market. The APEX SC830 was developed for the training of professional racers (and fanatics of SimRacing) and offers three degrees of freedom (roll 40º / pitch 25º / yaw 40º). The APEX SC320 was designed for the hardcore gamer and offers two degrees of freedom (roll 20º / pitch 20º). Two models of the APEX SC830 will be displayed at the 2009 CES.
"The APEX SC830 is possibly the best real-life simulator I've ever experienced," Fisher said. "As far as the feedback the driver receives from the device, it's very similar to being in an actual race car. To be honest, the first time I used it, I was speechless. I'm very impressed with the capabilities and I will definitely be spending more time on the APEX as I prepare to run the 2009 IndyCar Series circuit."
4. Duno featured in parade: IndyCar Series driver Milka Duno will be among the guests of honor in the Three Kings Day Parade on Jan. 11 in Miami.
Duno will be featured during the 39th annual event with actor Fernando Allende and Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The parade begins at noon (local time) along 8th Street between 4th Avenue and 22nd Avenue.
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.