IRL headlines

1.      INDYCAR, Discover, First Bankcard, and Segmint Join Forces to Reward Fans

2.      2012 IZOD IndyCar Series broadcast schedule confirmed

3.      INDYCAR Race Control team introduced

4.      Drivers honored for 2011 performance

5.      Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka joins INDYCAR as partner

6.      INDYCAR takes off its hat to LIDS Sports Group

7.      Ed Carpenter Racing lands engine deal with Chevrolet

8.      Team Viso Venezuela enters Star Mazda with Juncos Racing

1. INDYCAR, Discover®, First Bankcard, and Segmint Join Forces to Reward Fans: INDYCAR announced today it has entered into multi-year agreements with Discover® Network and First Bankcard, a division of the First National Bank of Omaha, to offer a credit card program designed to provide rewards to fans of the sport. INDYCAR has also entered into an agreement with Segmint, Inc. to deliver the digital analytics for the INDYCAR Discover credit card program.

INDYCAR Discover credit card cardmembers can redeem accumulated reward points for exclusive experiences, including VIP access to Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500 and breakfast with legends of the sport. Other rewards include race tickets, driver meet & greets, suite passes, and INDYCAR merchandise.

There will be two card designs for cardmembers to choose from: a vintage look highlighting the start of the 1960 Indianapolis 500 or a modern look featuring the sleek 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series car.

"With this agreement, Discover is able to help the premier open-wheel auto racing series in North America reach their fan base in a new, rewarding way," said Kevin O'Donnell, vice president of credit issuance at Discover. "The INDYCAR Discovercredit card is designed to help drive cardmember loyalty by offering tailored card benefits and exclusive access to events that cardmembers care about most."

"The partnership between INDYCAR and First Bankcard will enhance the fan experience, allowing them to immerse themselves in the sport," said Stephen F. Eulie, president of First Bankcard. "We are excited to offer this exclusive rewards card - the INDYCAR Discovercredit card - that will debut this season."

INDYCAR is working with its corporate partner lineup to provide exclusive discounts on products and services for INDYCAR Discovercredit card cardmembers.

"We are always looking for ways to bring our fans closer to the sport and provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities at our events," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. "Not only does the INDYCAR Discovercredit card provide an avenue to reward fans with unique experiences, it provides an additional platform for our other partners to provide benefits to our passionate fan base."

Segmint will drive the digital analytics of the INDYCAR Discovercredit card program.

"Segmint's unrivaled analytics framework provides the technology for this innovative collaboration and enables INDYCAR to set a new sports marketing standard for successfully engaging fans, teams and sponsors, " said Rob Heiser, president and CEO of Segmint Inc.

Fans can sign up for the card by visiting or stopping by the INDYCAR Fan Village at each race during the 2012 season. All approved applicants between the launch and May 31, 2012, will be designated as members of the Founder's Club, which will provide its cardmembers premiere access to additional rewards.


2. 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series broadcast schedule confirmed: The IZOD IndyCar Series confirmed today its broadcast designations for its 16-race 2012 schedule, highlighted by six races on ABC and 10 events on the newly rebranded NBC Sports Network.

ABC will carry live coverage of IZOD IndyCar Series races at St. Petersburg, Indianapolis, Belle Isle, Milwaukee, Toronto and Mid-Ohio. The 2012 season will mark the 48th consecutive year that ABC has aired the Indianapolis 500, extending one of the longest relationships between a sporting event and a television network.

ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 and the five other IZOD IndyCar Series races will be expanded to include live streaming of ABC's onboard cameras on ESPN3, ESPN's signature broadband sports network.

NBC Sports Network, the IZOD IndyCar Series' exclusive cable network, will air live events at Barber Motorsports Park, Long Beach, Sao Paulo, Texas, Edmonton, Qingdao, Infineon, Baltimore and the season finale at Auto Club Speedway.

Additionally, NBC Sports Network will launch a featured program called INDYCAR 36, which will document 36 hours in the life of an IZOD IndyCar Series driver, taking viewers behind the scenes during select event weekends from the first practice through the checkered flag.

Formerly known as VERSUS, the NBC Sports Network serves as a 24/7 cable platform for NBC Sports' rich heritage of unmatched storytelling, best-in-class production and broad promotional power.

Date Track Venue BroadcastMarch 25 Streets of St. Petersburg 1.8-mile street course ABCApril 1 Barber Motorsports Park 2.3-mile road course NBCSNApril 15 Streets of Long Beach 1.968-mile street course NBCSNApril 29 Streets of Sao Paulo 2.536-mile street course NBCSNMay 27 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval ABCJune 3       Raceway at Belle Isle Park 2.1-mile street course ABCJune 9 Texas Motor Speedway* 1.5-mile oval NBCSNJune 16 The Milwaukee Mile 1-mile oval ABCJune 23 Iowa Speedway* .875-mile oval NBCSNJuly 8 Streets of Toronto 1.755-mile street course ABCJuly 22 Edmonton City Centre Airport 1.973-mile airport course NBCSNAug. 5 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 2.258-mile road course ABCAug. 19 Streets of Qingdao, China 3.87-mile street course NBCSNAug. 26 Infineon Raceway 2.303-mile road course NBCSNSept. 2 Streets of Baltimore 2-mile street course NBCSNSept. 15 Auto Club Speedway* 2-mile oval NBCSN


3. INDYCAR Race Control team introduced: INDYCAR President of Competition and Race Director Beaux Barfield has welcomed two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk, former Indy car competitor Johnny Unser and longtime CART/Champ Car senior manager of competition Gary Barnard as race stewards for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

Barfield said most Race Control personnel relating to operations roles in 2011 will return, with the functions of the stewards to be altered.

"It takes a group of eight or nine people to do specific jobs, whether that's communicating with corner workers or dispatching the safety team," Barfield said. "All are necessary to provide a good officiating system. The stewards will really take a step back from being so involved in what the Race Director does.

"There have been several schools of thought over the years whether there should be one person making the decisions or three. Should there be a vote? It's my job in a drivers' meeting to communicate exactly what my expectations of the drivers are, so it should be one person. That leaves the stewards to be more in a role of a safety net."

Luyendyk, 58, was the CART and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 1985 with Bettenhausen and a three-time pole sitter at the Speedway. He also won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Luyendyk has coached IZOD IndyCar Series drivers the past few seasons and will be the mentor this season. Unser, who competed with Luyendyk on the racetrack and has officiated alongside Barnard, will assist.

"I wished I would have had that kind of help at Indy in '85," Luyendyk said. "I had to find my way around, and the only advice I ever got was from Mario Andretti who said 'Watch out for this place because it can bite you in a hurry.' We don't have to really coach those guys on how to drive. We have to coach them on how to go about dealing with certain situations and keeping calm. It's more mental coaching than driving coaching. We're going to follow Beaux's lead and we'll be another set of eyes looking at the race and trying to keep it safe for everybody."

Unser, 53, a nephew of Al and Bobby Unser, was the Race Director of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in 2008. He made five starts in CART in 1993 and 1994 with Dale Coyne Racing and competed in 15 INDYCAR events. He's a five-time Indianapolis 500 starter (most recently in 2000).

Barnard, who has held various duties in Race Control for more than 15 years, was a race steward alongside Chief Stewards Wally Dallenbach, Tony Cotman and Chris Kneifel in CART/Champ Car. He also worked in Race Control with Barfield in Champ Car.

"A steward is kind of an overseer of an event who understands a driver, the product, the officiating, and has a broader sense of everything that goes into making a great event," added Barfield, a former Indy car driver. "By being a safety net to me, it leaves us in a better place moving forward. It also leaves someone in that role to serve as a driver coach.

"Arie and Johnny bring vast knowledge and experience to driver-related issues, and more importantly as driver coaches to some of the drivers who need help. Putting together a Race Control team is a big task, and I'm very proud of the team assembled and confident in the collective abilities to officiate effectively."


4. Drivers honored for 2011 performance: Dario Franchitti and Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden - along with other drivers, teams and manufacturers - were recognized for their achievements in 2011 during the State of INDYCAR presentation.

Franchitti was presented with the Astor Cup, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship Trophy, and accepted the $10,000 Bosch Platinum Award.

James Hinchcliffe accepted the $50,000 IZOD IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, and the Tony Renna Rising Star Award.

Newgarden accepted the mini Firestone Firehawk Cup, $10,000 for Perkin Elmer Rookie of the Year and a commemorative painting from Firestone in honor of his championship. Newgarden also won the Greg Moore Legacy Award Presented by Firestone.

2011 IZOD IndyCar Series award winners

Championship driver: Dario Franchitti

Herff Jones Championship Driver Award (ring valued at $5,000): Dario Franchitti

Ritmo Mundo Championship Driver Award (diamond watch valued at $100,000): Dario Franchitti

Championship team: Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Championship team sponsor: Target  

Championship team managers: Scott Harner and Barry Wanser

Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Kevin O'Donnell

Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award ($50,000): James Hinchcliffe

Second place championship driver: Will Power

Second place championship team: Verizon Team Penske

Third place championship driver: Scott Dixon

Third place championship team: Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Tony Renna Rising Star Award: James Hinchcliffe

BOSCH Platinum Award ($10,000 for highest-finishing driver using Bosch spark plugs): Dario Franchitti

Raybestos Road & Street Course Challenge ($25,000 cash or product): Will Power

2011 Firestone Indy Lights award winners

Championship driver (mini Firehawk Cup): Josef Newgarden

Herff Jones Championship Driver Award (ring valued at $4,000): Josef Newgarden

Ritmo Mundo Championship Driver Award (watch valued at $25,000): Josef Newgarden

Championship team (mini Firehawk Cup): Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Chief Mechanic of the Year: Sean Birmingham

Second place championship driver: Esteban Guerrieri

Second place championship team: Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Third place championship driver: Stefan Wilson

Third place championship team: Andretti Autosport

Firestone Painting Award: Josef Newgarden

Greg Moore Legacy Award: Josef Newgarden

Gregory & Appel "Securing Tomorrow" Award ($5,000): Josef Newgarden

Raybestos Road & Street Course Challenge (10,000): Josef Newgarden


5. Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka joins INDYCAR as partner: INDYCAR announced today that Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka will be the Official Vodka of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights.

Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka will activate in all domestic race markets in 2012 and develop the signature cocktail of INDYCAR, which will be featured at all INDYCAR events.

"This new partnership with Fuzzy's is a great cross-promotional opportunity to introduce our sport to a new demographic," INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said. "We look forward to working with the team at Fuzzy's Vodka on these activation opportunities to drive attendance at our events and grow our sport."

Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka has previously sponsored the 2010 season finale Firestone Indy Lights race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and was the Official Vodka and presenting sponsor of the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships at Las Vegas in October.

In 2012, Fuzzy's will serve as the primary sponsor for the No. 20 Fuzzy' s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet-powered car for team owner/driver Ed Carpenter, the most recent winner in the IZOD IndyCar Series at Kentucky Speedway in October.

"We're looking forward to adding INDYCAR as a partner," said Fuzzy Zoeller, a Masters and U.S. Open champion. "Now, we've got an outstanding foursome with Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka, Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevrolet and INDYCAR. We have a passion for racing and Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka is going to tee it up at the track to share the spirit of racing with INDYCAR fans."


6. INDYCAR takes off its hat to LIDS Sports Group: INDYCAR announced today that it has entered into a multi-year agreement with Indianapolis-based LIDS Sports Group, in which their LIDS Clubhouse division will manage the online and trackside merchandising efforts of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights beginning with the 2012 season.

The partnership will increase INDYCAR's retail presence at-track at North American events, giving fans more opportunities and easier access to INDYCAR merchandise each race weekend. LIDS also will offer fans an opportunity to purchase the same merchandise online. LIDS' in-house production capabilities will help ensure that inventory levels are maintained and that products accurately reflect the current landscape of team rosters and driver sponsors.

"Our expanded relationship with LIDS Sports Group gives us the opportunity to provide our fans with quality merchandise and allows them to express their support of INDYCAR, their favorite teams and drivers in top notch fashion," said Marc Koretzky, COO, INDYCAR. "LIDS has been a very loyal partner for years, therefore this increased involvement is a welcome progression which will benefit everyone, most especially our fans."

INDYCAR has had a relationship with LIDS Sports Group for more than 14 years. LIDS Sports Group had been an important retail partner selling IndyCar merchandise in select outlets. Through this agreement INDYCAR Nation fan club members will have access to the LIDS Club, a special membership that offers generous discounts on hats and custom embroidery, special-valued apparel and accessories and VIP access to new products and the hottest trends.

Fans will also have the opportunity to enjoy in-store driver appearances, promotions and VIP events courtesy of LIDS Sports Group.    


7. Ed Carpenter Racing lands engine deal with Chevrolet: Ed Carpenter made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in 2003 with PDM Racing at Chicagoland Speedway in a car with Chevy power. He'll make his series debut March 25 at St. Petersburg, Fla., as a series owner/driver in a car with Chevy power.

Ed Carpenter Racing announced today that the first-year IZOD IndyCar Series team's No. 20 entry will be powered by Chevrolet's 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine.

Carpenter, 30, announced the new team on Nov. 4, 2011, along with Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka as the primary sponsor. Carpenter, co-owner of the team with INDYCAR founder Tony George, will drive the new Dallara chassis throughout the 16-race season. Carpenter, who has made 113 IZOD IndyCar Series starts, also competed in a Chevy-powered car for Red Bull Cheever Racing in 2004 following his three races for PDM in '03.

"We are extremely excited to partner with Chevrolet for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series," said Carpenter, who earned his first series victory at Kentucky Speedway in October. "Chevrolet has been an American legend for over a century and a winner in all forms of competition. It will be great to have the famed Bowtie back in the IndyCar Series.

"Being an American driver with an American engine makes me very proud to represent the Chevrolet brand. I can't wait to have the Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet-powered machine on the track."

Chevrolet has recorded 104 Indy car wins, including six series championships and seven Indianapolis 500 victories. The 2012 Chevrolet IndyCar V-6 will have an aluminum block and cylinder heads, direct injection and twin-turbochargers.

"We are proud to announce Ed Carpenter Racing has now joined the Chevrolet family and that Ed will compete with the new Chevy Indy V-6 beginning in 2012," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "Ed and his family have a long history with Chevrolet. Ed is a winning driver and we hope he'll put the new Chevrolet engine back in victory lane this year. We are anxious to see Ed's new car on the track with our new partnership."

Team Penske, Andretti Autosport, KV Racing Technology and Panther Racing also are Chevy-powered teams for the 2012 season.


8. Team Viso Venezuela enters Star Mazda with Juncos Racing: Juncos Racing has signed Venezuelans Bruno Palli, 20, and Diego Ferreira, 18, to compete in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.

 Both will be representatives of "Team Viso Venezuela," an initiative founded by their Venezuelan manager, IZOD IndyCar Series driver E.J. Viso.

"Team Viso Venezuela" is a program that promotes bringing young talents from the South American country to compete in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder with the help of Venezuelan supporters. Juncos Racing currently runs teams in the top two steps of the ladder, the Star Mazda Championship and Firestone Indy Lights.

"After talking with Ricardo (Juncos) for a long time, we concluded that we would start a partnership to bring young drivers into the Mazda Road to Indy and Star Mazda Championship," Viso said. "On my side, I thought about the best drivers in Venezuela to bring to the series. I believe that Bruno and Diego will get the job done. I'm very proud to say that I started Team Viso Venezuela. I created the program to promote young drivers coming from my country so that they can have a bright future in auto racing. My idea is to manage them and give them all the tools I can for them to have successful careers."

Palli and Ferreira have had somewhat similar career paths. Both started racing go-karts and winning titles in Venezuela at a young age. In 2008, they each made an appearance in the Venezuelan Formula Ford 1600 Championship along with fellow countryman and Star Mazda Championship competitor Carlos Linares.

In 2010, Palli finished fourth in the European Formula 3 Championship, and last year he was the Venezuelan Formula Ford 1600 National Champion as well as the Pan American Easykart Champion.

In 2011, Ferreira competed in the Latam Challenge Series Formula 2000 powered by Volkswagen finishing fourth in the novice category, the Venezuelan Rotax Max Challenge (DD2 Senior) finishing fourth, and the Florida Winter Tour (Rotax DD2) finishing fifth.

Palli and Ferreira already have completed several successful tests with Juncos Racing this year.

"It is an honor for us to be working with E.J. Viso and the Team Viso Venezuela initiative," team owner Ricardo Juncos said. "This partnership is going to be huge for everyone involved, and it is going to give a lot of opportunities for Venezuelan drivers to race in the U.S.A. I'm excited that Bruno Palli and Diego Ferreira will be some of the first drivers to represent Team Viso Venezuela, and I'm so glad to have signed them to be part of the Juncos Racing team this season.

"We have been testing with Bruno and Diego, and they have really impressed the team so far. They improved a lot over four days and clearly showed that they will be fighting for the top this season. This is the beginning of really good things for Juncos Racing and Team Viso Venezuela. We can't wait to get the 2012 season started."

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