IRL headlines

1.      Seat time, not lap time, key element of tests2.      IZOD IndyCar Series drivers race around the clock3.      INDYCAR expects aero kit rules soon

4.      Edmonton Indy names new GM

5.      Gregory & Appel's "Securing Tomorrow Award" Expands6.      Record field hits track for opening round of USF2000 Championship1. Seat time, not lap time, key element of tests: It's hard to judge results at any IZOD IndyCar Series test sessions, as teams and drivers concentrate on different aspects of performance aside from pure speed.Some teams work on aerodynamics. Some focus on race setups and others take time to learn and develop their cars into race-winning machines.Add in the changing track and weather conditions over a week in Central Florida and the results can be even more skewed.Looking at statistics, two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was the top overall driver during of the Open Test on March 5-6 and 8-9 at Sebring International Raceway.Dixon had the only sub 52-second laps during the sessions, with his best time of 51.7932 seconds on March 8 in the morning session on the 1.67-mile, 11-turn course.But according to most drivers, the most important aspect from testing is seat time and learning the nuances of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series car.That was accomplished at the two days each team received at Sebring, and teams hope to apply those lessons using additional private testing days at Barber Motorsports Park this week. "Any track time that we get is so valuable," said Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who is among the 16 drivers expected to test at Barber. "As we get closer to St. Pete, every bit of mileage gets more and more important. From getting used to all the new features on the car like the brakes or the clutch and other things like that, those are things that we will have to have mastered before the first race. I did a fair bit of testing during the winter and I feel quite acclimatized to the car, but you can never have too much running time."Drivers won't admit to looking at lap times while testing, but they are watching what others are doing and measuring themselves against the competition."It's super important to do tests days like these where there are other cars out because you do have to get a feel for how quickly other people are figuring things out," said Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand. "At the same time, when (Sebring) gets gripped up, it's like no place else. It's rough like a street course and super grippy like a road course. We try to take it for what it is, but it's great to do this much running this close to the season."IZODIndyCar Series drivers turned a combined 4,107 laps during the four days of preseason Open Testing. That equals 6,158 miles, approximately the same distance as driving three round trips from Indianapolis to Sebring International Raceway.Also scheduled to participate March 13-14 at Barber Motorsports ParkChevrolet teamsNo. 2 Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske)No. 3 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)No. 4 JR Hildebrand (Panther Racing)No. 5 E.J. Viso (KV Racing Technology)No. 8 Rubens Barrichello (KV Racing Technology)No. 11 Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology)No. 12 Will Power (Team Penske)No. 20 Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing)No. 26 Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport)No. 27 James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport)No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport)Honda teamsNo. 18 Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing)No. 19 James Jakes (Dale Coyne Racing)No. 38 Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing*No. 67 Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing)No. 83 Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing)*Rahal and Kimball will be on the circuit March 13 only. Also, Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will be testing on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course March 14.2. IndyCar Series drivers race around the clock: Three IZOD IndyCar Series drivers are entered in the 60th 12 Hours of Sebring, which will be held on March 17. Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt-Hamilton Racing) will drive a P1 for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing; Ryan Hunter-Reay will compete in P2 for Level 5 Motorsports and E.J. Viso will compete in PC with CORE Autosport.Other drivers with IZOD IndyCar Series ties in the field are Bertrand Baguette (Oak Racing P1), Martin Plowman and Francesco Draccone (Conquest Endurance P2), Raphael Matos (Performance Tech Motorsports PC), Bruno Junqueira (RSR Racing PC) and Townsend Bell (Alex Job Racing GTC),3. INDYCAR expects aero kit rules soon: INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips said his intent is to have a draft of 2013 aero kit regulations prepared "very soon."Bodywork open to development and for sale by any approved manufacturer will be introduced for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Phillips said the three engine manufacturers - Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus - in addition to "a few other companies we're talking to" have shown interest in designing, manufacturing and supplying the aero kits that will sell for $75,000 each.For 2012, all IZOD IndyCar Series teams will utilize the oval and road/street course bodywork that is part of the Dallara package. The sidepods and engine cover will be universal for the diverse set of racetracks, while Dallara-designed and -produced front and rear wings will be different for the ovals and road/street circuits."The base principles are still in place," Phillips said. "One would have to understand though that in 2013 the Dallara kit will have been around for a year - a year's development. A delay in the aero kit has changed some of the philosophy of what you are and aren't allowed to do. Those are the issues that remain to be sorted. In terms of what parts were and were not on an aero kit, there's no intention to change what was there."Dallara won't be one of the companies entering the 2013 aero kit market, according to head of research and development Andrea Toso."It's difficult to commit to an aero kit because we've been so busy with our parts production and Indy aero," Toso said. "It's a large investment and Dallara would not be profitable. You have to be humble enough to provide the platform and let them play."4. Edmonton Indy names new GM: Ike Janacek has been named general manager of the Edmonton Indy.The Edmonton resident, who served as general manager of Edmonton's Sutton Place Hotel and co-chair of DMF Downtown Cluster, began his position with Octane Motorsports Events, promoter of the July IZOD IndyCar Series event, on March 12."I am extremely proud to welcome Ike Janacek as our new Edmonton Indy general manager," said Octane CEO François Dumontier. "He brings to our team a significant knowledge of Edmonton and its travel business community, having served for the last decade as an executive at one of the city's major hotels. His experience in management, sales, marketing and especially in customer services is unique. As I previously said, satisfying customers is part of Octane's DNA. I am confident that with Ike at the helm of the Edmonton Indy, we are more than ever in a position to deliver an outstanding event to our fans"Janacek, 56, studied hotel management at LaSalle College in Montreal. He served as an executive at hotels in Montreal, Vancouver and Chicago, before making his home in Alberta, first in Calgary for five years and then in Edmonton in 2003 when he joined the Sutton Place Hotel.  "I am extremely honored to join Octane Motorsports Events and the Edmonton Indy team," said Janacek, whose interest in motorsports dates to his youth in Montreal. "This is the most interesting challenge of my career. For years, I have always been a strong believer that Edmonton was the very best place in Western Canada to host such an event. I now have the opportunity to contribute directly to the success of it."Last year under new management, the Edmonton Indy was a strong testimonial of Octane's way of doing things, and demonstrated their true desire to provide the highest level of customer satisfaction. These are the kind of objectives I am familiar with. It has driven me so far in my career and I have the intention to pursue in this direction as Edmonton Indy general manager."5. Gregory & Appel's "Securing Tomorrow Award" Expands: Gregory & Appel Insurance announced that it is expanding its "Securing Tomorrow" award to all three Mazda Road to Indy series in 2012 -- its seventh season honoring the future stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series.For 2012, the "Securing Tomorrow" award will be given to the driver in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Firestone Indy Lights who accumulates the most race wins during the season.The USF2000 winner will be awarded $1,000 and the Securing Tomorrow trophy. The Star Mazda winner will be awarded $2,000 and a similar trophy. The Firestone Indy Lights winner will be awarded $3,000 and a trophy."We have been impressed with the growth of the Mazda Road to Indy over the past two years and felt the time was right to expand our investment," said Darren Hickey, Vice President Motorsports for Gregory & Appel. "2012 will be a great year for all three series and we look forward to helping these young racers."In 2011, Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden received the award after he won five races."Winning races is arguably the most important thing in a young driver's career that will elevate them to the next level," said Tony George Jr, director of Firestone Indy Lights, "The Firestone Indy Lights championship values the "Securing Tomorrow" award that recognizes drivers who reach the winner's circle, and enjoys presenting it to its top performing driver each year."It's an honor to have Gregory & Appel's continued loyalty and commitment to recognizing the future stars of INDYCAR and their decision to expand that recognition to each level of the Mazda Road to Indy."The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda provides a vital training ground for rising stars in addition to a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to the next series on the ladder. While debuting a new generation in 2010, the series boasts a rich history as a revival of the highly regarded national USF2000 series which ran from 1990 through 2006, launching the careers of many of today's top drivers. It is also part of the prestigious MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder which assists young drivers in advancing from the Skip Barber Racing School to USF2000."We appreciate the support for both our drivers and for the entire Mazda Road to Indy program from Gregory & Appel," said series owner and CEO Dan Andersen. "Advancing young drivers' careers is what we are all about, and assistance in that endeavor from fine companies is very much appreciated."The next series up is the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, now entering its 22nd season. The series is one of North America's premier open-wheel racing driver development series and is the middle step on the Mazda Road to Indy. Drivers and teams compete for $1.2 million prizes, including a scholarship valued at $500,000 for the series champion to graduate to Firestone Indy Lights."It is an honor to have a firm like Gregory and Appel recognize the achievements of young talent as they build a career in motorsports," said Star Mazda Championship founder and President Gary Rodrigues. "The Star Mazda Championship has been working for 22 years to help showcase these rising stars. It is very gratifying to have an organization with the reputation and integrity of Gregory and Appel add its support to the drivers in our program and the Mazda Road to Indy."Based in Indianapolis, Gregory & Appel has a nationally recognized Motorsports Practice that represents drivers, teams, tracks, promoters and other businesses directly involved with the Motorsports community. Its unique expertise allows it to provide clients with a strategic plan to achieve their risk management goals.6. Record field hits track for opening round of USF2000 Championship: Interest in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, has skyrocketed over the winter, such that a high-quality field of 35 entries is poised to take the green flag in the opening rounds of the 14-race championship.

The pair of races will be held in support of the 60th 12 Hours of Sebring on March 15-16.A total of 22 Championship Class cars are on the entry list, along with 13 National Class cars, which include 10 of the newly eligible SCCA Formula Enterprises Van Diemen-Mazdas. Previously, the largest field since USF2000 was re-introduced in 2010 after a three-year hiatus comprised 19 cars at the 2011 season finale on the streets of Baltimore."When I look at the entry list, I am not only excited about the number of entries but the talent that is on board for this season," said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the series promoter. "There are numerous drivers who I believe are truly future stars. In the relatively short time the Mazda Road to Indy ladder has been in place, it has proven to be a system that works. We have tremendous partners who are committed to paving the way for drivers to make it in this sport and continually strive to make this program better. It's an exciting time for our series."