IRL headlines

1.      Marco Andretti and Josef Newgarden Conference Call2.      Third-generation racer Brabham scores win in USF2000 opener3.      New brake kit helps Franchitti stay right of center

1. IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Marco Andretti and Josef Newgarden participated in a media conference call to preview the 2012 season and the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Selected quotes from the interview are below.Q. Marco, does it seem like you're ready to race 100 times in IndyCar? MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, well, that's right. My (100th) race. Not really, not really. All I could say is I wish I had a little more to show for. It definitely doesn't feel like going into my seventh year already in IndyCar. But yeah, I mean, it's been fun and stuff like that. But now it's time to string together a few wins. Q. I know you've been in the No. 26 Team RC Cola car for a couple tests so far. Sebring last week at the Open Test, and the last couple days at Barber. What are your impressions of the new IZOD Indy series car? MARCO ANDRETTI: It's been great. It's been a lot of fun. It's actually not that different from the old car. I always say it still has four wheels. So a lot of the things that worked on the old car are working now. So it actually has more grit and more down force and stuff like that. So that's always fun for a driver.  So it's been great working with Chevy and stuff like that. You can personally work with their engineers on boost maps and certain things to tend to their driving stuff. It's been fun. You know, we've been progressing nicely as a team. I think me, myself, James and Ryan have been working great together. So, so far so good. Q. You've been in a few of the Honda Grand Prix at St. Petersburg. With the new car and engine pack, what kind of race do you expect on March 25th? MARCO ANDRETTI: Hopefully similar to last year, except hopefully I don't go upside down in turn one. Nothing too out of the ordinary. I think it's going to be great for the fans as usual. I'm a big fan of that place. Obviously, we're going to be driving with very heavy hearts because of Dan Wheldon. But he was proud to call that place home, so we're going to go there and try to enjoy ourselves and we're going to compete because Dan was a competitor. Q. Talk a little about the helmet you're going to run at St. Pete? I guess it's a tribute to Dan? MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, the first thing I thought I don't want to do too much because a lot of it is being thrown in Susie's face, his wife. But I called her and said I'd like to do something. And basically my painter worked with Dan's, and we came up with something. So excited to see what it looks like. Q. Josef, I know you've been in your new IZOD IndyCar series car a few times. But what's it like to be called an IndyCar driver and drive an IndyCar? JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's a little weird. I thought it was pretty cool though. It's been really fun learning the ropes, I think, but then again not so different. I think the Firestone Indy Lights championship is a really good series that prepares you for everything that's going to present itself for the IZOD IndyCar Series. It doesn't feel too different. I think obviously being with a good group like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. We have great chemistry between everyone on the team. So that makes the transition a lot easier too when you're working well with the people around you. It just makes everything flow a lot smoother. So for me, it's been a great transition. Not difficult at all, so far, at least. I'm sure we'll have some bumps along the way, but we're working to try to minimize those. Q. I know the engine program came together later than you'd hoped for. You've only had a couple test days in the car. Do you feel those tests were beneficial to the group at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Absolutely. It's great that we had four days under our belt. It gave us some data to look at, gave us some talking points now. We really have some information to grab hold of now before we go to St. Pete. It's all just happening so fast. You wait all this time and then you think it's not going quick enough. Then when everything starts, it really starts and it goes very fast. It's kind of a snowball affect. Everyone in the shop and all the Sarah Fisher boys have been working really hard together. They've done a great job, I think, of putting everything together so late and had a lot of long hours at the shop. I know they're excited, especially after the first couple tests we've done. They were pretty successful for us for just getting out late with everybody. Everyone's fired up. I'm fired up. They're fired up, and we just want to have a good, clean run to start with in the beginning of the season.2. Third-generation racer Brabham scores win in USF2000 opener: Third-generation racer Matthew Brabham bested a 36-car field to win the opening race of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at Sebring International Raceway on March 14.Brabham, who recently celebrated his 18th birthday, took the lead at the first corner and never looked back. The race was punctuated by a pair of incidents, one of which caused the race to finish under full-course caution after only nine of the scheduled 12 laps had been completed."It is really fantastic to get my first win in the first race of the series," said Brabham, the son of sports car racer Geoff Brabham and grandson of legendary racer Sir Jack Brabham. "I can't explain the feeling. My plan was just to stay out front and my plan went through. It was a pretty easy race out in front except for the yellow flags bunching us up. It was a bit disappointing to finish under yellow but I'll take any win as it comes. I am just really pleased with how everything went and would like to thank the guys at Cape Motorsports."Brabham's win aboard the #83 The DTE Group Van Diemen-Mazda ensured continued success for the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing team, which had won last year's USF2000 crown with Finland's Petri Suvanto and the recent Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship with last year's championship runner-up Spencer Pigot.The race began in dramatic fashion when 15-year-old Luigi Biangardi, from Chicago, Ill., who had impressed massively by planting his ArmsUp Motorsports' entry on the pole, tangled with third row qualifier Trent Hindman from Wayside, N.J., in Turn 1.Brabham, who qualified second, had already moved into the lead, but the incident in his wake immediately resulted in a full-course caution. At the restart with three laps in the books, Brabham once again took off into the lead, chased by Australian-born Roman Lagudi, from Las Vegas, Nev., in the Belardi Auto Racing entry, and Thomas McGregor, from Saskatoon, Canada, in the #7 Dairy Queen/Exclusive Management/Andretti Autosport car.Pigot, from Orlando, Fla., jumped from sixth to fourth soon after the restart, and next time around managed to catch and pass McGregor for third in Turn Seven.With Brabham secure in the lead, Pigot began to chase down Lagudi for second but was prevented from making a challenge by another full-course caution which brought the race to a premature conclusion.Mark Eaton, from Melbourne, Fla., ensured a clean sweep for local drivers by claiming National Class honors in the Robinson Motor Sports' Formula Enterprises Van Diemen-Mazda. Reigning FE SCCA National Champion Scott Rettich (Alliance Autosport), from Camden, Ohio, finished second in the class, narrowly ahead of inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine winner Bobby Kelley (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Riverside, Calif., and 15-year-old Norwegian Henrik Furuseth (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), who posted the class' fastest lap of the race.Brabham will start on pole for Round Two at Sebring by virtue of setting the fastest race lap today. The race is scheduled for 11:15 am ET on May 15.3. New brake kit helps Franchitti stay right of center: The new Dallara chassis features a hand clutch and two pedals - one each for the throttle and brake -- that are on either side of the steering column. Such a setup requires IZOD IndyCar Series drivers to left-foot brake, which many have done in junior formulas and/or racing in Europe.Four-time series champion Dario Franchitti equated the move to a right-handed tennis player or golfer who's been told they have to switch to playing left-handed. It's "hard to unlearn" decades of muscle memory braking with his right foot, he said.So, upon request, Dallara designed a mechanical kit - which will be produced for any driver who places an order -- that shifts the brake pedal to right to provide right-foot braking, and INDYCAR approved. No modifications were made to the chassis."It's important to me that we got that done," said Franchitti, who tested the pedal configuration for the first time last week during the Open Test at Sebring International Raceway. "It makes a big difference driving the car. It will help me get just that last little bit and extract the maximum out of the car."Other drivers, such as Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, who also haven't left-foot braked since early in their careers, are adapting to being left-foot brakers."A lot of other guys have made that transition over the years, but for performance purposes I felt the way I did it suited my style and it worked well for me," Franchitti said. "You can change it, but I felt I would have been at 95 percent. I think it would have taken a few more tests to get to where I was as a right-foot braker."For me and the team, it was easier to (ask for a change). It also gives us some advantages as a right-foot braker that I wasn't ready to give up."Franchitti begins defense of his series championship March 25 in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - a 100-lap race on a 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit that requires a fair amount of braking that he won in 2011. He joined teammate Scott Dixon in testing on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course March 14.