IRL headlines

1.      Scott Dixon/JR Hildebrand Conference Call

2.      Rookies Newgarden, Pagenaud, Clauson pass oval rookie test3.      Andretti Autosport adds Beatriz for Sao Paulo, Indianapolis4.      Of note1. Scott Dixon/JR Hildebrand Conference Call: IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Scott Dixon and  JR Hildebrand participated in a media conference call to discuss the upcoming Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the IZOD IndyCar Series team test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Selected quotes from the interview are below.Q.  Scott, the last time you (led the most laps in the first two races) was in 2003 when you won your first series title. I guess that's been a good omen to start the season?SCOTT DIXON: It's definitely been a much better way to start the year. The last two or three years we've kind of put ourselves in a bit of a hole and had to play catch-up throughout most of the rest. It's a positive start. It's still early. But as everybody knows, each race pays the same amount of points. Consistency over the last couple of championships has been key, especially for Dario to keep winning these things, that's been the key. He hasn't had any bad races or weaknesses throughout the season. I think last weekend we were probably disappointed. Kind of St. Pete was a race where we got the most out of it, were fairly happy with our position there. But last weekend was a bit frustrating, seeing I think we focused on the wrong group of people and ended up biting us with some lap traffic and a bit of a fumble on the last pit stop which sort of gave the lead to Power. All in all, strong start. So far pretty happy with the start of the season. Q. JR, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 Rookie-of-the-Year. Your start is not as good as Scott's, with a couple of finishes outside the top 10. Despite running with the frontrunners at St. Pete and Barber, talk about how you can turn that around at Long Beach. JR HILDEBRAND: It's been a little bit of a tough start from that perspective. Just by the end of the two races we weren't really where we wanted to be. You know, over at Panther this year we've put a pretty high priority on improving our road and street course program. Through the last two weekends, at least from a pace standpoint, we've showed that. At the end of the race at St. Pete, we were fighting for what would have been sixth position and just had kind of a fuel pressure issue and dropped out with a couple laps to go, but had been moving our way legitimately up through the field up until that point. At Barber, qualified well, then just sort of missed I guess for the race. I guess one of those situations where at the track in Barber we tried so hard to not end up with a car that understeers that we ended up tipping it over for the race. That caught us out with that late caution at the end. We're quite happy with the improvements we've made and feel like we're way further ahead in terms of our competitiveness on those types of tracks going into this season. Although it doesn't really show it on paper, we feel pretty good about where we're at. Q: Yesterday you had the chance to test the new aero package that will be used at the Indianapolis 500. A brief comment about yesterday's test, what you learned about it, and how was the new car around Indianapolis Motor Speedway? SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think everybody's made some pretty good changes. I think the mechanical side of things was the biggest issue over the winter, some are critical of that. I think in the long run we all knew it could be into the right direction as long as the parts were made. Balance was much improved I think. It was also hard to do a lot of miles because all of us had to use race engines that we may have to use, will definitely use, at Long Beach. Also have a Sonoma test on Monday and then possibly race it at Brazil, too. I think if they'd done the test a different way, you would have seen all of us run a lot more laps. All in all, I think a lot of the improvements on speed, a lot of that was from the engine manufacturers as opposed to the drag reduction from Dallara. I think everything is moving in a positive way, and it was enjoyable to be back out there yesterday. The speeds are definitely picking up, so it's good to see. JR HILDEBRAND: Kind of like Scott said, particularly this time of year, without there being any rubber on the track, all that kind of stuff, it ends up sort of being abrasive. We didn't want to run a lot of miles, get too many miles on a set of tires, get ourselves into trouble with there being so many things upcoming. But I think a lot of people in the paddock would agree any day you get to go run out at the Speedway is a good day. Sort ever echoing Scott's sentiment, it's nice to be back out there, get some laps, kind of get a feel for the car. Having not had any experience running there in the new car previously, it was all kind of a blank slate. We were I think going in a little bit hesitant about how is the stability of the car going to be, how is it going to handle, all these kind of things, because those were issues the last couple of tests there. We weren't really surprised but were pleasantly met with a well-handling racecar.

As we trimmed out, all that kind of stuff, we continued to have a good-handling racecar. From that perspective, I think the teams have done a good job and the engine manufacturers have done a good job to work with the teams, get all that stuff under control, and really at this stage, I know for us, we were sort of against the limit of (indiscernible) to the car. We didn't leave that test with a lot of options to continue picking up speed. I think everybody is kind of in the same boat. We'll have to sort of figure out I guess as a group where things are really going to be at when we come back in May. Q: Looking forward to next week's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a track both of you have had some success at, what do you expect at Long Beach? JR HILDEBRAND: I'm looking forward to getting back to Long Beach. That's really where my Indy Lights championship season back in '09 kicked off, going kind of pole-to-win there. It's a track that's obviously got a lot of significance just from a sort of historical perspective of being a long-time event on the calendar. It's such a well-run event, it's sort of a good time whether you're racing or not. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I think at Panther, we're excited to kind of see how we can continue to progress on the road and street courses. Q Scott, I know Target Chip Ganassi Racing has had a lot of success at Long Beach, Dario winning there in '09. I assume you're hoping to add your name to the list of Ganassi race winners at Long Beach. SCOTT DIXON: Definitely. It's been sort of one that slipped by us many times on the 9 car side. As JR commented, it's a fun place to race. It has a different degree of difficulties. You have long straights, good braking areas, some fast corners, so it's a good mix. I think we'll put on a great show. The kind of car we're racing now, with the racing being so good at Barber, I expect it to be very good at Long Beach. Always excited to go there. With Team Target, I think we've always got a shot. Fingers crossed, we offload pretty well, start off at the pointy end of the field and put ourselves in a position of winning. Q. Scott, as you look at the first two races of the season, you really have to feel very encouraged about heading into the month of May. You've done everything except win the race. Talk a little bit about how good of a start you've had and how encouraging that is from a momentum side going into the month of May. SCOTT DIXON: Well, it can turn just as quick as it's going good. For us it's important to keep the momentum going, make sure we have consistency, make sure we keep earning good points and not getting into too much trouble out there.  We could have gotten caught out many times with how the yellows fell at St. Pete. It was good to have a little bit of luck on our side and pull that through. I don't know. I think the ovals are going to be kind of different. It's hard to know with pre-season testing and things like that what the manufacturers are up to on either side, whether they're sort of backing it down, not showing their hand too much. If we come into the month having some good finishes and staying good in the points, I think that's definitely good, a positive side, good for the confidence. Indy is going to be different this year. Nobody knows what they've got. That's the hardest thing. For the past few years, we know what we had, what we worked on, the gains we should expect in most situations. Fingers crossed we have a good package. I think we do. Honda and obviously the team have been working extremely hard. Hopefully they can back that up and have a good run through the month. 2. Rookies Newgarden, Pagenaud, Clauson pass oval rookie test: IZOD IndyCar Series competitors Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud along with two-time USAC National Driver's Champion Bryan Clauson successfully completed IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie Testing on April 5 at Texas Motor Speedway.The trio was cleared to compete in all oval events by INDYCAR President of Competition and IZOD IndyCar Series Race Director Beaux Barfield, who supervised the test."I knew that Josef (Newgarden) and Simon (Pagenaud) would get up to speed quickly, and they did, but Bryan (Clauson) was equally as impressive," Barfield said. "He was on pace and consistent throughout the day. All three drivers were comfortable and worked the various lines and setups. It was a productive day for all three, even though it was technically a rookie test."Unlike the Indianapolis 500, where rookies traditionally pass through four speed phases, Barfield allowed Sam Schmidt Motorsports (Pagenaud) and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (Newgarden) to run their own testing plans and observed how the rookie drivers worked with their teams on and off the track. "It was my first time on an oval, so I'm not a virgin anymore," Pagenaud said. " I enjoyed my first oval experience,. I was running by myself, so it's a lot easier than running in a pack, but I'm really comfortable and the engineers did a great job making me feel comfortable. This test is all about understanding how the car feels on the oval and getting experience ahead of the Indianapolis 500. I'm just learning. I'm very excited. I've started on the right foot."Newgarden and Pagenaud completed a day of testing on April 4 with Pagenaud turning more than 100 laps of testing on the 1.5-mile oval in his first-ever oval test. Newgarden, who has oval experience in Firestone Indy Lights, turned his first laps at Texas."We're just trying to get our time in so we're prepared when we come back in June," Newgarden said "It's our first laps with the new car on ovals. It's interesting to get the car to work on the high line here. It's a fun challenge to get the car to work right around here. You have to get your car working in all lanes, and not just one of them."Clauson joined the pair on April 5 in a car prepared by Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing."It feels great to finally get to strap into a 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series car," Clauson said. " We had a great afternoon of testing with the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing boys and it feels good to get step one of the Indianapolis 500 process complete."3. Andretti Autosport adds Beatriz for Sao Paulo, Indianapolis: Andretti Autosport will add Ana Beatriz to the team's driver lineup for two IZOD IndyCar Series races in 2012.Beatriz will race for Andretti Autosport in her hometown event, the São Paulo Indy 300 (April 27-29), and then attempt to make her third Indianapolis 500 start in May as a co-entrant for Andretti Autosport with operational support from Conquest Racing. Beatriz will race the No. 25 Chevrolet sponsored by Ipiranga, one of Brazil's iconic petroleum and convenience retail companies. "Driving for Andretti Autosport is the biggest opportunity I've had in IndyCar and my career," Beatriz said. "I am very honored to be part of Michael's (Andretti) team for Brazil and the Indy 500. I would like to thank my management team, Andre Ribeiro and Augusto Cesario, for putting this deal together with Michael, John (Lopes) and JF (Thormann). Also I am very happy to have Ipiranga supporting me again for these races and Andretti couldn't be a better fit. I am very much looking forward to working with the team, Marco (Andretti), James (Hinchcliffe) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay)."The 27-year-old Beatriz will drive the fourth entry for Andretti Autosport at São Paulo, joining teammates Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. For the Indianapolis 500 she will pilot a fifth Chevrolet-powered car for Andretti (Sebastian Saavedra will be the team's fourth driver in an AFS Racing co-entry). Beatriz completed a test session with Andretti Autosport in March at Sebring International Raceway."I've been watching Bia for a few years," said Michael Andretti, Chairman, President and CEO, Andretti Autosport. "She was very strong in Firestone Indy Lights, and I was impressed by the pace she showed there. This opportunity is a good fit for us as a team. Brazil is an important, growing market for many of our sponsors, so to have a Brazilian driver and Ipiranga come aboard with us made a lot of sense. This opportunity came to us late so we are grateful for the operational support provided by Conquest Racing."Beatriz, who goes by the nickname 'Bia,' came up through the Brazilian karting and open wheel ranks before she entered Firestone Indy Lights in 2008. She was the first woman to win in the series with a victory at Nashville in 2008, and she followed-up with a second oval win at Iowa in 2009. Beatriz has 20 previous starts in the IZOD IndyCar Series, with a career-best finish of 11th at Toronto in 2011. She made her first IndyCar start in 2010 at the São Paolo race. She is the first Brazilian woman to start in the Indianapolis 500, where she has twice finished 21st.Beatriz' addition to the grid in Brazil means that a total of 27 cars will make the trip to Sao Paulo for the third Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 on April 29. INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said provisions were made to bring 27 cars to Brazil. "After the decisions had been made, our promoter BAND  asked us to add Ana Beatriz to the field, and we were happy to accommodate that request without limiting the field for the race," Bernard said.4. Of note: Smash Mouth will headline an infield concert for race fans at Milwaukee IndyFest on June 16. The concert, which will take place following the checkered flag of the IZOD IndyCar Series race, is free to all race day ticketholders….Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones will be the grand marshal for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Multi-platinum recording artist Taylor Dayne will sing the national anthem.***The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15 on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be telecast live at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by NBC Sports Network. The IMS Radio Network will also carry the race live on XM Channel 94 and Sirius 212. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15. It will be telecast by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (ET) on April 19. NBC Sports Network's coverage of the Grand Prix of Alabama will be telecast at 5 p.m. on April 5.


Related Motorsport Articles

83,727 articles