Indy Car Preview And Misc Racing Notes

Wake-up, you thought the IndyCar Series was done for the season? Well, we got one more race. Though it doesn’t count for points, consider it a sneak preview of the 2009 season. Four drivers will be breaking in new rides when the IndyCar Series visits picturesque Surfers Paradise on October 26th. The big story is 2007 ICS Champion and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti taking over the #10 Target-Ganassi car formerly driven by Dan Wheldon. Wheldon the ’05 ICS Champ & Indy 500 winner moves over to Panther Racing replacing perennial bridesmaid, Vitor Meira. Meira jumps into the #14 A.J. Foyt Racing seat that was piloted by Darren Manning. Manning as of now is on the outside looking in. Champ Car refugee Alex Tagliani continues his job interview at Conquest Racing and hopes to get the ride full-time in ’09.

Wheldon has targeted his strategy in the land down under, “There’s two things (we want to accomplish),” said Wheldon, the 2005 IndyCar Series champion who returns to Panther Racing after winning 15 races with Andretti Green Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing over the past six seasons. “It’s a good time for us to get a feel for one another under race conditions. When you test, that’s great, but it’s always a bit more laid back. I think it’s good to see how people perform under pressure. We’ll definitely utilize that time to get to know one another and hopefully for them to get a good feel for what I need on a road course and vice versa.”

“And then, you want to go for the win. You don’t have anything to worry about. There’s no points up for grabs, it’s just kind of bragging rights, and to some degree you might be able to put an exclamation point on the season that just finished. That’s the intention.” Wheldon remarked.

Meira spoke to fellow Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi, about driving at Surfers, “He gave me some pointers. He said it’s a very demanding race track for the car because you are constantly running on the curbs and the circuit has pretty fast chicanes. Because of the chicanes and curbs, the car’s bouncing around all the time-you have to hit the same spot every time. But you’re going pretty fast – it’s got 4th gear and high 3rd gear chicanes so it’s really fast. Because the track is rough, it’s one more complication. When the car bounces up, the wheels are off the ground so that’s a big complication right there. On a smooth race track, you just have to be worried about braking and the car sliding. On a bumpy race track, sometimes the best line is not the line that theoretically appears to be the best-but the one where you can avoid the bumps so it narrows down the margin of error even more. But Christian said he likes the track and I bet I will too.”

What is Meira’s goal in Australia? “I think the goal is to really get to know the team – that’s the primary goal and getting the Foyt team to know me. By that I mean, knowing where we’re at on set-ups in relation to the others and then figuring out what we can do to make it better. For example, pitstops- if the race pitstops are not good, what can we do to make them better? I need to learn about the team overall and the team needs to learn me so we can nail down all the projects for the winter. That’s the main goal. If we accomplish that, we’ll be good but accomplishing that with a top-10 finish to be realistic-that would even better. So those are my primary goals-a top 10 finish and learning about the team.”

Meira did a shakedown run the #14 car during the “ABC Supply Day at the Track” at the 2.4-mile road course outside of Houston on Oct. 8th.

The Eric Bachelart led Conquest Racing will again be judging ‘Tag’s” performance at Australia. Tagliani who raced eight seasons in the Champ Car World Series and has two podium finishes in Australia, had a 12th-place finish at Chicagoland (last point paying race of ’08 season). He hopes a strong showing in Australia will lead to a full-time ride in 2009.

“I’ve been fortunate to have had a couple of races already with the team, but the Australia race will be a good way to keep building that team chemistry that is so important,” he said. “We won’t just be working on me getting used to the team, but this race will also allow us to work on the car for next year. So far I’ve only done one street course race (with the team), and we didn’t have much time to get ready. It was pretty much get in the car and drive. Now we’ve had time to work on different things, and I think in Australia we will be able to see where we stand on this type of track compared to other teams. We will also continue learning how to improve this car with our sights on next season.”

Bob Jenkins, Scott Goodyear and Jon Beekhuis will call the action from Surfers Paradise, Australia for ESPN. Jenkins is a longtime favorite of many of us who enjoyed the races he did with Larry Nuber in the ‘old days’ back at ESPN in the 1980’s.

Beekhuis who was a stalwart on the Champ Car broadcasts since the mid-1990’s will report from the pits, which he also did from Edmonton.

The race will air live on ESPN Classic at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 25 and will re-air on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 26.

Veteran NASCAR crew chief and ARCA and Nationwide Series car owner Corrie Stott is looking for sponsorship for this year and the ’09 season. Corrie said, “I’m searching for dollars to go (racing) and I’m trying to contact anyone who might have an idea or lead. I am not looking for the big dollars, but enough to get us in a position to run the race.” Stott Classic Racing has several unique opportunities for you to get involved in racing. You don’t have to spend $500,000 to be a sponsor. Teams like Stott have many opportunities for you to be involved on a national level. Sponsorships can be one race or multiple races. They’re also an excellent team to work with if you’re a young driver looking to get some ARCA or NASCAR seat time. You can call Corrie at 980-241-8439.

Racing photographer Phil Rider was at the Danny Kladis auction last weekend, he writes, ‘I spent some time Sunday at an auction of a lot of Danny Kladis’ stuff. Kladis, the last living driver from the 1946 Indy 500, has been in a nursing home for a few years, but the auction was held at his home/shop. I last saw Danny two years ago, but I talked to one of his daughters on Sunday and she said he was still doing reasonably well. His brother George was at the auction.

I am told that Kladis was a pack-rat, and there was an incredible amount of “stuff” at the auction, including a sprint car, a midget, two motorcycles, several tractors, tons of parts (of what, I’m not certain), trophies, pins and badges, books, programs, phonograph records, tools, and much, much, more. I don’t know how much the sale brought in. There was a lot of stuff, but much of it looked like junk. There were two auctioneers working simultaneously, but the crowd didn’t seem very big. I didn’t stay for the whole deal, but what I saw was interesting.’

Indy Car Series Media and Foyt Racing contributed to this column.

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