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Racin’ News: Big Field Enters Indy 500

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Thursday, April 14 2011

Helio Castroneves will go for fourth Indy 500 victory this year. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

RacinToday.com

In racin’ news today, Thursday, April 14:

(This package includes news on: Indy 500 entires; STP headed to Kansas Speedway; Kelly Bires to driver for Gibbs; Ford GTs to Le Mans)

Four past winners and four IZOD IndyCar Series champions are among the drivers named to the 42 entries filed for the 2011 Indianapolis 500, scheduled for Sunday, May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Eighty-three cars comprise the 42 entries, the most entries since 2002. It’s the third consecutive year with at least 40 entries on the list. It’s also the eighth consecutive year in which the number of entries has climbed or held steady.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010) leads the list of past winners, which also includes Helio Castroneves (2001-02, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008) and Dan Wheldon (2005). Franchitti will attempt to become just the 10th driver to earn at least three Indianapolis 500 victories, while Castroneves is trying to become just the fourth four-time winner in the illustrious history of the race, joining A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Series champions include Dixon (2003, 2008), Franchitti (2007, 2009, 2010), Tony Kanaan (2004) and Wheldon (2005).

Thirty-five drivers have been named to the 42 entries filed this year for the 33 starting spots in “The Most Important Race in History.” This guarantees plenty of dramatic action on both qualifying days, Pole Day on Saturday, May 21 and Bump Day on Sunday, May 22.

The 2010 Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at noon (ET) Sunday, May 29 and will be broadcast live by ABC, the IMS Radio Network and XM 145/Sirius 212. Opening Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, which also will feature the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 Celebration of Automobiles.

There is outstanding depth and quality in this year’s field. Besides four past race winners and four series champions, 18 of the 35 drivers named to entries have won at least one race in either IZOD IndyCar Series or Champ Car World Series/CART competition.

Five drivers comprise a strong rookie crop: IZOD IndyCar Series rookie regulars JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, James Jakes and Charlie Kimball, and Jay Howard.

Plenty of young talent that recently advanced through the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system also will be on display, as the field includes three of the last five Firestone Indy Lights champions – Howard (2006), Raphael Matos (2008) and Hildebrand (2009). Other recent Firestone Indy Lights graduates on the entry list include Marco Andretti, Ana Beatriz, Ed Carpenter, Kimball, Graham Rahal and Sebastian Saavedra.

Three women were among the drivers named to entries: 2005 Chase Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick, 2010 Chase Rookie of the Year Simona De Silvestro and Beatriz.

Andretti Autosport is involved in five entries, more than any other team. The team, which won the 2005 and 2007 Indianapolis 500, filed four entries and is co-entrant along with NASCAR legend Richard Petty on another entry.

DRIVERS (35)

Former race winners (4): Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010), Scott Dixon (2008).

Former pole winners (4): Bruno Junqueira (2002), Helio Castroneves (2003, 2007, 2009, 2010), Tony Kanaan (2005), Scott Dixon (2008).

Rookies (5): JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, James Jakes, Charlie Kimball.

Youngest: Sebastian Saavedra, 20.

Oldest: Davey Hamilton, 48.

Most previous starts: John Andretti, 11.

Kansas Speedway announced that STP Brands will sponsor the June 5 Sprint Cup Series event at the track after signing a multi-year deal. The June 5 event, which is the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas, will be the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Single race tickets for the June 5 STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, as well as all events on the 2011Kansas Speedway schedule, are currently on sale.

“STP Brands has been a part of racing and specifically NASCAR racing for over 40 years,” said Kansas Speedway President Patrick Warren. “I’m excited to welcome STP to Kansas Speedway as the entitlement partner of our June NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and I look forward to working with them.”

In addition to the title sponsorship at Kansas Speedway, STP will also sponsor the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on June 4 and will have track sponsorships at five additional International Speedway Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select Market: ISCA; OTC Bulletin Board: ISCB) (“ISC”) facilities.

Kansas Speedway tickets are on sale now for the 2011 season. Season tickets are available and include two NASCAR Sprint Cup races, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck race, the Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race and a Track Pass for each Sunday race event. Individual tickets are also on sale now for all events (June 4 O’Reilly Auto Parts 250, the June 5 STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, the Oct. 8 Kansas Lottery 300 and the Oct. 9 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway). Tickets are available by calling 866.460.RACE (7223) or by logging onto www.kansasspeedway.com.

Joe Gibbs Racing, Inc. announced that Kelly Bires will drive two races for its No. 18 NASCAR Nationwide Series team as.

Bires will be behind the wheel of JGR’s No. 18 Toyota on April 29 at Richmond International Raceway and June 4 at Chicagoland Speedway.

“We look forward to having Kelly and ICP on board with us in Richmond and Chicago,” said J.D. Gibbs, President of Joe Gibbs Racing. “Kelly is a driver with a bright future in our sport and the 18 team is excited to have him on board as they compete for their third straight Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship.”

Bires is in his fifth season driving in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with three top-five and 12 top-ten finishes in 82 career starts.  He has made four starts so far in 2011.  Bires has five career starts in Richmond with a best finish of 11th in 2009 and has made three career starts in Chicago with a best finish of 12th during the 2008 season.

Robertson Racing will take a step closer to making their Le Mans 24 Hours debut next Sunday (April 24) when the team travels to Circuit de la Sarthe for the event’s official test day.

Since receiving their invite to contest the legendary race’s 79th running on June 11/12 from organisers

Robetson's Ford GTs appear headed to Le Mans.

the Automobile Club de l’Ouest  back in February, the Braselton, Ga.-based squad has been busy preparing two Ford GTs that will make the trip to France.

Despite having only one guaranteed entry at this stage, the second car – currently first reserve for the GT classes – remains tantalising close to also competing. With all six of the team’s drivers – David Robertson, Andrea Robertson, David Murry, Boris Said, Anthony Lazzaro and Colin Braun – each requiring at least ten laps behind the wheel before being declared eligible for June’s race, it was decided that both Fords would be made available.

Unfortunately, the team has therefore been forced to take the tough decision of withdrawing from this weekend’s American Le Mans Series round at Long Beach.

Team Manager Andrew ‘H’ Smith said, “We’ve never missed an ALMS round with the Ford GT since entering the championship so it was a difficult decision, but ultimately one that could prove very shrewd come June. While the second car will give us a Plan B should anything happen to the #40, it also ensures all six drivers can complete their mandatory ten laps of running. It makes sense to be fully prepared should one of the other GT entries withdraw between now and then and also allows us to complete at least some initial set-up work too.”

Key team members begin flying to Europe this week while both cars will also make the trip by air direct to Le Mans. For some of Robertson Racing’s personnel it will be their first taste of the world’s most prestigious endurance race, although Smith, a veteran of four previous events, has seen it all before.

“Needless to say the entire team cannot wait to get going! We have a lot of experienced guys who have been there, done it and won it whose stories have really energised the rest of the ‘shop. No one is under any illusions that this is going to be easy though. Once we get there it will be the same as any other test, only with the added importance that we get the drivers through their mandatory running.”

(This notes package will be updated as news develops today)

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Thursday, April 14 2011
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