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Barrichello Testing Indycar

| , RacinToday.com Monday, January 30 2012

Tony Kanaan and good friend Rubens Barrichello. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello drove an Indycar on Monday and said afterward that he is unsure if the drive would lead him to a job in 2012 with the Indianapolis-based series.

“We’ll see,” said Barrichello, who drove a second car prepared by KV Racing Technology at Sebring International Raceway in Florida when asked if fans might see him race in IndyCar this year. “I don’t have anything else (competitive driving), so we’ll see.”

Barrichello’s decision to test an IndyCar was facilitated by veteran Brazilian IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan, who currently drives for KV.

He ran 94 laps, approximately 150 miles, making progress throughout the day. By the end of the day he was posting times that were competitive with drivers who have been in the series for several years and tested at Sebring before.

“I had a very very nice day with KV Racing Technology,” Barrichello said. “In the morning I was getting used to the car and not doing anything silly because obviously you don’t want to put it in the wall. It’s a different machine from what I’m used to, but it had a good feeling.

“Whatever happens for the future, which might change, all I said at the beginning was I want Kevin (Kalkhoven), Jimmy (Vasser) and Tony to remember when we were here at Sebring, ‘Rubens tried that and it was really good and made us go faster, so let’s try that again for this circuit’. So, I’ve had a very good and productive day behind the wheel and with all the setup options that I have tried, I think it went well. You could call me a rookie, even though I’ve had 33 years doing this job, but today I was an IndyCar rookie. ”

Kanaan completed 84 laps, approximately 135 miles. He spent the entire day working on car development, but in the process still produced competitive times.

“Well, there really isn’t much to say,” said Kanaan. “The guy comes here for the first time and after 20 laps he’s already running the same lap times as me! His knowledge and experience helped confirm some ideas that we had for this test, so it was very productive having Rubens around.”

Barrichello and Kanaan have known each other for almost 30 years and refer to each other as brothers.

This was the first time in their careers the two drivers have tested the same type of car on the same day.

Commenting on today’s test KVRT co-owner Jimmy Vasser said, “On behalf of Kevin (KVRT co-owner Kevin Kallkhoven) and everyone here at KV Racing Technology, I can say that we are all very pleased with today’s test. The entire team did an excellent job. This was Ruben’s first time in an IndyCar and I think he enjoyed himself. Certainly, we had a lot of fun working with him. Most importantly, if he is going to have this kind of effect on Tony we are going to have to figure out a way to keep him around.”

Barrichello, 39, is the only driver in Formula One history to make 300 or more starts having contested 322 races over a 19-year career (1993 – 2011). The talented Brazilian, who was runner-up in the Formula One championship in 2002 and 2004, has earned 11 victories, been on the podium 68 times and scored 106 top-five finishes and 171 top-10 showings. Last season, Barrichello competed for Williams – Cosworth.

Kanaan, 37, is entering his 15th U. S. based open-wheel season and 11th in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion has 14 IndyCar wins (15 career) with 52 podiums (58 career), 85 top-five showings (101 career) and 111 top-10 performances (159 career) in 149 IndyCar starts (242 career). He holds the series record for most consecutive IndyCar starts with 148. Kanaan finished fifth in the championship race last year with 367 points.

Kanaan invited Barrichello to join him at Sebring.

“Over the winter we talked about it, but it became serious when I was testing (at Sebring) and they announced that he wouldn’t be with Williams, and I tweeted a picture of my car saying ‘It’s ready for you,'” said Kanaan, who is godfather to one of Barrichello’s sons and vice versa with his son, Leonardo. “Then I called him up and said, ‘Hey, you want to come test at the end of the month?’ And he said yes, so I called Jimmy.

“It’s great to have a guy I can call a brother with us. (His future) is in his hands. Right now, it’s just an invitation for him to help us out as far as his feedback. Nineteen years in Formula One, the guy has so much knowledge we need to take advantage of . What goes beyond that, it’s up to him.

“Knowing Rubens, his timeline will be pretty short. By the time he gets out of the car (Jan. 31), he’ll have a pretty good idea what he wants to do. Right now, we don’t have anyone signed for the other two cars. You can tell by his face he’s having a lot of fun.”

Barrichello was joined at the facility by his family, who were greeted by INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard.

“If Rubens joins the IZOD IndyCar Series, it continues to strengthen the caliber of drivers that we’re attracting,” Bernard said. “His record alone is the type of excitement that we want to build within the series and give our fanbase. When you look at the history of Indy car and the greats such as Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi, it only helps the stature of Indy car. If there is a transition, I want him to know that we’re here to help him.”

Servia (in the Lotus development car), Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), JR Hildebrand (National Guard Panther Racing), and the Team Penske trio of Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves and Power also were on the track Monday preparing for the 2012 season, which kicks off March 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing), who co-drove the winning entry in the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 29, Mike Conway (A.J. Foyt Racing), Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing) and Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing) join them on Tuesday.

Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson teamed with AJ Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew to win the 50th anniversary endurance race in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian. The entry won by 5.198 seconds over the Starworks Motorsport team anchored by Ryan Dalziel.

Michael Shank Racing’s previous best finish in the event (second place) came in 2006 with Wilson, Allmendinger, Negri and Mark Patterson co-driving. Overall, six Daytona Prototype teams with INDYCAR drivers finished in the top 10.

A second Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Daytona Prototype entry, with Firestone Indy Lights drivers Gustavo Yacaman and Jorge Goncalvez among the co-drivers, finished third as the only other car on the lead lap (761) in the twice-around-the-clock race on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn course.

Wilson was competing for the first time since early August when he suffered fractured vertebrae during a practice incident at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which forced him to miss the final six IZOD IndyCar Series events.

“We all managed to comprise enough to get by between all four of us in being comfortable and being able to push the limit every single lap, because this was a tough race,” said Wilson, who will be returning to Dale Coyne Racing for the 2012 season that begins March 25 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

A day to recuperate and it will be back behind the wheel for Wilson, who’ll be able to stretch his legs in the new Dallara DW12 chassis at Sebring International Raceway. A dozen other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers will join him on the short course, including Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon of the fourth-place Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates car in the Rolex 24.

Shank also will have few hours to revel in his first Rolex 24 victory in nine attempts before he focuses on wrapping up details of entering the IZOD IndyCar Series with MSR Indy and likely Paul Tracy as the driver.

“We are so close to being able to run our car at St. Pete and I’m not giving up,” Shank said before the green flag. “This is about passion for me and business. First passion, then business. We have a great relationship with Ford and the Grand Am series and I could make a living here just fine. But it’s been my dream and my intention since I was 7 years old to get in the Indianapolis 500, so when there’s opportunity – like I believe there is in INDYCAR right now – we decided to go for it.

“In a perfect world, I could announce (now) what I’m doing. We’re going to work as hard as we can to make it happen. The interest has been great and we have a lot of new fans.”

Tracy, who confirmed he’s working with Shank to finalize a deal, was among the drivers of the Doran Racing car that finished seventh overall – one spot behind the 2011-winnnig Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates car co-driven by Graham Rahal.

“We need to put together an engine program this week and tie up a couple of other lose ends of some other contractual stuff, and if we can do that, then we’ll get the car put together and try to get to Sebring to test,” Tracy said following a twilight stint.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who looked to be out of the endurance race when sponsorship for a second Starworks Motorsport car fell through five days earlier, rejoined the team before the initial practice of the weekend and then qualified ninth.

More last minute was the addition of Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, to the driver lineup. Andretti was granted a late license (he had never driven a Daytona Prototype) and fared well, though he became dehydrated.

Another Andretti Autosport teammate, James Hinchcliffe, co-drove a SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 that finished seventh in the GT class and 16th overall.

| , RacinToday.com Monday, January 30 2012
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