Barrichello Feeling Super About New Job At KVRT

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 2 2012

Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello will be teammates this coming IndyCar Series season. (File photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Thanks to some bi-lingual doubletalk by his Brazilian “brother,” Rubens Barrichello has found a new home in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

A 19-year veteran of Formula 1, Barrichello was introduced in Indianapolis Thursday as 2012 teammate to Kanaan and E.J. Viso at KV Racing Technology, the organization co-owned by former CART champion Jimmy Vasser and venture capitalist Kevin Kalkhoven.

“I just want to say that I’m over the moon,” said Barrichello, who tested KVRT’s new Dallara DW12-powered Chevrolet at Sebring International Raceway and Infineon Raceway in the past month. “There are people that just love what they do, and I’m one of them. I really thank God every day I wake up to be working with something that I just love so much.

“You know, I can do different things, but I know that I can drive well. So to be able to become an IndyCar driver at almost age 40 and still be so competitive and physically so well, as well…I mean, I haven’t reached the peak of my performance just yet. So I think that’s a great chance for me.”

Barrichello, 39, became a free agent when Williams F1 dumped him during the offseason in favor of Bruno Senna, nephew of Ayrton Senna, the late three-time World Driving Champion. Barrichello exited F1 as the most experienced driver in series history with 322 starts between 1993 and 2011. Runnerup in the F1 standings to Ferrari teammate and seven-time World Driving Champion Michael Schumacher in

Former Formula 1 star Rubens Barrichello is a happy IndyCar guy.

2002 and 2004, Barrichello will not be classified by INDYCAR as a rookie. However, he will be included in the rookie class for the 101st edition of the Indianapolis 500 in May.

“I’m thrilled. I’ve been there,” said Barrichello, referring to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “In ’93, my first year in Formula One, I actually went to see, to watch the Indy 500. And I had the possibility to race Formula 1 in Indianapolis, but it was not even close to what it is for the Indy 500. I think it’s going to be a great experience. I can’t wait to get my car to the ovals and see what it is. I hope I can learn from Tony big-time. I think he’s the king of the ovals, and in a way I can learn a lot from him.”

Kanaan finished fifth in the IndyCar Series standings last year despite signing with KVRT only a few days before the season-opener. Kanaan, 37, has been rewarded with a two-year contract as driver of the No. 11 GEICO Mouser Electronics KVRT Chevy after brokering Rubens’ deal with Vasser and Kalkhoven.

“I think I set them up pretty bad,” said Kanaan, the 2004 series champion. “I was with Rubens when they kind of gave him the phone call that his deal was not going to happen at Formula One, and I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you test my car to help me out? It’s a new car. With your experience, I think it’s going to be great to have your feedback.’ And I go to Kevin and Jimmy, and I said, ‘He wants to race. He has a full sponsorship. He’s ready to go. He just wants to give a couple laps in the car, and he’ll make his decision.’ We had my car (available), and I said, ‘I’ll step out of my car, no problem,’ which I regretted until today because it was supposed to be one day and it became four-and-a-half.

“So now they’re expecting Rubens to make his decision, and then Rubens says, ‘Yeah, yeah, let me think about it.’ Rubens asked, ‘Do you guys have a sponsorship?’ I said, ‘No, I thought you had it.’ Then Jimmy kind of gave me a dirty look and they realized it was a setup, but I think it was a good one. At the end of the day, we’re all happy now.”

Barrichello will drive the No. 8 BMC/Embrase – KV Racing Technology Dallara/Chevrolet for the full 16-race season that will begin with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25.

“Actually it was funny,” Kalkhoven said. “About five minutes ago (team GM) Mark Johnson and I were just talking and saying before the first test, we said it’s a 10 percent chance that Rubens would ever dream of driving this car. After the first test, it became obvious that he was really interested, and that’s when we went to work on his wife and kids. We’re delighted it’s all worked out.”

Barrichello’s F1 resume features 11 victories, 14 poles, 68 podiums, 106 top-fives and 172 top-10 results. Kanaan, winner of 15 IndyCar races, owns the active series record for consecutive starts (148).

Viso, 26, will drive the No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet with support from

Jimmy Vasser has signed another open-wheel star.

Herbalife, Mindeporte CANTV and SBA Airlines. The Venezuelan will be contesting his fifth IndyCar season and third with KVRT. In 2011, Viso scored four top-10 finishes with a season-best seventh place in Race No. 2 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Vasser, the 1996 CART champion, declined to classify KVRT as the sport’s emerging “super team” along the lines of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske. “I’m a little more modest,” Vasser said of an organization formed in 2003 as a single-car Champ Car World Series team under the PK Racing banner. Vasser and Kalkhoven moved to the IndyCar Series in 2008 while changing the name to KVRT.

“I think we’ve got a super team of drivers and personnel, but we certainly don’t have a super team of results and trophies in our trophy case yet,” Vasser said. “We’ll try to attack those one race at a time. I’m proud of the job that our general manager, Mark Johnson, has done to put the people in place to do the job, the kind of people we’ve been attracting, and it goes unsaid that this is huge news for us at KV Racing Technology.

“The growth the team has had over the last few years, and culminating with this moment, which is also a launch pad for our future and 2012 season, it’s a great feeling. You know, it really puts more pressure on the team. Not that there isn’t already enough built-in pressure in motorsport, but to have a driver of Rubens’ caliber, a solid team with E.J. and Tony… it’s the kind of added pressure you want to have in motorsport, and if you don’t feel that naturally, then you’re probably not a real racer.”

Barrichello said his first “oval experience” apparently will be at Texas Motor Speedway _ site of a test of the new Dallara DW12 chassis last week that re-ignited long-standing concerns over the inherent dangers of pack racing _ and elicited a rebuke from TMS President Eddie Gossage.

While rumors of a possible boycott by IndyCar Series drivers created buzz on several websites, Tony Kanaan said he was confident team engineers and INDYCAR sanctioning officials would figure out an aerodynamic downforce fix before the annual night race in Fort Worth on June 9.

Drivers remain skittish in the aftermath of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash at sister 1.5-mile track Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16, 2011. Wheldon, the 2005 series champion, died as the result of head injuries suffered when his car was catapulted into a fence post during a 15-car wreck in the season-ender. TMS’ catch-fence posts are of the same design as at LVMS, and that fact prompted a defensive response from Gossage.

“I’m really disappointed and don’t know why IndyCar drivers feel the need to constantly damage the sport,” Gossage said at a NASCAR promotion this week in Dallas. “You know, engineers have told us over and over that the current fence design is the best that technology provides us today. But if you were a sponsor, if you were a fan, if you were a TV network _ why would you get involved with IndyCar racing if they can’t tell you today where they’re going to race tomorrow? And the drivers _ the spokespersons for the sport _ are tearing it down?

“So, it’s absolutely irresponsible of those drivers, and they deserve _ because of the way they conduct themselves sometimes _ they deserve where they stand now in the food chain of motorsports.”

IndyCar teams are expected to test again in Fort Worth later this month. TMS, which has played host to the series since its inception in 1997, is the only 1.5-mile track on the 2012 schedule. Gossage, a key ally of INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard, said he will continue to deal with the sanctioning body on a year-by-year basis. “They just keep shooting themselves in the foot and I don’t understand it,” Gossage said.”Great show. Unbelievable skills. But just lacking common sense.”

All IZOD IndyCar Series full-season competitors are expected to convene at the 1.67-mile, 11-turn Sebring International Raceway short course for the series’ first Open Test of the year March 5-6 and 8-9.

On-track testing for engine manufacturers Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus has been unlimited since mid-January, and each supplier of the 2.2-liter, turbocharged V-6 powerplants fueled with E85 has piled up miles on the Barber Motorsports Park and Infineon Raceway road courses.

Sebring International mimics the schedule’s temporary street courses with bumpy patches and hard braking zones. With the St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Sao Paulo (Brazil) street circuits comprising three of the first four events, track time at SIR will be invaluable. The Open Test will be available to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. via a $10 admission charge. Firestone Indy Lights teams will conduct an Open Test at the facility March 7.

“With the new car it’s all about who gets on top of it the quickest,” said Mike Conway, who enters his first season driving the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda for A.J. Foyt Racing. “We’ll be working as well as we can with my engineers and the crew around me. Getting that jump at the beginning of the season will be key to the championship. No one really knows who has the upper hand, and no one really will know until qualifying for St. Pete.”

Beaux Barfield, INDYCAR president of competition, announced that Simon Pagenaud, Katherine Legge and Josef Newgarden will be classified as rookies for the season.

“It’s going to be very interesting and unknown until we do the first race and then we’ll get an idea of which engine is the strongest on road courses,” said Will Power, series championship runnerup the past two seasons in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. “And until we get to Indy no one is going to have an idea of what’s the strongest engine on an oval.”

Open Test Schedule

Group 1 (9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. March 5-6):

No. 2 Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske) – Chevrolet

No. 3 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske) – Chevrolet

No. 6 Katherine Legge (Lotus Dragon Racing) – Lotus

No. 12 Will Power (Verizon Team Penske) – Chevrolet

No. 18 James Jakes (Dale Coyne Racing) – Honda

No. 19 Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing) – Honda

No. 26 Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport) – Chevrolet

No. 27 James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport) – Chevrolet

No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) – Chevrolet

No. 77 Simon Pagenaud (Sam Schmidt Motorsports) – Honda

No. 78 Simona de Silvestro (Lotus HVM Racing) – Lotus

Group 2 (9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. March 8-9):

No. 4 JR Hildebrand (Panther Racing) – Chevrolet

No. 5 E.J. Viso (KV Racing Technology) – Chevrolet

No. 7 Sebastien Bourdais (Lotus Dragon Racing) – Lotus

No. 8 Rubens Barrichello (KV Racing Technology) – Chevrolet

No. 9 Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) – Honda

No. 10 Dario Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) – Honda

No. 11 Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology) – Chevrolet

No. 14 Mike Conway (A.J. Foyt Racing) – Honda

No. 15 Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) – Honda

No. 20 Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing) – Chevrolet

No. 22 Oriol Servia (Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) – Lotus

No. 38 Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing) – Honda

No. 67 Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing) – Honda

No. 77 Alex Tagliani (Team Barracuda – BHA) – Lotus

No. 83 Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing) – Honda

– John Sturbin can be reached a jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 2 2012
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