Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Indy Racing League News and Notes – March 28, 2005
by Race Author
Hearn Returns To SSMS for ‘500’:
Sam Schmidt Motorsports has named IRL IndyCar Series veteran Richie Hearn as the driver of the No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Special at the 89th Indianapolis 500.
Schmidt’s entry will be a Chevrolet-powered Panoz chassis, with major sponsorship from traditional Indy team sponsor Meijer stores and Coca-Cola.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports is the defending champion of the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series, and won the season-opening Miami 100 with rookie driver Travis Gregg.
Hearn, 34, finished third in the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and was sixth in 2002 in a Schmidt car. This will be his sixth Indy start.
Although this will be the fourth consecutive year Schmidt and Hearn have teamed for the 500, Schmidt emphasized an important difference.
“In the past our program has come together very late, with limited practice time and sponsorship,” the owner said. “Now, we have strong support from Meijer and Coca-Cola, and that has allowed us to put together a very solid effort. We have the funding to be on the track all month, and we’ll work hard to qualify and race competitively.
“I think it’s fair to say our team has shown in the Pro Series, and also at Indy, that we can get the job done. Richie has done the same. The Meijer/Coca-Cola sponsorship gives us our best opportunity so far to do well at Indy.”
Hearn, who like Schmidt resides in Henderson, Nev., has a victory and two poles in the IndyCar Series.
“It gives me a lot of confidence to know that, thanks to Meijer and Coca-Cola, we’ll be ready to go on the first day of practice,” Hearn said. “That’s even more important this year because the new schedule has only four days of practice before pole qualifying. I have to thank Sam, because he’s put together the strongest combination of sponsor-chassis-engine we’ve ever had.”
Michael Crawford is general manager for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Chris Griffis will be Hearn’s chief mechanic and Tim Neff will be his engineer.
A veteran Indianapolis 500 sponsor, this will be the first year Meijer has sponsored Schmidt. Meijer is a family-owned and operated grocery and general merchandise supercenter operating 163 stores in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. Meijer stocks more than 200,000 items, from car oil to vegetable oil.
Associate sponsors include: Kleenex/Viva, Palmolive, Cheez-It, Sara Lee and McCormicks.
Wynonna To Sing Anthem in St. Petersburg:
Country music superstar Wynonna Judd will perform the national anthem as part of pre-race ceremonies at the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 3.
Celebrating her 21st year in the entertainment industry, Judd first came into prominence as part of the mother-daughter duo, The Judds, in 1984 and has been critically lauded. She signed her first solo record deal in 1992, and her first album became the highest-selling debut album by a female artist at the time.
She followed with the multi-platinum disc “Tell Me Why,” as well as with the platinum-certified “Revelations.” Her greatest hits compilation was released in 1997, the year that also found her gold record “The Other Side” flying from the shelves. With the release in 2000 of “New Day Dawning,” she was both producer and director.
Judd released her sixth solo studio album “What the World Needs Now Is Love” on Curb Records in 2003. Judd is the sister-in-law of IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti.
Good Charlotte To Perform Following Grand Prix:
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and XM Satellite Radio are joining together to present a concert by rock act Good Charlotte as part of the post-race activities April 3.
The concert will begin 30 minutes after the inaugural winner is greeted in Victory Lane and will be held on the front straightaway near the start/finish line.
The quartet hails from Waldorf, Md. Formed in 1996, the band features vocalist Joel Madden, guitarist Benji Madden, guitarist Billy Martin and bassist Paul Martin. After making a name for themselves in and around the Washington, D.C., area, Good Charlotte issued their self-titled debut on Epic in 2000.
Soon after, the Madden brothers scored a gig as MTV VJs and soon were all over the network's late night rock show "All Things Rock." By the fall of 2002, Good Charlotte released the album "The Young & the Hopeless."
The singles "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and "Anthem" became hits in 2003, and their 2004 album "The Chronicles of Life and Death" continued their success.
IRL Teams Use Sebring Test As Final Dress Rehearsal:
Several IndyCar Series and Menards Infiniti Pro Series teams are testing this week at Sebring International Raceway prior to the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Among the IndyCar Series teams testing at Sebring on March 29: Andretti Green Racing (Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta), Rahal Letterman Racing (Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice), Delphi Fernandez Racing (Scott Sharp), Super Aguri Fernandez Racing (Kosuke Matsuura), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Roger Yasukawa and Jeff Bucknum), Panther Racing (Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge) and Target Chip Ganassi Racing (Ryan Briscoe).
Four days after participating in an Open Test on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, three Menards Infiniti Pro Series teams tested privately March 28 on the road course at Sebring. Sam Schmidt Motorsports drivers Jaime Camara, Chris Festa and Travis Gregg tested along with Marco Andretti of Andretti Green Racing and Marty Roth of Roth Racing.
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 3 on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. The race, the first non-oval event in IndyCar Series history, will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by IMS Radio Network at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel “XM Extreme” (Channel 152). The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 3 on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. ESPN2’s coverage of the race will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EDT) on April 8.