INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - March 5, 2013

Story posted - Mar 05 2013 5:07 PM

INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES - March 5, 2013

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Season kickoff draws fans of all ages
2. Veach leads Firestone Indy Lights team to Sebring Open Test
3. Firestone extends title sponsorship of Texas race

1. Season kickoff draws fans of all ages: Pre-schoolers, state government employees and pedestrians in search of a noontime meal couldn't resist sliding between Axel and Alley - the IMS Kids Club mascots - for a photo while holding an "Indy 500 or Bust" sign.

They then slid over to IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter, James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden for autographs and more photos to tweet. Hinchcliffe even honored a fan's request of phoning a co-worker and inviting her to join the fun at the INDYCAR Season Kickoff Celebration March 5 in downtown Indianapolis.

"It's old fans, it's new fans, it's young fans, there's some really well-dressed fans," said Hinchcliffe, who enters his second season driving for Andretti Autosport. "Standing around here, the fans are as excited as the drivers. It was a very long offseason but things are gearing up now."
The event -- featuring a formal autograph session at the LIDS Locker Room with the three drivers and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing co-owner Sarah Fisher, INDYCAR transporters and show cars on display, a representation of Indy 500 Festival princesses and free rides in the Indy Racing Experience street-legal two-seater -- was part of the festivities leading into the March 24 season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"The more we can do to engage our fan base the better," said Fisher, whose team enters its second full-time season with Newgarden behind the wheel of the No. 67 Honda-powered car. "We are in the business of entertainment and being one of the most accessible sports for our fans to see and touch the cars and talk to our athletes is very important and definitely supports that initiative."

The INDYCAR Season Kickoff Celebration preceded activities at the statehouse, where Indiana Gov. Mike Pence recognized the success of Indiana motorsports teams in 2012 and economic impact of motorsports in the state. Indiana is home to the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights, Grand-Am and NHRA (Top Fuel, Funny Car and Motorcycle) series championship teams.

A recent Purdue University study reports that the motorsports industry contributes more than 23,000 jobs to the state.

"Racing is huge to the city of Indianapolis and the more we continue to bring industry related to racing to this city the better it is for all of us - as citizens, team owners and vendors," Fisher said.

2. Veach leads Firestone Indy Lights team to Sebring Open Test: Since entering the Mazda Road to Indy in 2010, it's been a rapid ascension for Zach Veach. He began in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and now finds himself entering his first Firestone Indy Lights season.

He could be racing in the Indianapolis 500 before exiting his teens.

"I really want to be in (the IZOD) IndyCar (Series), but Michael (Andretti's) goal is he never wants to move any of his drivers up too fast," Veach said of the Andretti Autosport team owner. "I think it's best for me, and Michael thinks as well, that we take our time working our way up. So probably two years at least in Firestone Indy Lights and just taking our time learning as much as we need to be able to move up.

"So definitely dreaming big, but I'm just focused on this year right now, and we're going to go for hopefully the championship and see where we are at the end of the year."

Veach, 18, will continue to focus on that immediate goal with Open Tests at Sebring International Raceway on March 7-8 before heading to Barber Motorsports Park with the IZOD IndyCar Series on March 11. The season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., is March 23.

In the first Firestone Indy Lights Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway a few weeks ago, Veach and fellow Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Munoz traded the top spot on the time sheet throughout the day. Munoz ended fastest of all participating drivers, with Veach close behind.

"I'm very fortunate to have such a strong teammate this year like Carlos," Veach said. "He was very successful last year, and he's really putting a lot of pressure on me this year and definitely making me drive a lot harder. Throughout testing the past couple of times, we've been in tenth or hundredths (of a second) of Carlos. So I have a feeling that we'll be really prepared as we go into the season, and I'll be pushing really hard to get K12 some wins this year."

Expected Participants:

Sam Schmidt Motorsports Gabby Chaves
Sam Schmidt Motorsports TBD
Sam Schmidt Motorsports Jack Hawksworth
Andretti Autosport Zach Veach
Andretti Autosport Carlos Munoz
Belardi Auto Racing Jorge Goncalvez
Belardi Auto Racing Peter Dempsey
Team Moore Racing Juan Pablo Garcia
Team Moore Racing Mikael Grenier

3. Firestone extends title sponsorship of Texas race: Firestone Racing Executive Director Al Speyer announced March 4 at Texas Motor Speedway's annual media day that the tire manufacturer has signed a three-year extension as the race entitlement sponsor for the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The title sponsorship of the Firestone 550 extends through 2015. The race on June 8 (8:30 p.m. ET) will be the first prime-time IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast by ABC. Justin Wilson of Dale Coyne Racing prevailed in the drama-filled race last year, overtaking Graham Rahal's mishandling car on Lap 226 of 228. It was the first oval victory of Wilson's career.

"Firestone Racing is thrilled to announce this extension with Texas Motor Speedway, which will make it a six-year run of continuous race title sponsorship from 2010 to 2015," Speyer said. "It continues our long-standing partnership with Eddie Gossage and his great staff that goes all the way back to 1997.

"This year's Firestone 550 comes as we gear up for the highly anticipated July release of the DreamWorks 'Turbo' animated film, where the Firestone brand will be prominently featured. We are very excited about the movie premiere, just as we are to see the Firestone 550 continue for another three years and for its live prime-time broadcast this June on ABC-TV.

"In my opinion, the IZOD IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway features some of the best racing on the planet and the Firestone brand is proud to be associated with it."

***

The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season opens with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be televised live at noon (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM and www.indycar.com. The 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season begins March 23 on the Streets of St. Petersburg. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 11 a.m. (ET) on March 24, immediately preceding the IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast.

 
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