Helio Castroneves


Castroneves and Power Both Lead Team Penske Qualifying


Team Penske came up just short in its pursuit of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach pole position Saturday, but if recent history is any indication, the team will be in prime position for a race victory when the green flag flies.

Teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves both qualified for the Firestone Fast Six, with Power earning a third-place starting position and Castroneves securing a sixth-place starting spot. AJ Allmendinger had the ninth-fastest lap in his group during the first qualifying round and will start 14th on Sunday.

Power, the defending Long Beach race winner, was clocked at 67.3987 around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Power unfortunately was unable to record his planned fast lap as the checkered flag flew before he could start his third lap in the Firestone Fast Six.

“Yeah, it was good, obviously, to get to the Fast Six, and then just how qualifying is at the moment. We got caught out at the end there,” said Power, who managed to win the race from a 12th-place starting position in 2012 despite qualifying second when he and the other Chevrolet drivers took 10-grid spot penalties after changing out engines. “Tim (Cindric) came over the radio and said that you’re barely going to make one more lap. I thought he meant fuel, not time, but it was time. So I got to the start of my last lap, and it was checkered flag. But still, I’m happy with third.”

The current IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader, Castroneves turned a lap of 67.9698 in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has now qualified eighth or better in his last four races at Long Beach.
“We made some adjustments to the Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet between the sessions today and improved quite a lot,” said Castroneves, who won the 2001 Grand Prix of Long Beach from the pole. “It’s a shame because I felt that I had a better car than sixth. I’m not complaining, being top six is great, but I just want to make sure we get everything we can out of the car because it is so competitive here.”

Allmendinger, in his second race driving the No. 2 Penske Automotive Dallara/Chevrolet, had a fast lap of 1:09.2001 in the first qualifying session.

“Tough day for the No. 2 Penske Automotive Chevrolet,” said Allmendinger, who competed at Long Beach three times previously and recorded a top-10 finish in 2005. “We thought we had the car in a pretty good place going into qualifying but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out of it what I needed. I know that Will won the race last year from 12th so that gives us some hope that we can move up through the field tomorrow and hopefully be competitive.”

Power, who also won the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2008, will start inside the second row and alongside Takuma Sato and behind polewinner Dario Franchitti.

“It’s definitely a good starting position,” said Power. “I look for a good, solid race again tomorrow in the Verizon car.”

Sunday’s 80-lap Grand Prix of Long Beach is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m. ET with NBC Sports Network coverage beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


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Riding Wave of Momentum, Team Penske Returns to Milwaukee June 16, 2011

INDYCAR Firestone Twin 275’s


Drivers: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske), Ryan Briscoe (No. 6 Transitions Adaptive Lenses Team Penske) and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske)

Event: Milwaukee 225
Milwaukee Mile
West Allis, Wis.
(one-mile oval)

When: Qualifying – Saturday, June 18 at 5:45 p.m. ET
Race (225 laps) – Sunday, June 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Live on ABC-TV)

TV/Radio: ABC-TV/IMS Radio Network and Sirius XM Channel 94

In Style at The Mile: Team Penske has tremendous history and tradition competing at the Milwaukee Mile. In 79 previous open-wheel racing starts at Milwaukee dating back to 1972, the team has recorded seven wins, 11 pole positions and 45 top-five finishes. In the last five IZOD IndyCar Series races run at the Mile, Team Penske has posted two wins and four pole positions.

Mears Was Magnificent at Milwaukee: Current Team Penske advisor and four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears posted the team’s first victory at the Milwaukee Mile when he took the checkered flag 33 years ago on June 18, 1978. Mears, who will also serve as a spotter for Helio Castroneves this weekend, earned a total of three wins and five poles at Milwaukee in his career.

Cheesehead at Heart: Ryan Briscoe has an interesting history at Milwaukee as well. The native of Sydney, Australia considers Milwaukee his “home” track as his wife, Nicole, host of ESPN’s NASCAR Now program, and her family hail from nearby Roscoe, Illinois. Briscoe, who has grown into a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan over the last several years, posted his first victory for Team Penske in 2008 at Milwaukee as that race also represented the 300th all-time win for Penske Racing. In the last IndyCar Series race run at the Mile, Briscoe won the pole, led 154 laps and finished second in the race in 2009.

Lucky 11 for Helio?: In 10 previous career starts at Milwaukee, Castroneves has earned three pole positions and two top-five finishes while leading 200 laps of competition. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, who earned his first Indy car pole at Milwaukee in 1999, will be looking for his first victory in his 11th start at the historic one-mile oval this weekend.

Power-ful Momentum: Current IZOD IndyCar Series point leader Will Power arrives in Milwaukee on a roll. Power has won three out of the first seven races on the series calendar and he scored his first career win on an oval track last Saturday night in Texas. Power also has won four pole positions this season and has finished in the top three in five of the first seven events. Power has two previous career starts at Milwaukee – he started fifth and finished 11th in 2006 in the CART Series and he qualified fourth and finished 14th for KV Racing Technology in 2008. Power clocked the fastest time at the series test at Milwaukee two weeks ago.

Texas Tidal Wave: Team Penske enters Milwaukee riding a wave of success from its performance last weekend in the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway. Highlighted by Power’s victory, the team recorded six top-10 and four top-five finishes overall on the evening. Power finished third in the opening race before winning the nightcap while Briscoe came home sixth in the first race and third in the second. Castroneves took the checkered flag for the first race in 10th place and he earned his best finish of the year in fourth place to close out the night.

Head of the Class: With wins at Barber Motorsports Park, Sao Paulo, Brazil and Texas in the No. 12 Verizon car, Power continues to lead the IZOD IndyCar Series standings for Team Penske. Power currently holds a 239-218 point edge over Dario Franchitti in the chase for the series crown. Power is also ranked second in the series oval standings, trailing only Scott Dixon. Briscoe enters this weekend ranked sixth overall in points while Castroneves is 14th in the standings.

Penske’s Premiere Partners: Team Penske is proud to welcome several new sponsors to its family in 2011. Joining Power’s No. 12 car team primary sponsor, Verizon, in the Team Penske stable this season, Guidepoint Systems will compete as a sponsor of the No. 3 car driven by Castroneves this weekend. Transitions Adaptive Lenses will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 6 car driven by Briscoe at Milwaukee. Team Penske also welcomes Shell-Pennzoil, IZOD, PPG, AAA Insurance and Penske Truck Rental as primary sponsors in 2011 along with new associate sponsors Meijer, Coca-Cola and Comfort Revolution.

Visit Us at Verizon: Power will appear at the Verizon store located at 1200 W. Sunset Dr., Suite 106 in Waukesha, Wis. on Friday night, June 17, from 7-8 p.m. CT. The IZOD IndyCar Series point leader will meet with fans and sign autographs at the store.


Helio Castroneves: “We are super excited to go back to the place where I earned my first-ever Indy car pole this weekend in the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems car. Team Penske has been very competitive at the Milwaukee Mile in the past, so I am certainly going there feeling very good. It is great that the IZOD IndyCar Series is returning to Milwaukee as it has such a long history in open-wheel racing and I can’t wait to see all the great Milwaukee fans again.”

Ryan Briscoe: “I’m excited to be returning to Milwaukee, a track which always makes for great racing. It’s a challenging track and I love the high g-forces we feel around there. It is also the site of my first-ever IndyCar win, which makes it very special to me. We tested very well there just a couple of weeks ago and the No. 6 Transitions Team Penske crew is ready for another strong performance in Sunday’s race.”

Will Power: “This is going to be yet another very competitive and difficult race. There are going to be a lot of cars out there and it is going to be very busy on the short oval. Milwaukee is one of my favorite oval tracks. The Verizon car tested great there just a couple weeks ago and coming off our first oval win, we are looking to continue building momentum. It should be a very entertaining race for the fans.”


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Team Penske Back to Defend Title at Sao Paulo



Drivers: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Itaipava Team Penske), Ryan Briscoe (No. 6 Penske Logistics) and Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske)

Event: Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle

Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil

(2.6-mile temporary street circuit)

When: Qualifying – Saturday, April 30 at 2:00 p.m. ET (Aired at 6:00 p.m. ET on Versus)

Race (75 laps) – Sunday, May 1 at 12:00 p.m. ET (Live on Versus)

TV/Radio: Versus-TV/IMS Radio Network and XM Channel 145 and Sirius Channel 211

Back in Brazil: Team Penske returns as the defending champions at Sao Paulo after Will Power drove the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda to victory in last year’s inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series event in the city. In a wild race on the wide-open street circuit, Power passed Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead with four laps remaining and captured the win in the series’ season-opening race of 2010.

Scenes from Sao Paulo: In addition to Power’s victory, Sao Paulo native Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe also had interesting races last season in Brazil. All three drivers were involved in a multi-car accident at the start of the race and each dropped back in the field before making their way back up front. Starting eighth, Briscoe actually led four laps and looked to be on his way to victory late in the race before he made contact with the tire barrier. He returned to action and did finish the race in the 14th position. Castroneves, competing in front of his hometown fans, had to pit early for repairs and got caught out by a short rain delay before rallying to finish ninth.

After Three Rounds: Entering this weekend’s race, Team Penske is ranked second, eighth and 14th in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings. Power, who won Round 2 in Alabama, trails series leader Dario Franchitti by just seven points in the championship rankings, while Briscoe is eighth after a strong runner-up effort in Long Beach. Castroneves fell to 14th in points after a tough result in Long Beach that saw his car make contact with Power’s machine late in the race when both drivers were running inside the top-five.

Partnership Pride: Team Penske is proud to welcome several new sponsors to its family in 2011. Joining Power’s No. 12 car team full-season primary sponsor, Verizon, in the Team Penske stable this season, Brazilian partner Itaipava joins the team for Sao Paulo and will compete as the primary sponsor of the No. 3 car driven by Castroneves this weekend. Penske Logistics will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 6 car driven by Briscoe at Sao Paulo. Team Penske also welcomes Shell-Pennzoil, IZOD, Guidepoint Systems, PPG and Penske Truck Rental as primary sponsors in 2011 along with new associate sponsors Meijer, Coca-Cola and Comfort Revolution.

Chasing 200: If Team Penske wins the pole Saturday in qualifying at Sao Paulo, it will mark the 200th all-time Indy car pole position for the most successful team in the history of North American open-wheel racing.

Remarkable Road Record: Team Penske excels at street course circuits. Castroneves, Briscoe and Power have all earned temporary road course victories over the last three seasons and the team overall has produced 22 poles and 12 wins at road/street course venues since 2007. This weekend’s race marks the fourth consecutive event held at a street or road course to start the 2011 season. The next race – the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 – begins a stretch of five consecutive oval races on the series schedule.

Power’s Pole Prowess: Power will be looking to capture his fourth consecutive pole position to start the season during Saturday’s qualifying session at Sao Paulo. Power qualified fifth last year at Sao Paulo to earn his worst starting spot on a road or street course in 2010. Power’s three consecutive poles are the most by a Team Penske driver to start the season. Mario Andretti won six consecutive poles to begin the 1966 USAC season while Bobby Unser earned six straight to start the 1972 USAC campaign.

Legacy of Success: Team Penske continues to set the standard of success in open-wheel racing. Throughout its storied history, the team has posted 154 race wins, 12 National Championships and 199 pole positions. In addition, Penske Racing has won the Indianapolis 500-mile race 15 times. Across all of its disciplines, Penske Racing teams have produced 333 major race wins, 398 pole positions and 23 National Championships.



Helio Castroneves: “Racing in Brazil is always special for me and this weekend I am hoping for a great result for Team Penske. Being able to race in my home country in front of all the passionate Brazilian fans is certainly something very special to me. I look forward to seeing friends and family while I am down there and I feel really good going into this race, as our No. 3 Itaipava Team Penske car looks like a winner to me.”

Ryan Briscoe: “I’m looking forward to Round 4 of the IZOD IndyCar Series in Brazil. I think that this track can provide some of the most exciting racing with its long straights and heavy braking zones, which is great. The No. 6 Penske Logistics car has been really fast this season and I feel good going into this event. My main goal is to carry our momentum from Long Beach as we try to make up points in the championship race.”

Will Power: “I think this has the potential to be kind of a crazy weekend. It tends to rain a bit in Brazil, so track time may factor into the equation. I’m excited to race in Sao Paulo. The circuit has plenty of places to pass so if you have a fast car you will be able to get to the front. Our Verizon Team Penske car has been fast all year long and I am going to do my best to qualify well and hopefully get a good result.”


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Power Claims Second in IZOD IndyCar Series Opener


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 27, 2011) – Verizon Team Penske’s Will Power battled back from a difficult start, that also affected his teammates, to finish second Sunday in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – the 2011 season opener for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The defending champion at the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg street circuit, Power started from the pole position but was shuffled back during a mishap on an early restart during the 100-lap race. He fell back to seventh place but battled back to finish second behind Dario Franchitti.

Meanwhile, Team Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves also saw their cars damaged due to contact at the start of the race, but after making repairs, both drivers returned to action and finished in 18th and 20th place, respectively.

Power’s effort was a solid start to the 2011 season for the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda team, which finished a close second to Franchitti in last season’s championship standings. “I’m just glad to get good points in the first race,” said Power, who won the pole Saturday and produced a victory from the pole last season at St. Pete. After his car was hit from behind early in the race, Power fell back in the field but he recovered to post his ninth podium result in his last 10 road or street course races.

“It was a very interesting start today,” added Power, the series’ defending Mario Andretti Road Course champion. “Dario Franchitti got me fair and square at the beginning. When we had all of the restarts after caution periods, we got hit hard and (the car) went into neutral. We dropped to seventh position but were able to get back up to second again. I was in survival mode after getting hit. I struggled a lot on the black (Firestone tires) today and I was trying to hold (Tony) Kanaan off as he was hounding on me from behind.  It was a good start to the season for Verizon Team Penske.”

Team Penske’s other two entries battled hard to recover from early damage suffered in a first-lap incident that claimed several cars. Briscoe’s No. 6 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Honda suffered suspension damage and lost a portion of its front wing early in the race, and the resulting repairs left Briscoe five laps down to the race leaders. He made up several spots on track before taking the checkered flag in 18th place.

“It was a frustrating day today for the IZOD Team Penske team,” said Briscoe. “It’s a shame because we had one of the quickest cars on the track. The guys made some adjustments to the car last night, and it paid off because we were fastest in the morning warm-up session. Overall, it’s a shame because IZOD has come on board this year, and I wish we could’ve had a better result for them today. It’s not the finish we wanted today but we’ll come back ready to win some races.”

Castroneves’ No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske Dallara/Honda was also involved in the melee in the first turn. The team was forced to the garage area to repair the front left suspension before Castroneves returned to the track 15 laps behind. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion also fought back to salvage a top-20 result.

“Our Guidepoint Systems car was fast today after the first-lap incident – you could see it in our lap times,” Castroneves said.”The guys did an incredible job putting the car back together after the left front suspension damage. The Team Penske guys were amazing. As far as the incident, I’ll have to look and see what happened, but it seems like I locked up the rear on the car. It’s very disappointing, but we never gave up and we know we’ll have better results next race.”

The IZOD IndyCar Series resumes April 9 at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. Team Penske returns as defending champion of the race as Castroneves won in the inaugural event at the challenging road course in 2010.


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Helio Castroneves raring to go


Editor’s note: This is the first installment by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who’ll be writing periodically for throughout the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series season (as told to motorsports writer John Oreovicz).

Hello, everyone, and thanks for stopping by to read my first column for I’m excited to share my thoughts about the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series, and everyone at Team Penske is very optimistic about what we can accomplish this year.

Hopefully there will be a lot of victories and other good stuff to talk about! It’s been a long offseason — it’s been basically five months since I was in an Indy car.

That’s one of the toughest things for us, but it is what it is. That’s the nature of our sport at the moment as IndyCar tries to control costs by restricting testing. But I believe that will change for 2012, when the series introduces a new chassis and engine package.

The good news is that we’ve had basically the same car since 2003, so it wasn’t too difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel again after the long break. It’s just a matter of adapting to the weather and getting your timing back. For example, imagine if you played tennis for a hobby and you went six months without playing. When you first come back, you feel the ball is coming at you a bit too fast, and you lose a bit of your timing to hit the ball.

But after a bit of practice, you end up getting back your rhythm. That’s very similar to driving a race car. Initially, approaching the corners can be a bit tough, but after half a day, you’re back in the groove again. Your muscles are a bit sore, especially in the neck and the shoulders, because even if you do a lot of exercise and training, you’re still using different muscles when you drive the race car. That’s something most people don’t realize.

But the long offseason has been cool for me because I spent a lot of time with my family. My little girl is 14 months old now, and it’s awesome to see her grow. Those things are priceless, and I’m very glad to have those memories. It’s wonderful the way children teach us to have patience about things that maybe we weren’t patient about before. Being a parent changes your priorities — the kids come first, and you become the second option!

At Team Penske, we have a lot of good news to share entering the 2011 season. The team had sponsorship from Philip Morris for more than 20 years, and I was so honored to be a part of that family. I am very fortunate to say that I drove with the red and white colors. Unfortunately, there is an end to everything, and that era of one of the sport’s most iconic sponsorships is over.

But with that comes new opportunities for new companies to become a part of Team Penske and be associated with Roger Penske’s great history in racing. Now we have several new partners: Shell/Pennzoil, GuidePoint Systems, AAA/Auto Club of Southern California, Izod and PPG will all be primary sponsors on the Team Penske cars this season, to go along with Verizon, and we also have new associate sponsors like Meijer stores and Coca-Cola. We have so many new partners that I have to practice remembering them all, and I’ve been doing a lot of training to understand their products, which has been quite an amazing experience.

I’m very fortunate to be entering my 12th year with Team Penske, because not every driver is able to maintain such a long and productive partnership. It’s tough for several reasons when you see drivers like Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon struggling to find a ride. First, Tony, especially, is a good friend. Second, you never want to see anybody in that position, including yourself. Third, they are very talented drivers who should be able to find good rides and continue in the series. It just shows that we are still feeling the effects of the tough economic climate, but we still have one of the most talented fields we’ve ever had in the IndyCar Series.

I believe that the teams and the league need to continue working together to build up the IndyCar brand. We’ve definitely seen some growth, but the TV ratings still need to improve. We have a good television package, but compared to other series — especially NASCAR — there is a lot of work to be done to improve the ratings. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has been doing some terrific things to increase exposure, like the $5 million bonus if a driver from outside IndyCar wins the season finale at Las Vegas. They have adjusted the rules to make the racing more exciting for the fans, and we’re doing everything in our power to increase the interest.

Overall, I’m really excited to start another season with Team Penske. I’m pumped, because I think our three-car Team with Ryan Briscoe and Will Power as my teammates is going to be stronger than ever. Will has brought a lot to the team, and that has been very good for me. It made me change my style of racing a little bit; he taught me to be more aggressive and try some different lines through corners that I maybe wouldn’t have thought of or didn’t expect would work. I thought we had a very positive atmosphere last year, and we want to have all three Team Penske drivers fighting for race wins and the championship again.

Certainly the goal this year is for the team to win as many races as possible, naturally including the Indianapolis 500. If we can do that — especially on the 100th anniversary of the first Indy 500 — that would be a dream come true. They say records are made to be broken, and I really hope to emulate my hero, Rick Mears, with a fourth Indianapolis 500 win. If it happens, we can celebrate on the radio, because Rick is my spotter, and I know he will be cheering for me. I remember when I won my first Indy car race in 2000, Bobby Rahal told me, “Welcome to the club.” So hopefully Rick will have the chance to welcome me to the four-time Indy winners club.

[Source: ESPN]

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IndyCar seeks to change image with new rules, marketing shift


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Randy Bernard is giving the IndyCar Series a distinctlyNASCAR flavor.

Next season, oval races will include double-file restarts. He’s bringing back a race once thought to have been lost, and he’s even hired away a former NASCAR executive to help the series make inroads in Hollywood.

It’s all part of a new strategy as the series celebrates the centennial anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.

“I’m not afraid to steal an idea,” Bernard said before speaking at Tuesday’s State of IndyCar meeting. “It if works, great.”

The idea for the double-file restarts was proposed by the series’ most successful team owners, Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, both of whom have seen it work on the Cup circuit.

But the rule may be modified for the more sensitive IndyCars.

Double-file restarts will not be used on road or street courses because of limited passing zones and officials are still debating whether to move lapped cars to the back of the field — which some drivers prefer.

The debut could come at the trickiest track on the circuit, Indianapolis, something three-time race winner Helio Castroneves and other drivers are lining up against.

“Right now, all the drivers are together and we have a different opinion about it,” he said. “But I’ve got to give them credit because they are trying to change things.”

Marco Andretti worries that putting two lines of traffic on the ovals could force cars in the outside lane into the “marbles,” making the racing more dangerous.

The bigger question is will it make races more interesting, or just more dangerous?

Brian Barnhart, the series’ president of operations and competition, is sure the drivers are capable of pulling it off at “this level of racing,” but Danica Patrick isn’t sure the IndyCar Series will get the same results they’ve had on the Cup circuit.

“We accelerate differently and you can’t just bump other cars to get up in front, so it will be different,” said Patrick, the most recognizable IndyCar driver and a veteran of both circuits. “Look, I’m all for change and if it doesn’t work, I have no doubt they’ll take it out.”

GALLERY: Danica Patrick’s career in photos

That change is only one part of the strategic plan.

Before the meeting, Bernard announced the league was officially ditching the Indy Racing League name, in favor of IndyCars, and was opening a new office near Los Angeles in an effort to bring on more celebrities. Sarah Nettinga, who worked in a similar capacity at NASCAR, will manage the office in Santa Monica as senior vice president of media and entertainment.

SCHEDULE: List of races for 2011

It didn’t take long for Hollywood style to meet Indianapolis.

As the annual meeting began, lights were dimmed, music was turned up and drivers walked in through fog.Bruce Springstein’s “Born in the USA” blared when the first of seven American drivers took the stage. Scotland’sDario Franchitti, the reigning IndyCar and Indy 500 champ, paraded through the hotel ballroom with the Gordon Pipers — a local bagpipe group that is as traditional at the Indy 500 as the starting command.

But Bernard wants more than just a new image.

• Drivers now will have to go faster to start a race, qualifying at 105% of the fastest lap time. Previously, it had been 107%. The move is designed to keep drivers from going too slow and causing race day problems.

• Pit selections now will be based on qualifying performance at a previous race rather than entrants points. But the results will come from the previous event on a similar venue, or road course to road course and oval to oval.

• Drivers will have to use the same tires during a qualifying segment on road courses. They can switch between segments, just not during them.

• Children as young as 9 years old now can purchase tickets to go into the garage area of all races except Texas.

• At Indianapolis, children 12 and under will be admitted free when an adult buys a general admission ticket to the race.

• And Bernard said he will consider looking at ways to set new track records, if the series can keep it safe for drivers.

“The fan is the most important thing we have,” Bernard said. “You can take the best entertainers in the world and the one who is reaching out to the most fans will be their favorite. So we need to make sure our fans have a compelling entertainment.”

Two new slogans for this season also were unveiled Tuesday.

The series will use Real Drivers, Real Racecars, Real Fast. The Indy 500 is being dubbed “the most important race in history.”

Whatever Bernard is doing, it is attracting new sponsors.

Over the last 12 months, IndyCars has signed 15 new partners. That includes Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which announced Tuesday it has reached a new three-year deal to become the series’ official hotel.

And after saying in November that the series would not run in Edmonton this season because it couldn’t get necessary upgrades, the race is now back on schedule for July 24.

Edmonton city spokesman Robert Moyles said the issue was resolved under an arrangement to cover the extra cost through about $2 million in parking revenue in the area and $1 million from the local business community.

All of it, Bernard insists, bodes well for the future of the sport.

“I feel a tremendous amount of progress and momentum right now,” he said. “I think we’re better today than we were March 1st, so we’ve got to continue to make it happen.”

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Team Penske Signs Shell and Izod


For more than 20 years, most of the Indy race cars fielded by Roger Penske and his formidable team were painted Day-Glo orange and white and carried the Marlboro logo, a brand made by the team’s primary sponsor, Phillip Morris USA. The cars were one of the most easily recognizable in motorsports, in part because Team Penske drivers won the Indianapolis 500 several times in Marlboro colors.

But Phillip Morris dropped its sponsorship at the beginning of last season, and, like other teams, Penske has needed to piece together sponsorships to keep fielding a full three-car team. Within the last week, Penske has announced three deals that, along with Verizon’s continuing primary sponsorship of Will Power, the up-and-coming Australian driver, could benefit his team enormously.

Team Penske said Monday that Izod, which is also the title sponsor of the IndyCar series, would be the primary sponsor of the car driven by Ryan Briscoe in several races in 2011, including the Indy 500. The car driven by Helio Castroneves at Indy and in other races will be sponsored by Shell, Penske said Friday. Meijer, a retail chain in the Midwest, will be an associate sponsor of all three cars.

Izod had been the sponsor of the Andretti Autosport car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay, another rising star. Tony Kanaan, another longtime driver on the team owned by Michael Andretti, lost 7-Eleven as his sponsor and his ride with Andretti at the end of the season. Meijer had been an associate sponsor for Marco Andretti, Michael’s son.

Sponsorship dollars, which are even more vital to success in auto racing than horsepower, have moved decidedly in Team Penske’s direction. Further, there is the strong possibility that Sam Hornish Jr., the 2006 Indy 500 champion, who has not had much success racing stock cars in the last three years, could race in the 2011 Indy 500 for Penske.

“He’s always had an open invitation to run the Indy 500 with us. Nothing’s changed,” Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Racing, said in a teleconference on Monday.

Referring to Hornish’s status as a Sprint Cup driver, Cindric added, “I think what’s changed is the fact we haven’t been able to secure a full‑time Cup ride for him. And that makes things a bit more obvious. But he’s always had an open invitation with us to run Indy.”

Although the series has been energized by signing on at least three manufacturers for a new car program for the 2012 season, the imbalance in sponsorship dollars could be seen as a step back for parity in the series. The top five in last year’s standings drove either for Chip Ganassi or Penske. (Dario Franchitti, the series champion, drove for Ganassi.)

Danica Patrick finished 10th in the standings last year driving a car for Michael Andretti. Kanaan was sixth, Hunter-Reay was seventh and Marco Andretti was eighth. Mike Kelly, executive vice president of marketing for Izod’s parent company, Phillips-VanHeusen, said his company simply thought sponsoring Penske’s team was a better business opportunity.

“There’s no question he’s a contender out on the track,” Kelly said of Hunter-Reay.

[Source: The New York Times]

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