Alabama GP: Friday Notebook
Barber Motorsports Park is the largest philanthropic project in the history of the State of Alabama, with more than $54 Million of private funds contributed. The track is 2.38 miles long, 40 feet wide, with 16 turns and 80 feet of elevation change.
Viewing on TV or even driving the track on a simulator does not give an accurate feeling of the elevation change here. It is an immaculate facility nestled in rolling hills o manicured grounds, on a 740 acre parcel.
Vitor Meira, who made his series debut in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway (finished 15th), will make his 100th start this weekend in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Legacy Credit Union. Meira has 29 top-five and 58 top-10 finishes - including being the runner-up in eight races - with four teams. He jumped 13 positions to finish third in the season opener in Brazil on March 14 and led 12 laps at St. Petersburg on March 29 (his first laps led since Kentucky in '08) before finishing 15th.
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing): "A hundred starts is proof that I've been doing a good job because I never had to pay to drive, so I always had to prove that I could do the job that people were expecting," said Meira, who is in his second season driving the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing. "I think that (100 starts) is one way to prove that and to feel good about it. There is a lot to be done still. I have not done nearly everything that I want to do so I'm still pushing with the same will I had at my first race."
Longtime Indy car engineer Iain Watt has joined KV Racing Technology and will work with Mario Moraes and the No. 32 crew this weekend. He had most recently been crew chief for Robby Gordon's NASCAR Sprint Cup team.
IAIN WATT: "I'm looking forward to working with a new team and driver, though I've known (team co-owner) Jimmy (Vasser) for years. I liked what I saw of the team when I was at St. Petersburg, and it's a good opportunity to work with old friends again. The cars I've been working with the last few years are so different than these. I can see the evolution of changes, but I don't expect anything too surprising. An open-wheel car is an open-wheel car."
KV Racing Technology driver Mario Moraes had minor surgery in Brazil to remove a cyst from his ear canal.
MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology): "I needed to take last weekend to chill a little bit, but I'm OK. I could work a little in the gym the past few days and feel ready for the weekend."
The primary (black sidewall) tires are the same used at the Barber Motorsports Park Open Test in February, and are the same primary spec as Mid-Ohio last season. The alternate (red sidewall) tires are new for 2010. The Firehawk alternates are identical in body construction to the primaries but contain a softer tread compound that provides more grip and faster lap times, yet trades off compound durability in exchange for those shorter-term advantages.
"While all of the teams have experience here with the primary spec, no one has yet used the alternate specification we are bringing to this event," Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said. "Look for the red-sidewall Firestone Firehawk race tires to add a variable that will hopefully lead to more passing on the track."
Of note: Drivers will have 20 pushes of the Honda overtake assist button for 15 seconds each during the 90-lap race. There is a 10-second recharge period between pushes. … Charter Communications will be the primary sponsor this weekend of the No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car driven by Justin Wilson. … Roll Coater will be the primary sponsor of the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car driven by Mike Conway. He has relocated his residence to Miami. ... Suave will be the primary sponsor of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car driven by Dario Franchitti this weekend.
Walker Racing announced that British driver Dan Clarke will drive the team's Firestone Indy Lights #40 entry this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
DAN CLARKE (No. 40 Wasteco Deans Knight Special): " I couldn't be more thrilled to join Walker Racing and to be back racing in the USA. Since 2006 I've focused my career on the U.S. open wheel scene. After unification I feel my career is back on track and competing this year in the Firestone Indy Lights Series is a great place for me to do it."
DERRICK WALKER (owner, Walker Racing): "I have always been impressed with Dan's speed when we raced against him in the Champ Car years. Back in those days the 'Road to Indy' was not as clear as it is now, so we share the same objective in racing in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, our aim is the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500."
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Mike Conway has been running around South Florida between races in St. Petersburg and Birmingham, setting up his new home in Miami.
"You can be based anywhere in America because we race all over America," he says. "You don't have to be based when the team is located (Indianapolis for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing). I was lucky enough to have a chance to live where I wanted to be, which is by water and somewhere warm.
"I literally got the keys (April 1) and my stuff arrived earlier this week. I'm settled in, near some friends and making new ones. (Marco Andretti) is a stone's throw away."