Barber IndyCar Notebook - Day 1
The IZOD IndyCar Series will compete in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, a 90-lap race at 2:45 p.m. Sunday. The Firestone Indy Lights will compete in the Grand Prix of Alabama, a 45-lap race at Noon Sunday. Both races will be televised live by VERSUS. The Star Mazda Championship- part of the Mazda Road the Indy ladder system - is also racing this weekend. Star Mazda will race at 1:45 a.m. Sunday.
Drivers will have 20 uses of the Honda overtake assist -an ECU software alteration - available for the race. It is activated by the driver via a button on the steering wheel and provides an extra 200 RPM (about 10 horsepower) to the Honda Indy V-8 engine. Parameters are updated before each race weekend to meet the circuit layout.
Each use will have a15-second duration, and there's a 10-second recharge period between uses. One overtake assist push will be available for the race day warm-up session.
Firestone Racing is introducing a new primary tire this weekend while returning to Barber Motorsports Park with a proven alternate tire. The primary tire features the same body construction as the 2010 Barber primary, with an updated tread compound designed to produce a similar performance level as the 2010 spec. Teams participating in last month's Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park ran this tire spec.
"We're supplementing that with a very familiar Firehawk alternate tire that served as the alternate at both Barber and Edmonton last year, as well as the primary spec at Infineon," Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said.
First time a charm?: James Hinchcliffe, the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship runner-up, makes his IZOD IndyCar Series debut this weekend in the No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing entry.
The last time a rookie (Graham Rahal) in an NHR car missed the opening round of the season (2008) he won in his first race (St. Petersburg).
"Thanks, Graham," Hinchcliffe said about the precedent.
Strategist and Rahal familiar: Tim Keene will be the race strategist for Graham Rahal's No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing entry. He's the team manager and race strategist for the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No. 01 TELMEX entry in Grand-Am. Keene worked with Rahal in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January - a race they won.
A.J. Foyt returns to action in Alabama: After passing up the season opener to have a stent put in his main artery, A.J. Foyt is returning to pit lane this weekend.
"I feel pretty good," said Foyt, who will be watching Vitor Meira drive the No. 14 ABC Supply car. "I'm glad to be back." Meira finished eighth at St. Pete.
ABC Supply CEO David Luck is a 1971 graduate of Auburn University and is a staunch supporter of his alma mater, where he established an endowed professorship in the university's College of Business. He will attend the race.
Streaks and such: Tony Kanaan will attempt to make his 133rd consecutive start, the active leader among IZOD IndyCar Series drivers. Scott Sharp holds the series record with 138. Jimmy Vasser, co-owner of KV Racing Technology-Lotus for which Kanaan drives, holds the all-time record of 211. … Nine different teams were represented in the top 10 at St. Petersburg. … Thirteen different countries are represented on the IZOD IndyCar Series entrant list for Barber. Twelve different countries are represented on the Firestone Indy Lights entrant list.
The strongest aftershock following the devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami March 11 rocked northeastern Japan late Thursday local time, killing two people and piling misery and burdens on the region.
"It was very fortunate they didn't a tsunami this time, but it was still a big earthquake and it cut all the electricity," said IZOD IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato, who a few weeks ago began a campaign to assist residents of his homeland. "It's still a very difficult time there."
"The 'With you Japan' campaign with IndyCar has started out quite brightly," Sato said. "At St. Petersburg, a photo was taken of drivers hand in hand, and it shows the support to Japan. People are getting the message."
The main objective, according to Sato, is to support children, who have been affected not only by the loss of material items but by the sudden loss of family members, friends and schoolmates.
"(Children) are really having difficulty after the disaster," Sato said. "This is the main objective and hopefully for the long term I'd like to help as many as possible."
IZOD IndyCar Series drivers have donated their driving gloves, helmets, visors, etc., already for auctions on a Website that likely will be unveiled by next weekend, according to Sato. A texting system for donations also is being developed.
"At Long Beach we'll announce the way want to support the campaign properly and hopefully collaborate with other campaigns," he said.
At Barber Motorsports Park this weekend, spectators can make monetary donations through the Friends of Honda American Red Cross Donations. Collection boxes are located throughout the venue.
IZOD IndyCar Series officials have put cones out on the track 200, 300 and 400 feet from the start/finish line in order to help IZOD IndyCar Series drivers evaluate the various location for the restart zone for Sunday's race. INDYCAR officials will determine the restart zone based on the drivers' recommendation on a potential restart zone for the race. The zone will be announced in Sunday morning's driver meeting.
Johnny Rutherford knew the occasion, when a hot IZOD IndyCar Series driver would tie him for 10th on the all-time victory list, was coming sooner rather than later. He welcomed Dario Franchitti into the elite club.
"I think it's great. Records are made to be broken," said Rutherford, who amassed 27 victories in a four-decade Indy car career.
Franchitti reached the milestone in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, and will seek to add another victory this weekend in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy.
"The top 10 didn't occur to me until somebody mentioned it the other day," said Franchitti, who had been tied with Rodger Ward. "To me, the things that stuck out were obviously the 27 wins and to be alongside J.R. Not to blow smoke up his skirt but he's a legend of the sport.
"That's a big deal and something I'm really proud of, so hopefully we can keep going."
Next up for Franchitti is Rick Mears (29 wins), who recorded his first victory at The Milwaukee Mile in 1978. Among his victories (22 under CART sanction and seven under USAC) are four in the Indianapolis 500. Tied at seventh on the list with 31 victories are Paul Tracy Sebastien Bourdais, both of whom are still competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon (25) also could move into the top 10 this season.
"I can remember when I was fourth, fifth and then sixth in the standings," said Rutherford, who among his duties with INDYCAR is driving the Honda Accord Safety Car. "These young guys are earning their legendry. I enjoy my job in the Safety Car now because it's something that needs a lot of attention just like driving the race cars. I try to be an ambassador of the sport that's given so much to me and so is Dario. He's a great champion."
A.J. Foyt (67), another four-time Indy 500 winner, is the all-time leader. Nos. 2-6 are Mario Andretti (52), Michael Andretti (42); Al Unser (39); Bobby Unser (35) and Al Unser Jr. (34), the Firestone Indy Lights driver coach.