IndyCar Iowa Saturday notebook
British racer Oliver Webb will join Jensen MotorSport beginning with the doubleheader race weekend at Edmonton next month.
The 20-year-old native of Manchester, England will drive the No. 12 ExpoSystems Team Jensen race car as teammate to David Ostella for the Canadian-based team.
"Jensen MotorSport and team sponsor ExpoSystems are excited to announce Oliver Webb as our newest driver," said team owner Eric Jensen. "With his impressive results in European racing, it will be interesting to see Oliver challenge the most talented drivers in North America."
Webb joins Jensen MotorSport with an impressive resume including three wins and 14 podiums as a rookie driver in British F3. Webb, who finished third British F3, has been racing in the World Series by Renault this season.
"Many British drivers including 2011 Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon and three-time (IZOD) IndyCar series champion Dario Franchitti have enjoyed terrific success by transitioning their careers to North American racing," said Webb, the first driver the first driver to win membership of both the BRDC Superstars and MSA Elite.
"While still planning to continue my racing career in Europe this summer, I am excited to have been given this excellent opportunity to join the Firestone Indy Lights grid with view to possibly competing full-time in the USA in 2012 and beyond."
Sage Karam won the Pizza Ranch 100 Star Mazda race this afternoon. It is the second-consecutive win for 16-year-old from Nazareth, Pa., and his No. 88 Andretti Autosport team. Andretti Autosport is the only team that fields entries in all four Mazda Road to Indy divisions.
It was 1997 and a 23-year-old Dario Franchitti moved to the States to drive for Hogan Racing in CART, which included a mixture of road courses and ovals. Franchitti had a best finish of ninth at Australia, earned his first pole at Toronto and wound up 22nd in the championship standings.
|Dario Franchitti and Rick Mears|
Franchitti, whose best oval finish was 13th at Nazareth, sought and received oval racing input from Rick Mears, who had amassed 29 victories over the course of his career under USAC and CART sanction.
Now, the four-time Indianapolis 500 and six-time series champion (Mears) and the two-time Indianapolis 500 and three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion (Franchitti) are tied for ninth on the all-time win list.
"If I'd had known that I wouldn't have helped," Mears deadpanned as the drivers discussed the past and future of IndyCar racing and their legacy a few hours before the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer at the Iowa Speedway.
Mears recorded seven USAC- and 22 CART-sanctioned race victories (22 on ovals) in a three-decade Indy car career.
"I had opportunities to do other things over the years, whether it be Formula 1 or (stock cars) or whatever, but I always enjoyed our series because of the diversity of tracks," said Mears, whose first Indy car victory came June 18, 1978, at the Milwaukee Mile. "I felt like you accomplished more if you won the championship; you had to be a more well-rounded driver. That was always the challenge of the series.
"Joking about helping Dario on ovals, he's never needed any help. He's been smooth from the word go, and to me that's one of the key things on the speedways and short ovals. He already had that natural ability and talent. It was just a matter of laps."
Up next for Franchitti, who finished fifth in the race, are former teammate Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais, who are tied with 31 victories. Both will be competing in the Honda Indy Toronto on July 10.
"I'm proud of every single (win) and I never expected to get to this number," said Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car who has a 20-point lead over Will Power in the championship standings.
Nicole Hill of Fort Dodge, Iowa, a four-year INDYCAR Nation Champion member, had the thrill of getting a ride in the "Fastest Seat in Sports" two-seater that paced the field to the green flag.
Hill, who's attended all five IZOD IndyCar Series races at Iowa Speedway and every Indianapolis 500 for eight years, was chauffeured by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr.
"That was awesome," said Hill a few seconds after hugging Unser. "I want to thank Honda and INDYCAR Nation and everybody."