Series News And Notes 2011-08-09

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Scheckter fills seat of injured Wilson at DRR
2. If you missed it: Rahal-Mann teleconference
3. NTB, Big O Tires to support Mann, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
4. Wagner joins TMR for New Hampshire race

1. Scheckter fills seat of injured Wilson at DRR: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing general manager Larry Curry says Tomas Scheckter's "small learning curve" was the determining factor in offering the veteran IZOD IndyCar Series driver the No. 22 seat for the Indy 225 this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Scheckter, who has competed for the team on ovals, will fill in for Justin Wilson, who suffered a stable burst fracture of the fifth thoracic vertebra during a single-car practice session incident Aug. 6 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. INDYCAR medical director Dr. Michael Olinger said Wilson will be treated with a back brace. He will be out of the car for at least three months.

"Obviously, I have a little bit of a backache, but I'm just frustrated to not be at the racetrack," said Wilson, who was released today from an Indianapolis hospital. "I think that we just started to get our season turned around and the car was really good at Mid-Ohio and I'm disappointed about that. I know that I'm going to miss the ovals and I think we've found some good stuff that was going to help our oval performance.

Tomas Scheckter, KV Racing Technology - SH Racing
Tomas Scheckter, KV Racing Technology - SH Racing

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

"So I'm just disappointed to not be the car, but my back is the most important thing. I'm going to try and get that to heal and get back to 100 percent as soon as possible and get back in the car. Also, the response has been incredible and it's really nice to see that rather it's on Twitter from the fans, or drivers and ex-drivers. Everyone has been really supportive, so thank you to all of them."

Curry said team co-owners Dennis Reinbold and Robbie Buhl haven't selected a driver for the No. 22 car past New Hampshire. There are three road/street courses and two oval races following the event on the 1-mile speedway.

"We are talking about a lot of things on how we want to approach the rest of the year with the three road courses," Curry said. "The next time we see our trucks in Indy will be after Labor Day, and then we only have four days to have the stuff ready for Japan. So we have to make some decisions quickly for the Infineon test."

Scheckter, 30, has 116 IZOD IndyCar Series starts (two victories, 44 top-10 finishes) -- the most recently in the Indianapolis 500 when he advanced 13 positions relative to his 21st starting position. He has made 14 starts with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

"Even though we get that extra run time there Thursday (practice day), we have to cut to the chase fast," Curry said. "We know him and he knows us, and it will take him only two or three laps to know what he needs out of the car and how we can adjust it.

"It was more of a choice based on who was available and who we had a relationship with. That was pretty simple actually."

2. If you missed it: Rahal-Mann teleconference: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Pippa Mann participated in a teleconference today to preview the Indy 225, the IZOD IndyCar Series' return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway as well as announce a new team partnership (see Note 3). A full transcript and MP3 audio of the call is available at Selected quotes are below.

Bobby, I know you won the inaugural race at New Hampshire in 1992, and I'm sure that place has a special place in your heart not only for the reason I just mentioned, but for this weekend as well returning to the series.

BOBBY RAHAL: It does. It's great to go back there. I don't know, when was it, Pippa, about six weeks ago we did a test up you there with Pippa, and it reminded me what a great circuit it is. Of course to win the first race at anyplace is always special.

But I just really enjoyed that one mile oval. I love the one mile ovals anyway, but I think at New Hampshire it's a very good one. Yeah, that's one of the victories on my way to my last championship in '92.

I've had good memories, but it's good to be coming back. I'm really glad IndyCar is back at that track because I think it produces great racing. We're real pleased to have Pippa with us. We had a productive test, I think. Driving an IndyCar on a one-mile oval is very different, as she can probably attest, as it is to drive at Indianapolis or a high-banked track.

So I thought the day went well, and so we look forward to a great weekend up in the northeast.

Q. Bobby, the last time we chatted you really wanted to make sure that your team was going to get back involved with more events on the IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis, and of course you've got Kentucky and Las Vegas coming up and certainly New Hampshire here. Can you see this thing growing? It all depends on on sponsorship, but can you see it getting back in 2012? You've got this organization in the series back in full-time?

BOBBY RAHAL: Well, that's certainly our intent and our goal is to be back in IndyCar on an annual basis. In the past few years we've not been able to do that because we haven't been able to find the level of funding that is really necessary to put forth a first-class effort. I see no reason to do it otherwise, frankly.

So that's why we haven't been able to do it on a full-time basis. But I think by the performances we've had, for example at Indy this year with Bertrand Baguette we've shown that the team hasn't lost any of its capability. So, yeah, we definitely want to be back full-time.

I think next year will be very exciting with the new car and the new engines. This could be the start of something. I have a lot of faith in Pippa. She's shown that she has the work ethic. She's obviously won races on ovals. I think a one mile oval will be a big challenge for anybody, especially being the first race there in some time, so it should be a very exciting weekend.

By having test there and by having another test day on Thursday, I think that's really going to help the drivers like Pippa, because it gives them a chance and that much more seat time on a one mile track like New Hampshire in one of these cars.

Yeah, I'd love to think that this is going to lead to bigger and better things, but we're going to go one race at a time right now.

Q. I'm thrilled to see that you and Pippa will be racing here at New Hampshire. But I want to ask you about going back, way back to '92 when you had your first turn at New Hampshire during that test session that you came up. It's kind of uncharted territory because no other IndyCar driver had really taken a lap there. But can you take me back to what that was like? Was that a man on the moon type moment? You're the first guy to be able to turn the lap there? How did you think you were able to draw from that experience in your win there in '92?

BOBBY RAHAL: I think, again, going there, it was a brand-new track. The bear family had done just a great job with it. And what I loved about it, it was pretty much flat. I don't think there is any banking at all, it's very similar to Milwaukee, but it was much smoother than Milwaukee at the time.

As I said, I always love the one-mile tracks like Phoenix and Milwaukee, and Nazareth was almost a mile long. The racing is just so phenomenal on the one-mile tracks and we saw it again this year in Milwaukee where I thought these guys put on a great show.

Yeah, when we first went there, we were excited. We had a good test, obviously, because we went on to win the race. I don't know. When you race against teams like Penske and at that time Newman/Haas and others, I don't know that you get an advantage by being there first or not.

But it's always good, especially when it's a new track, it's always good to go see it and learn from it a little bit. That's why we went back with Pippa a couple weeks ago. Because it's a different track. There has been some banking put into it for the stock car guys, so the nature of it changed a little bit. But in the end I think it's going to be pretty similar to what we raced on. And as I said, it should produce a fabulous race.

Q. Pippa, you have to be really excited to be behind a IndyCar wheel again?

PIPPA MANN: I am so excited. Anytime anyone introduced me as Pippa Mann IZOD IndyCar Series driver, I have to stop myself from giggling. I still can't quite believe that I've made this leap up. I'm just so excited to get back into the car and to have the support of the TBC group on board running with the National Tire and Battery brands up there in New Hampshire. It's going to be fantastic.

I met Owen just under a week ago now. And we were admiring my new car in the shop when I was doing my seat fit. We both thought she was looking racy in her new color scheme, but it looked like there was a little something lacking, and luckily Owen agreed with me.

I'm extremely pumped up, and I just can't wait. Can we go yet? Is it Thursday yet?

Q.: It's not quite Thursday yet, but you are one of the few drivers who have laps around New Hampshire in the current IndyCar. As Bobby mentioned, you tested about six weeks ago. What kind of track is it like and what kind of race do you expect?

PIPPA MANN: It's a really, really cool little track. It it's a one mile oval that's fairly flat. There is very little banking in the corners. Compared to somewhere like Milwaukee, the straits are a little longer, the corners are a little tighter and a little more bank. It is going to be a bull ring around there.

I describe it when I was writing about it because it was like trying to ride a motorcycle round and round in a laundry room. Now there are going to be 26 other motorcycles out there joining me to ride around and round in the laundry room, so it's going to be a very busy track.

But I just think we're going to put on a fantastic show out there. It's very bumpy. It's going to create a lot of difference between the cars. I think we'll see cars that will stay over stints or go up over stints. And I think pit lane is going to be a part of the race. It's a fairly short pit lane, the pit boxes are fairly short so getting in and out of them is going to be interesting.

3. NTB, Big O Tires to support Mann, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: IZOD Indy Car Series rookie Pippa Mann knew she would have Rahal Letterman Lanigan's top-flight mechanics and technicians working on her car in her debut with the team this weekend, but the British driver has also gained the support of thousands more qualified automotive professionals through a partnership with NTB - National Tire and Battery®.

NTB will be on the #30 Honda/Dallara/Firestone entry for this weekend's Indy 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while Big O Tires® will be featured on the RLL car at Kentucky and Las Vegas. NTB, which is part of the TBC Retail Group, has sponsored Rahal Letterman Lanigan Indy Car efforts in the recent past with Graham Rahal and Jay Howard with not only NTB, but fellow TBC Retail Group partners Big O Tires and Service Central®.

"We are thrilled to have Pippa represent the NTB brand in New Hampshire. Not only is she a fine young lady with outstanding skills behind the wheel, she is building a solid reputation as being a go-getter," said Orland Wolford, President and CEO of TBC Retail Group. "We look forward to watching her climb the ranks of racing."

"NTB and all of TBC Retail Group have been great partners to work with in the past, and we are pleased to continue our relationship with this program," said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. "We have high expectations for this program and we anticipate that Pippa will work very hard to represent NTB and the TBC Retail Group as professionally as possible."

Mann will be making her maiden voyage with RLL this weekend at Loudon's one-mile oval, although the former Firestone Indy Lights frontrunner tested there with the team last month. A winner last year at Kentucky in the Lights series, Mann is looking forward to making her debut with a new team and a new sponsor.

"Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing introduced me Orland Wolford of TBC just under a week ago now. As we were admiring my new car, I think we both thought that the National Tire & Battery Red #30 was already looking pretty racy in her new color scheme, but that there was a little something lacking! Luckily, Orland agreed with me, and I can't thank him, TBC Corporation and Service Central enough for coming on board! I am extremely excited to be added to the roster of Indy Car drivers whom they have supported and I am looking forwards to representing National Tire & Battery and Big O Tires out on track for the remainder of this season."

4. Wagner joins TMR for New Hampshire race: Team Moore Racing announced that Firestone Indy Lights race winner Brandon Wagner will drive the #22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car at the New Hampshire 100 in Loudon, NH on Aug. 14.

Wagner, a veteran of USAC short track racing, has been competing in series since 2009. During the 2010 season he only competed in five races but garnered three top-10 finishes and his first win at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to race with Team Moore Racing, they are a great team. I hope to bring them the success I know we're both capable of," Wagner said.

Wagner is the latest driver to fill the seat of the No. 22 car for co-owners Mark Moore and Tom Wood. Victor Garcia scored a win in the car at Barber Motorsports Park before having to leave the team mid-season. Canadians Daniel Morad and Mikael Grenier drove the car at Edmonton and Trois-Rivieres, respectively.

"We're really excited to have Brandon step in the car," Moore said. "This will be an excellent collaboration with Davey Hamilton Racing. They were not scheduled to participate in this event. Brandon Wagner will return to Davey Hamilton Racing with a two-car effort at Kentucky and Las Vegas.

"In the meantime, we had an open seat and are the only team to have tested here. It went very well. It would be a shame for all of our hard work to go to waste. I'm happy to have a race winner in one of our cars, someone who is quite capable of winning this race. (Gustavo Yacaman) did a great job here at the test and following his second place finish in Trois-Rivieres, we feel we have two contenders for the win here."


The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Indy 225 on Aug. 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is New Hampshire 100 on Aug. 14 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. VERSUS' coverage of the Grand Prix de Trois Rivieres will air at 4 p.m. on Aug. 17.

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