IndyCar Eyes First Oval on Road to Miami Championship
Scott Dixon scored his first win of the season and his 17th career victory. He held off South Florida's Helio Castroneves to win at Kansas in 2009 (photo courtesy: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images Sport)
The IZOD IndyCar Series will run its first oval race of the year on Saturday at Kansas—Race 5 of 17 en route to the NextEra Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 1-2). The 2010 IndyCar season began with four consecutive road/street course events, but Kansas launches a four-race stretch on ovals in preparation for the 1.5-mile Championship finale on the Homestead-Miami oval Oct. 2. For tickets to the 2010 IndyCar Championship at Homestead-Miami, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
After the first four races of the 2010 IndyCar campaign, two South Florida residents are hot on the heels of points-leader Will Power: Helio Castroneves sits in second place, 42 points back of Penske-teammate Power; and Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay is third, just 43 points out of first place.
In Race 4 at Long Beach, Hunter-Reay—currently committed only to a limited schedule with Andretti Autosport—captured his second career IndyCar victory and his first since July 2008 at Watkins Glen. He also provided team-owner Michael Andretti his first victory since Key Biscayne-resident Tony Kanaan won at Richmond in 2008.
"Kansas is a warm up to Indy," Hunter-Reay said in reference to the upcoming Indy 500 (May 30). "It's not like Indy in any way, but at the same time it is an oval race. You have to get your package sorted, get yourself comfortable back on a big superspeedway like that, [being] back in packs.”
Castroneves heads into the weekend seeking to make headway toward an IndyCar Championship run on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2. For the first time in 11 years, he’ll take a new chief mechanic into competition.
"I have everything [but a win at Kansas]," said the three-time Indy 500 winner, who at Kansas has tallied two second-place finishes and two thirds in eight career starts. "This is a very challenging place….Team Penske has done a good job. We've showed that at the beginning of the season, and now that the oval racing has started we're going to show that, too."
Danica Patrick—who will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20)— is a former pole winner at Kansas and finished fifth there last season.
"I'm ready to race on an oval, for sure,” said Patrick. “Kansas is a place that I feel very comfortable, and I think it's coming at a very good time for me and the GoDaddy team. The series has been so competitive this year, and I know that won't be any different this weekend. But, I do think that Kansas will provide me with a good opportunity to get back up front.”
Patrick, Castroneves, Hunter-Reay and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami on Saturday, May 1, in Race 5 at Kansas Speedway (1:30 p.m. EST on ABC, IMS Radio Network, XM Ch. 145 and Sirius Ch. 211). Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the NextEra Energy IndyCar Championships (Oct. 1-2). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers
"It's time to do some oval racing, and I'm looking forward to it."
--Key Biscayne's Tony Kanaan on racing on the first oval track of the year
Heading into Kansas Saturday for Race 5 of 17 en route to the NextEra Energy Indy Championships at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 1-2), former Key Biscayne-resident Tony Kanaan pronounced himself “ready to go.” The former winner at Kansas is coming off a season-best fifth-place finish at Long Beach.
Said Kanaan: "It's time to do some oval racing, and I'm looking forward to it. As a team, we have shown a good improvement in our road- and street-course program, and hopefully that will carry over to the ovals starting this weekend at Kansas for Team 7-Eleven."
Miami resident E.J. Viso put in an impressive showing two years ago in his first visit to Kansas by running in the Top 10.
"I have some good memories from the Kansas oval track, so I am looking forward to going back there,” he said. “We now have four straight oval races on the schedule; it is a big change from the four straight road circuits. I believe the No. 8 PDVSA KV Racing Technology car will be fast this weekend. I think we can get off to a good start to my oval season at Kansas."
Each time that Miami resident Vitor Meira—driver of the No. 14 A.J. Foyt/ABC Supply Car—has completed the race at Kansas, he has finished in the Top 10: second in 2004, third in 2005 and 2006, and eighth in 2007. Last year he was running strong before being involved in an accident with fellow South Floridian Helio Castroneves.
"It's one of those tracks where I know what to do and what to ask from the car....I really like the track, and maybe it fits what I like from the car,” said Meira. “You have to prepare your car for the last 50 laps of the race, not really the first 50."
Miami resident Mario Romancini will get his first chance to run an IZOD IndyCar Series car on an oval at Kansas. He was scheduled to test there April 23, but the session was postponed because of rain.
“It’s a bummer that the test was rained out last week, especially since I was already on my way to Kansas for the test when I found out!” said Romancini. “When it comes to Mother Nature, there is not much you can do.”
Miami resident Mario Moraes—coming off his impressive charge at the Grand Prix of Long Beach—is another driver anxious to return to the ovals this weekend. Two weeks ago, he came back from 15th position to finish sixth in California but must switch his driving style for the ovals. He was extremely competitive on the oval tracks at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign, with Top 10 finishes in the final three races, highlighted by a seventh place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway, host to the 2010 IndyCar Championship on Oct. 2. (For tickets, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.)
"I am looking forward to getting back to ovals with KV Racing Technology,” said Moraes. “We finished last year with a good oval setup, so I am hoping we can have a good weekend."