The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on March 26, 2008 · Page D6
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page D6

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
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Page D6
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D6 WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2008 THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR INDYSTAR.COM MEET THE NEWCOMERS Oriol Servia KV Racing Technology Car number: 5. The skinny: The 33-year-old Spaniard, who won the Indy Lights title in 1999, was always on the move in Champ Car, driving for seven teams in as many seasons. Had his best season in 2005 while replacing the injured Bruno Junqueria. He won the Montreal race and finished second in points to Sebastien Bourdais. Will Power KV Racing Technology Car number: 8. The skinny: The 27-year-old Australian is one of the sport's bright new stars. Won two Champ Car races and five poles last year, second only to four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais. Entering his third season at this level. Finished fourth in points last year. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne Racing Car number: 18. The skinny: The 31-year-old Brazilian has spent seven seasons in Champ Car, winning eight races and nine poles. Has started four Indy 500s, winning the pole in 2002 and finishing fifth twice. Broke his back in a crash with A.J. Foyt IV in the 2005 race. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne Racing Car number: 19. The skinny: The 19-year-old Brazilian driver hails from Sao Paulo. Spent last season in the same British Formula Three championship class that included Leo and Greg Mansell, the sons of F-l and CART champion Nigel Mansell. Greg finished 10th, Moraes 14th and Leo 17th, but only 17 drivers scored points during the 22-race season. Jay Howard Roth Racing Car number: 24. The skinny: The 27-year-old Englishman won the U.S. Formula Ford (smashing the records of Dan Wheldon) and Indy Pro Series titles in 2005 and '06, respectively, before having a limited racing schedule last year. Once won 21 consecutive races in a junior karting division. Will partner with team ownerdriver Marty Roth. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green Racing Car number: 27. The skinny: The 25-year-old Japanese driver gets the honor of following Dario Franchitti at AGR. A graduate of Honda's development program, he raced in the Formula Nippon and Super GT series before joining the Indy Pro Series last year, finishing second in points (two wins, two poles). Eighth for Panther Racing in IndyCar Series finale at Chicagoland. Ernesto Viso HVM Racing Car number: 33. The skinny: The 23-year-old becomes the second Venezuelan in the IndyCar Series, joining Milka Duno, who also hails from Caracas. Spent 2003 and '04 in British Formula Three, winning the national class (the lower of the two) in '03. Has been in the GP2 series (F-l's junior class) the past three seasons, finishing sixth in points for iSport International in '06. Franck Perera Conquest Racing Car number: 34. The skinny: The 23-year-old Frenchman won the 2003 Italian Formula Renault title with five wins and seven poles. After a year in GP2 (F-l's junior class), he spent last season in Champ Car's Atlantics division, finishing second in points to Raphael Matos with three wins. Matos will be favored to win the Firestone Indy Lights title for AGR this season. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest Racing Car number: 36. The skinny: The 29-year-old Brazilian was a successful kart racer in Brazil before advancing through the European ranks. He lost the F-l ride at Sauber for 2001 to Kimi Raikkonen. Red Bull helped him buy a spot on the Arrows team for two years, but he wasn't picked up after the team folded. Has been racing stock cars in Brazil and thought he'd be in Champ Car this season with Rocketsports. Justin Wilson Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Car number: 02. The skinny: The 29-year-old Englishman had his best Champ Car season (of four) last year, bouncing back from a broken wrist to finish second in points for a second consecutive time. Won four Champ Car races, including Holland. Entered F-l with Minardi in 2003 before signing with Jaguar. Scored his first series point in U.S. Grand Prix at Indy. Graham Rahal Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Car number: 06. The skinny: The 19-year-old son of three-time CART champion Bobby Rahal has all the tools to become a star. Led Champ Car's Atlantics series in 2006 with five wins before becoming the youngest in Champ Car World Series history to earn a podium finish (second last year in Houston). Finished fifth in points. 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Money Back Guarantee is limited solely to the refund of the act apply to equipment that has been abused, vandalized, improperly maintained or subjected to excessive, commercial or institutional use. t as rated by engine manufacturer Cub Cadet Commercial products are intended for professional use. Specifications are subject to change without notice. Images may not reflect dealer invei NASCAR is a registered trademark of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. CU854I -01 -85609-2 ;e price pan THE PREMIUM OUTDOOR POWER EQUIPMENT OF By Steve Ballard steve.ballardindystar.com Brazilian driver Cristiano da Matta, who suffered near-fatal injuries in a testing crash in August 2006, has passed his first test toward a possible comeback. After da Matta successfully completed his first laps in a race car in 19 months, Grand Am Rolex Series team owner Bob Stallings said he hopes to put the 2002 CART champion in a second team car for the May race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. "He showed us enough to confirm that the comeback has begun," Stallings said. "If we can put together the right sponsor package, we can run him full time." Da Matta, 34, suffered a head injury when he collided with a deer during a Champ Car World Series test at Road IRL Series vets have never met many of newcomers from Champ Car. From D1 full-time as Penske Racing's replacement for Sam Hornish Jr. Like Franchitti, Hornish is now in NASCAR. Beginning their first full-time IndyCar seasons are Ryan Hunter-Reay (at Rahal Letterman Racing) and Marty Roth (Roth Racing). "Part of me makes me say, Who are these guys?' " said Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion. "We definitely have to learn about each other if we're going to race this close together." Kanaan and several other Indy Racing League veterans such as Helio Castro-neves and Scott Dixon once drove in Champ Car. But that was six years ago. Bruno Junqueira and Oriol Servia are the only drivers left from that era. Graham Rahal was a rookie in Champ Car last year and it was Will Power's second season. Neither knows Ed Carpenter from A. J. Foyt IV. "Never met him," Foyt said of Rahal. "I don't even know which guys are coming over." Foyt said the only former Champ Car drivers he has met are Junqueira, with whom he collided in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, and Paul Tracy, who doesn't have a ride. "We met in NASCAR," Foyt said of Tracy, who also had a brief stay in stock cars. "We had about the same success." Many of the IndyCar newcomers also have to adjust to racing on an oval track for the first time. Champ Car hasn't had an oval race since the 2005 season. "It looks like I started racing just now," Perera said after Monday's first test. "It looks so easy when you watch it on TV, but it's not." Said Bernoldi: "It was interesting." Saturday's race is expected to have the largest field for an IndyCar Series event (other than the 500) since 2003, and there will be new items at every turn. Added to the cars is a paddle shifting mechanism that allows a driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel. The IRL also has instituted a minimum weight rule that prevents lighter drivers from gaining a competitive advantage, particularly on road courses and street circuits. Drivers will be put in three groups by weight. Drivers in the lightest group will have weight added to their cars. Series officials will not announce when weigh-ins will be held or how much drivers weigh to prevent crash dieting. Qualifying also will take on a different look this weekend. For the first time, all oval tracks will have a four-lap format similar to that of the Indy 500, although drivers will only make one attempt everywhere but Indy. Qualifying at non-oval tracks will remain in the single-lap format with a six-car shootout. The season begins in Homestead for the seventh consecutive year, but there have been last-minute adjustments to the schedule and more are expected. Champ Car will stage its final race April 20 with the Long Beach (Calif.) Grand Prix, an event that will carry IndyCar Series points and purse. The IRL has America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. He endured several surgeries and a long recuperation with the hope of returning to racing, which he finally did on the Eagles Canyon road course outside Dallas. "After the test, I realized I still know how to do this," he said. "The biggest thing I felt was just a sense of relief. For me, it was a big, big relief, bigger than big. "Even though I had opinions and approval from the best doctors and I felt great in go-karts and even on video games as far as my skills, I still had that last little question mark on my mind. That worried me quite a lot. After being away for so long, and driving being my work and something I like, I was concerned I would not be able to do it as well." - Call Star reporter Steve Ballard at (317) 444-6184. CURT CAVIN'S PICKS 1. Tony Kanaan (Andretti Green Racing) Comment: Last year's third-place finisher in points is fighting mad to get back on top, and he will be AGR's best chance for fourth title in five years. He happens to be driving for a new contract, too. 2. Scott Dixon (Ganassi Racing) Comment: It shows how tough Dario Franchitti was last year that Dixon didn't win the title after finishing first or second in 10 of the 17 races and finishing fourth in three others. 3. Dan Wheldon (Ganassi Racing) Comment: 2005 series champion was out of sorts last season, but he has the talent, team and focus to bounce back in a big way. Figures to be strong this weekend as he has won the past three races at Homestead. 4. Helio Castroneves (Penske Racing) Comment: People are beginning to wonder if the best celebrity dancer and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner is ever going to win an Indy-car championship. He's 0-for-10, counting four seasons in CART. 5. Ryan Briscoe (Penske Racing) Comment: Aussie understands where he made his mistakes in a disastrous season with Ganassi Racing in 2005, his last full year in the IRL. Briscoe will excel on the road and street circuits while trying to hold his own on the ovals. QUICK TAKES Key change: Where to begin? A single series. Twenty-six cars at Homestead. Races in Long Beach, Edmonton and Australia. Paddle shifting. A new four-lap qualifying format. No Sam Hornish Jr. or Dario Franchitti. Must-see race: Indy is always the selection, and having more than 35 cars trying to qualify will be exciting. But all eyes are now focused on Homestead, where about a third of the field will be new to the series. Must-see newcomers: Will Power is quick by all standards, and Graham Rahal looks like a star in the making. Justin Wilson finished second in the final two Champ Car seasons. Hideki Mutoh and Ryan Briscoe replace Franchitti and Hornish, respectively. Best long shot for the title: Briscoe is a candidate. For a real long shot, consider Power, who won two Champ Car races and five poles last year. Curt Cavin added Champ Car's race in Surfers Paradise, Australia, on Oct. 26 and is working to add a race in Edmonton, Alberta, on either July 27 or Aug. 3. Call Star reporter Curt Cavin at (317) 444-6409. HOME ii ili ii in lj I ii 10! ! 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