Exclusive INDYCAR Nation News

INDYCAR Nation news & scoop from Trackside Online

by
Joe Berkemeier and Patrick Stephan
| Sep 30, 2011

Trackside Online writes exclusive news and info that's e-mailed to INDYCAR Nation Champion members on race weekends. Here's a little teaser for you...

Lot of news in the two weeks between everyone getting back from Japan and this weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway, so let’s wrap up the Japan race, preview Kentucky, and give you the news we’ve reported in the last two weeks around IZOD INDYCAR World Championships in Las Vegas, developments around the 2012 schedule, and final tests for the new 2012 chassis.

When we last left you, Helio Castroneves was fuming over his last lap penalty at Twin Ring Motegi that moved him from finishing in the top ten to finishing 22nd.  His angry comments both on Twitter and in a Brazilian newspaper earned him a $30,000 fine from INDYCAR.  Castroneves will have the same ability to “work” off the penalty that teammate Will Power got after his penalty at the Loudon race.

Personal opinion of Patrick here, but it seemed like Helio also picked the wrong thing to complain about. If I were Helio I'd have been mad that the gamble to hit pit lane just before a full course yellow for JP de Oliveira's stalled car didn't work out. And it didn't work out because race control let everyone finish cycling through green flag pit stops before going full course yellow to retrieve the #34 car.   Helio had a long rough day, going from the front, to the back, towards the front and then getting dropped to 22nd by the penalty. I understand his day was frustrating, so maybe he just focused on the last thing that didn't go in his favor - though to be honest not much did in Japan.

There was an owners meeting in Japan, and while no one really wanted discuss the topics, we did get a little feedback. We knew going in that many team owners weren't all that happy with how the $5million challenge has worked out. The concern one party expressed to TSO was that it's possible Dan Wheldon could walk away with not only the Indy 500 money, but also another $2.5million. Granted, they understood that A: Anyone should be able to win the Indy 500, and B: the Vegas money is really insurance money - but still, the concern is that a non-full timer is getting a lot of promotion and that a lot of prize money (the Indy 500 money) went outside the full-time teams. Getting to hear Randy's side of this story seemed to appease some folks, but not everyone. (Again, we didn't talk to everyone either so our sample size is pretty small).

Other news picked up in Japan is that there are still some team owners very (to be polite) upset about the....

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So what will Joe be looking for this weekend as he covers the race for TSO?

During testing, Scott Dixon told the local media that there are apparently new aero rules for this weekend's race, so the cars could well be faster this weekend.  Given how miserable the weather will be (temperatures look to be in the upper 50's all weekend), that may not end up being the case.  Heck, I just hope the temperature is 50 ambient/50 track for all sessions, as Firestone generally requires that to (at least) be the temperature before cars can head on track.

Dan Wheldon will be much-discussed in the Sam Schmidt car as he prepares to try to win 5 million dollars at Las Vegas.  That team won the pole at Indy and Texas with Alex Tagliani behind the wheel, and Wheldon has always been good on 1.5 mile ovals.  But don't sleep on Panther Racing - they had the fastest cars here in 2010 - or Ed Carpenter at Sarah Fisher Racing, who has finished second here the past two years.

Here's the entry list for the Kentucky Indy 300  - 29 cars are entered for this weekend's race.  http://www.indycar.com:8080/var/assets/KyS%20Entry%20List%209-27-2011.pdf

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The flow of driver news for the Las Vegas finale did not slow in the last couple of weeks.   Most notable was Dan Wheldon replacing Alex Tagliani at Sam Schmidt Motorsports.  Wheldon will go for the $5 million at Vegas in the #77 car which won the pole at Indy and Texas.  Tagliani will sit out Kentucky before running at Vegas in a car fielded collaboratively between Bryan Herta Autosport and Schmidt.  The Wheldon to SSM for Kentucky deal was a little confusing to us, so TSO checked with Sam Schmidt to understand some of the details.

First, Sam told us...

 ...that's 34 cars now by our count for Vegas:

25 regular season competitors (including Wheldon in the #77 and Bell in the #22)
Carpenter and Scheckter with SFR
Wade Cunningham with AFS/Schmidt
Tagliani with BHA/Schmidt
Buddy Rice with Panther
Mann and Howard with RLLR
Davey Hamilton with DRR
Paul Tracy with Dragon Racing

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