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IRL Team Previews

IRL Team Previews

2007 Preview: A.J. Foyt Enterprises

RacingOne Report

Key Staff
Driver: Darren Manning (Car No. 14)

Team Director: Larry Foyt

Race Engineer: Len Paskus

Chief Mechanic: Pat Jordan

2006 Rear View Mirror
Drivers: Felipe Giaffone and Jeff Bucknum (one car)
Points: 17th by Giaffone (eight races), 20th by Bucknum (seven races)
Best Overall Race Finish: Fifth by Giaffone at Watkins Glen

As A.J. Foyt celebrates his 50th anniversary season in Indy car racing this season, he’d like nothing more than to see his team return to prominence.

The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner turned to his son Larry to help him lead his team’s return, serving as team director. Under his leadership the team participated in all the preseason tests for the first time in several years and brought on veteran race engineer Len Paskus to oversee preparations for new driver Darren Manning.

Still, the younger Foyt knows that it will take baby steps to get back to team’s championship-winning ways.

"I’d like to see us be a top-10 car every week," Foyt said. "I know that’s hard to do, but when you can do that, then you can start looking at top fives and after that you’re in position to win races. I know it won’t be overnight that we’re going to be winning races, but we’re doing the things we need to do and be competitive."

Manning, who last drove for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2005, returns to the series optimistic that he can make the team a contender on road courses and on the ovals by season’s end.

"I think top 10s are pretty realistic," Manning said. "Even on the superspeedways, once you're in the top 10, you can see how close it is. The lap times are so close, probably. It's just going to be closer than ever."

Manning has already begun to develop a relationship with his car owner and engineer, spending much of the off-season with the team at its Waller, Texas-headquarters.

"Darren and A.J. and the engineer are already gelling pretty well," Larry Foyt said. "If we keep showing improvement, then that shows we’re headed into the right direction."

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2007 Preview: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
RacingOne Report

Key Staff
Drivers: Sarah Fisher(Car No. 5), Buddy Rice (No. 15)

Team Manager: John O’Gara

Race Engineers: Chris Finch (Fisher), John Dick (Rice)

Chief Mechanics: Andy O’Gara (Fisher), Fran Reilly (Rice)

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing won its debut race in the IndyCar Series in 2000. It hopes a series of key off-season moves can help it return to the winner’s circle.

The biggest move comes behind the wheel as the team expands to a two-car operation for the first time since 2003. Sarah Fisher, who drove two races for the team last season, joins 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice as the team’s drivers.

"We expect to be much more competitive this year," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "We have devoted the off-season toward overall improvement and expansion in order to meet this goal. We are very excited to get started; I think that we are ready."

With preparation for 2007, the team revamped its engineering department, hiring John Dick and Chris Finch and adding gearbox and shock departments – programs that were outsourced in the past.

"With the changes and additions we’ve made internally to grow Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, we are in as good as a position to consistently be in the hunt at a lot of events," team co-owner Robbie Buhl said. "Part of this change is our growth and evolution as a team. We have hired key manpower and this shows the commitment we are willing to put forth race in and race out."

With Rice the team adds a driver it expects to contend for wins on ovals and road/street courses. Rice had a breakout season in 2004 at Rahal Letterman Racing, but failed to show consistent form over the last two seasons. He enters this season with the same approach he took when he joined Rahal Letterman Racing.

"I think with the engineers they brought in, myself and teaming up with Sarah, I think we’re going to run quite well this year – a lot better than people think," Rice said. "With the efforts that Robbie and Dennis have put into this team, the money they spent to make us run up front and be competitive, I think it’s going to end up showing. It should be a very exciting year for us at Dreyer & Reinbold. These guys are really smart. I think we can put together a really good car and a very good year.

"It’s no different than what happened in 2004 when I came out with Todd Bowland. It took us a few rounds to get acquainted, figure out what we needed to do, things started rolling really well after that. There’s no reason why we can’t do that this year."

Fisher, who has made more than half of her 50 IndyCar Series starts with the team, will join Rice for oval events and could make her road course debut if sponsorship can be found. Still, she looks at her return to the team as a new beginning.

"I’ve looked at 2007 since I got the shot to return to the series in Kentucky back in August," Fisher said. "I’ve trained the hardest I’ve every trained; it’s amazing how much I know that is going to help me. To have a team that backs up that focus is a really great feeling. It’s the first time I’ve been able to train towards something I believe can be a winning situation."

She’s also excited to work with Rice, who she said is an ideal teammate.

"We’ve worked together really well already during spring training," she said. "I think this year we are working like a proper team should be working together. We know the areas we have to consistently work on. As a team, we are all pumped up for the season to start. Everyone has been working so hard." 

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2007 Preview: Penske Racing
RacingOne Report

Key Staff
Drivers: Helio Castroneves (Car No. 3), Sam Hornish Jr. (Car No. 6)

General Manager: Clive Howell

Team Manager: Tom Wurtz

Race Engineers: Ron Ruzewski (Castroneves), Tom German (Hornish Jr.)

Chief Mechanics: Rick Rinaman (Castroneves), Matt Jonsson (Hornish)

2006 Rear View Mirror
Drivers: Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr.
Points: Champion (Hornish), Third (Castroneves)
Best Overall Race Finish: Victory – Eight times. St. Petersburg, Motegi, Texas, Michigan (Castroneves); Indianapolis, Richmond, Kansas, Kentucky (Hornish)

Penske teammates know they’re marked men: The 2006 IndyCar Series season was a year of highlights for team owner Roger Penske.

Drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves each won four races - more than half the races on the schedule.

Hornish captured Penske’s record 14th Indianapolis 500.

And most importantly Hornish claimed Penske’s first IndyCar Series championship.

"2006 was one of those seasons that you don’t really want to end," said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Performance, Inc., who oversees all of Penske’s racing operations. "We couldn’t have asked for much more, but that’s behind us, and we are fully expecting our competitors to close the gap in the off season as the car specifications have remained virtually the same.

"If the first two open tests were any indication, this season will be more competitive than ever."

The team maintained its high level of competition even though a flood forced the team to relocate to Charlotte, N.C. earlier than expected. The move cost the team some personnel, but much of the units that fielded the cars of Castroneves and Hornsih remain intact.

Hornish, the only driver to win the series title multiple times, knows he enters this season with a target on his back. Still, he can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the No. 6 Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara.

"I’m definitely looking forward to starting the IndyCar season," Hornish said. "Obviously, our 2006 results will be hard to top after winning the Indianapolis 500 and the championship, but I know the team has been working hard in the off-season to maintain our competitiveness."

Hornish achieved his goals of winning the Indianapolis 500 and the championship for Penske in 2006, but has set a different goal to reach for this season.

"One goal I have for myself this year is to win a road/street course race, and I think that I’ve improved enough during the past two seasons that I should have a good shot of making this happen," he said. "Spring testing went really well for us at Daytona and Homestead, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to return for another run at the championship."

Hornish’s chief rival for his fourth crown may be his Team Penske teammate Castroneves, who tied Hornish for most wins, but came up three points short in his title bid.

"I start off every season with one goal – to win the championship - and 2007 will be no different," the popular Brazilian said. "We had a strong campaign in 2006, but I think that the competition will be much tougher this year. I think a lot of teams got a wake-up call last season, and they’ve worked hard over the past few months to make sure they are where they need to be. I think it will be an exciting year and I think Team Penske has what it takes to get the job done." 

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2007 Preview: Target Chip Ganassi Racing
RacingOne Report

Key Staff
Drivers: Scott Dixon (Car No. 9), Dan Wheldon (Car No. 10)

Team Managing Director: Mike Hull

Team Managers: Scott Harner and Barry Wanser

Technical Director: Jay O’Connell

Chief Engineer: Julian Robertson

Race Engineers: Eric Bretzman (Dixon), Andy Brown (Wheldon)

Chief Mechanics: Ricky Davis (Dixon), Dave Higuera (Wheldon)

2006 Rear View Mirror
Drivers: Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon
Points: Second (Wheldon), Fourth (Dixon)
Best Overall Race Finish: Victory – Four times. Watkins Glen and Nashville (Dixon), Homestead-Miami and Chicagoland (Wheldon)

After a rejuvenating 2006 season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing is looking for more success in 2007.

The team won four races last season with drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, who both return to drive the team’s Honda-powered Dallara’s.

"We feel that this Target team is in a strong position to contend for the IndyCar Series championship," said Mike Hull, the team’s managing director. "We have shown well at tests at Daytona and Homestead but that’s not a lot of testing, and like everyone else we’re waiting to see what the first race of the season holds to see where we really stand. You just can’t make assumptions based on the past. This is a new season and everyone has a clean slate."

Wheldon, who nearly won his second-consecutive IndyCar Series title, hopes to build on his debut season with the team. The Englishman’s goals are simple, reclaim his Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series titles from Team Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr.

"I’ve been kind of disappointed with my 2006 season because of all the chances we missed," Wheldon said. "We came so close in so many races including the Indy 500 but just didn’t quite get it done in the end. You don’t want to tie for a championship. You want to win it outright. This year, we’ll do everything not to let those opportunities get away from us."

Wheldon claimed bookend victories at Homestead-Miami and Chicagoland. He’s optimistic that he can visit victory lane more often in 2007 after building chemistry with his Dave Higuera-led crew and engineer Andy Brown.

"We know each other a lot better now." Wheldon said. "I’m really eager to get back to Homestead and start the season off. One of the changes that I’m happy about is running the Dallara chassis on road courses this year. I’m more familiar with it, and I feel really confident and comfortable in the car. It’ll help in developing my road course driving technique and hopefully will translate with success on the track."

Dixon also enters the season hungry to regain the IndyCar Series title. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion claimed wins at Watkins Glen and Nashville in 2006, but his fourth-place finish in the point standings left him wanting more.

"The start of the season kind of snuck up on us pretty quick, but I can’t wait," he said. "I think this has been the longest off-season I have ever had so I’m pretty excited and pumped up to get started."

Dixon knows he will see familiar competition in his quest for a second title, but knows the championship won’t be decided early in the season.

"You don’t really get a really good idea of where you really are until you get that first race under your belt," Dixon said. "We saw some of the usual suspects at the front, but preseason testing isn’t always a good indication and there are bound to be some surprises in the first two races. We have a lot to build on. Last year was a strong year and we’re looking to improve on it. Consistency will be the key and capitalizing on every opportunity. It should be a fun year." 

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2007 Preview: Rahal Letterman Racing
RacingOne Report
Key Staff
Drivers: Scott Sharp (Car No. 8), Jeff Simmons (Car No. 17)

Team Manager: Steve Dickson

Technical Director: Jay O’Connell

Chief Engineer: Ray Leto

Race Engineer: Jeff Britton (Sharp), Neil Fife (Simmons)

Chief Mechanic: Ricardo Nault (Sharp), Ed Daood (Simmons)

2006 Rear View Mirror
Drivers: Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick, Paul Dana (One Race), Jeff Simmons (12 Races)
Points: Ninth (Patrick), 15th (Rice), 16th (Simmons), 40th (Dana)
Best Overall Race Finish:

After a trying 2006 season, Rahal Letterman Racing hopes a series of off-season moves are a change in the right direction in 2007.

The most visible change is in the driver lineup where 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp joins returning driver Jeff Simmons as the team focuses on a two-car effort for the first time since 2004.

Sharp, who brings new sponsor Patron Tequila to the IndyCar Series, failed to build on a solid debut season with Fernandez Racing, slipping from fifth to 12th in points. He sees the move to Rahal as a new beginning.

"I am excited to be with a team in Rahal Letterman Racing that is approaching the season from the same point I am," Sharp said. "RLR didn’t enjoy the kind of success last season that they have been accustomed to, so we are both hungry to excel and to win and to accomplish something. RLR has a great track record, and for me to come to this organization at this stage of my career is a great situation for my sponsor Patrón Tequila and myself."

But not everything is new for Sharp, who is paired again with engineer Jeff Britton. The pair worked together at Kelley Racing in 2001 and 2002, scoring two wins and the pole for the 2001 Indianapolis 500.

Simmons, meanwhile, returns to the same No. 17 Team Ethanol entry in 2007, but the pieces around him have changed. Engineer Neil Fife steps up to be Simmons race engineer while Ed Daood, who oversaw Danica Patrick’s car the last two seasons, will serve as his chief mechanic.

Still, the changes are welcome from Simmons as he prepares for his first full season in the IndyCar Series

"It has been a blessing to have a full off-season of testing to get ready for the IndyCar Series season," Simmons said. "I have never had the opportunity to spend as much time testing as what I have had this off-season. When I first raced in the IndyCar Series in 2004 at Indy, I was literally in the car one day and qualifying the next. Last year of course everything happened so suddenly that I really didn’t get much of an opportunity to prepare before we were racing."

Simmons finished the year strong with six top-10 finishes in his final seven starts. The former Indy Pro Series standout hopes to build on that success this season.

"We had a difficult season last year with the chassis change, but I think everyone has worked really hard in the off-season," he said. "I think the payoff will be evident at the first race." 

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Re: IRL Team Previews

2007 Preview: Panther Racing
RacingOne Report

Key Staff
Drivers: Vitor Meira (Car No. 4), Kosuke Matsuura (Car No. 55)

Team Manager: Ron Catt

Race Engineer: Bill Pappas (Meira), Brent Harvey (Matsuura)

Chief Mechanic: Dan Miller (Meira), Jason Weatherford (Matsuura)

2006 Rear View Mirror
Drivers: Vitor Meira
Points: Fifth
Best Overall Race Finish: Second – Three times. Watkins Glen, Richmond and Michigan

Panther Racing hopes two cars are better than one.

The team which made the most of a limited budget and contended for the IndyCar Series title with driver Vitor Meira in 2006 adds veteran Kosuke Matsuura in an expanded two-car lineup.

The team has added several key pieces which it hopes can bring Meira and Matsuura their first victories this season, including primary sponsorship from Delphi, for Meira’s No. 4 Dallara/Honda/Firestone, and Super Aguri Company and Panasonic for Matsuura’s No. 55 Honda-powered Dallara.

"I know that we’re excited here at Panther for a number of reasons," team co-owner John Barnes said. "The addition of Delphi, Super Aguri and Panasonic has been a tremendous boost to our race team. I’m glad we have Vitor Meira under contract for the next two years and I believe Kosuke Matsuura is another great talent in our league. Last season we had a great group of guys that rallied around one another when times were tough, and we’ve tried to hire the same type of people for the No. 55 team."

Meira, who finished fifth in the season point standings, had seven top-five finishes last season despite the fact he was a late signing with the team. He said the success of last season and a full program of winter testing and preparation has left the team better equipped to battle the other top-flight teams.

"Last year, we didn’t have an offseason at all," he said. "When a lot of the other teams were doing testing and wind tunnel work, we were trying to put a team together. Now, we’ve had a full season together and we’ve been able to do the development we needed in the off-season.

"My goal is for us to start the 2007 season like we ended last year. I think it’s great that Delphi has come on board with us and they’re going to be able to supply the financial and technological support we need for a run at the championship and Indy 500."

Matsuura, meanwhile, joins his second team after three seasons with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. Panther has paired the former Bombardier Rookie of the Year with engineer Brent Harvey and chief mechanic Jason Weatherford, who oversaw the car A.J. Allmendinger drove to five Champ Car wins last season.

"I’m very happy to be a part of Super Aguri Panther Racing," Matsuura said. "The Panther team has been very good in this series, shown by all their race wins and the two championships. I look forward to having a great season in the Panasonic car." 

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