INDYCAR News and Notes – May 4, 2012By Official Release
1. Bell rejoins Sam Schmidt Motorsports for Indy 500
2. Dixons lend hand in restoring hope
3. Larrison to contest Firestone Indy Lights races with Belardi team
4. Firestone Indy Lights rookies test at Iowa
1. Bell rejoins Sam Schmidt Motorsports for Indy 500: For the third consecutive year, Townsend Bell will attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in a car prepared by the team owned by Sam Schmidt. Bell will drive the Honda-powered No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports.
Bell, from San Luis Obispo, Calif., will be a teammate to Simon Pagenaud, who drives the No. 77 SchmidtHamilton HP Motorsports car full time in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
“Speed and consistency win the Indianapolis 500,” said Bell, who has a best finish of fourth in 2009. “Returning to Indy with Sam and his team for the third year in a row will ensure I have both those ingredients again in 2012. For the past two years, my guys have provided me a fast race car, and I know the No 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports car will give me another shot at winning.”
In 2011, Bell qualified on the second row for the Indianapolis 500 — behind his SSM teammate and pole sitter Alex Tagliani. His day ended early with an accident on Lap 157.
“Townsend is one of those drivers that gets it done at Indy, and I am excited to have him driving the No. 99 BraunAbility car this May,” Schmidt said. “To say we have unfinished business together at Indy may be a cliché, but it is true. We’ve started our first two races together with legitimate shots at winning. This year should be no different.”
Based in Winamac, Ind., BraunAbility is an industry leader in personal mobility, including the manufacturing of wheelchair vans, wheelchair lifts and other mobility accessories. It is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
2. Dixons lend hand in restoring hope: Paint brush in hand, Scott Dixon says he might have found a calling after his IZOD IndyCar Series career.
The two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion and his wife, Emma Davies-Dixon, joined Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and local Target volunteers (and the 10-foot-tall pink Energizer Bunny) to revitalize two homes damaged by a May 22, 2011 tornado in North Minneapolis.
“A racing career doesn’t go on that long, so I need to sharpen some skills so that I have a job to look forward to,” Dixon said.
Joining the Dixons on the project were local volunteers from Target, whose headquarters is in Minneapolis. In 2011, Target team members donated more than 474,500 volunteer hours to thousands of community projects across the country. The company is on track, by the end of 2015, to reach its goal of 700,000 volunteer hours per year.
“I’m in my 11th year driving with Target and we’ve done a lot of projects together over the years, and to help restore homes after such a devastating event is important to Emma and I,” Dixon said. “Target has a huge interest in community and helping out, and with Energizer giving back to the community.”
Energizer is on a nationwide 13-city series of volunteer projects with Habitat for Humanity, donating more than $350,000 and 1,000 volunteer hours in working with local partners in each community, like Target. The Twin Cities was the fourth stop.
“It’s cool to have Energizer, which has built its brand on endurance, come on board to help push us through to the end of this project,” said Andy Barnettt of the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. “There is a tremendous gratitude from the residents when Habitat comes in, and there is a new spirit in the community you can feel.”
3. Larrison to contest Firestone Indy Lights races with Belardi team: Mike Larrison has joined Belardi Auto Racing to race all ovals on the 2012 schedule, as well as the street course race in Baltimore.
Competing in racing since he was 4 years old, Larrison has competed in motocross, karting, USAC and Must See Racing’s Xtreme Sprint Series. He is also a part of the Davey Hamilton Racing family, driving for the INDYCAR veteran’s sprint car team.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity I’ve been offered by Belardi Auto Racing to drive the No. 19 TruFuel/Royal Oak Charcoal Firestone Indy Lights car in the 2012 racing season,” Larrison said. “I can’t thank all of my sponsors TruFuel, Calumet Specialty Lubricants, Royal Oak Charcoal and Turtle Wax enough for all the doors they have opened for me the past few years. I’m really looking forward to racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Freedom 100 on May 25. This has always been a dream of my father and I—for me to be able to race there. My father grew up just off 16th Street right outside the Speedway, and I grew up only 15 miles away in Avon, Ind.”
Larrison holds multiple American Motocross Association championships and accumulated five Midwest karting championships in just six years. He won two Indy Karting Series championships with 14 race wins, holds a USAC regional rookie of the year title and the world record for fastest car on a quarter-mile paved oval at Slinger Speedway in 2010.
In 2011, Larrison finished 11th in the Xtreme Sprint Series and was later sidelined with back and foot injuries sustained in a crash at Kentucky Speedway while testing with Andretti Autosport.
He completed his rookie test at Iowa Speedway on May 3, and is scheduled to make his Firestone Indy Lights debut with Belardi Auto Racing on May 25 during the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s all about me revamping myself,” Larrison said. “I plan on running Indy and all of the oval races, so I need to get laps and I need Indy to sign-off that I am ready for these cars, which they have, so this has been quite an accomplishment.
“Things haven’t changed much with these cars since I was last in one. It was just a question of me getting comfortable with the car.”
4. Firestone Indy Lights rookies test at Iowa: As an addendum to an initial rookie oval test at Auto Club Speedway in April, five Firestone Indy Lights rookies successfully completed a test at Iowa Speedway on May 3.
Mike Larrison and Alon Day of Belardi Auto Racing, Armaan Ebrahim and Emerson Newton-John of Fan Force United tested on the 7/8th mile oval. Chase Austin, who competed in two Firestone Indy Lights races last season, also attended with Juncos Racing.
“I am here to get experience, to get a feeling for the car racing on an oval,” Ebrahim said. “Two weeks ago at Fontana was my first time on an oval. For road courses the cars have a different feeling than they do on an oval. Racing on an oval is far more technical than you think it is when you are watching it on TV.”
The session was overseen by Firestone Indy Lights technical director Vince Kremer, who came away very impressed.
“The purpose of this test was to make sure that the drivers were capable of running at speed on an oval,” Kremer said. “We’ll have one more test in Indy before the Freedom 100, but from what I’ve seen so far, I am confident that they will be ready once race time comes around.”
All Firestone Indy Lights drivers will have the chance to test on May 11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Freedom 100, which takes place on May 25.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Indianapolis 500 Mile on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised by ABC at 11a.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by NBC Sports Network at Noon (ET).