IRL adds road racing to 2005 schedule


INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indy Racing League's next step --
road course racing in 2005 -- will take place at Infineon Raceway
in Sonoma, Calif., and Watkins Glen International in upstate
New York.

Those are the two major changes to the 2005 IRL schedule, which
was announced Tuesday at the two new venues that will stage IRL

The 2005 season marks the 10th year of competition for the IRL,
and the 16-race schedule features 14 ovals and two road courses.

For the fourth consecutive year, Homestead-Miami Speedway will
play host to the season opener, the Toyota Indy 300 scheduled
for Sunday, March 6. The season will end with the Toyota Indy
400, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 16 at California Speedway. It
will be the first time the two-mile oval will play host to the
IndyCar Series season finale.

"The addition of Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International
is being warmly accepted by all of our partners, drivers and
teams," said Ken Ungar, senior vice president, business affairs
for the Indy Racing League. "Bringing the season finale to the
Southern California market, where open-wheel racing has such a
rich tradition, is especially gratifying."

The first road racing event in IndyCar Series history will take
place at an IndyCar Series-modified 10-turn, 1.77-mile course at
Infineon Raceway on Aug. 28. The first race at the historic
3.4-mile, 11-turn long-course at Watkins Glen International is
scheduled for Sept. 25. The IndyCar Series circuit will
include "the boot," which is part of the circuit's traditional
Grand Prix circuit.

The race at Infineon Raceway will be the first Indy-style race
at the facility since Dan Gurney's win in a USAC Indy Car race
in 1970, while the race at Watkins Glen occurs on the weekend
long associated with the United States Grand Prix at the

"The addition of road courses will bring even more variety and
challenges to IndyCar Series drivers and teams," said Brian
Barnhart, the IRL's senior vice president, racing operations.
"We are working closely with the teams and manufacturers to
bring the same excitement of our oval events to road-racing."

Though most of the events remain near their traditional dates,
there have been a few date changes.

The 89th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, but
with Twin-Ring Motegi moved to April 30, it appears likely the
Speedway will cut the month of May schedule to two weeks, which
it used from 1998-2000 before going back to its traditional
three-week schedule.

The second race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway
will run on Saturday, March 19, while the IndyCar Series' third
visit to the Twin Ring Motegi moves to Saturday, April 30.

The Indy Racing League, which in May announced a contract
extension through the 2009 season with ABC Sports and ESPN, will
announce its complete 2005 television schedule in the immediate

Although the addition of two road races comes as great news for
many of the drivers with road racing backgrounds, the two sites
selected are a bit curious to some.

"I'm not so sure those are the two road courses I would pick
because the odds of crashing there are quite high with our
cars," Dixon said. "But then, we knock the walls down every
week, so why not there?"

Barnhart said he is confident Infineon's elevation would not be
a problem with an IRL car.

"We have spent some time at Sonoma, and it is a first-class
quality facility that would put on a good show for the IRL,"
Barnhart said. "There isn't a whole lot I can add other than we
have visited Sonoma and we made some suggestions for them to
make some alterations if we run cars there. They didn't think
they would be out of line. They have a lot of options and it
could be interesting facility."

Barnhart said the IRL has also visited Watkins Glen and believes
necessary changes will be made to ensure a competitive and safe
race with runoff areas and barriers on the road course.

"The changes aren't too dramatic, just different than the cars that
run there now," Barnhart said, referring to NASCAR Nextel Cup,
Busch and Craftsman Truck Series.

IRL officials emphasized radical changes to the current IndyCar
Series formula won't be needed.

"We'll have a basic oval package to run on ovals and a road
course package," said Phil Casey, the IRL's senior technical director.
"It won't affect the handling of the cars. They should be very
good on the road courses and still be very good on ovals."

In order to go road racing, IRL technical consultant Les
Mactaggart said teams will have to alter the powertrain,
suspension and brakes for a road-racing package.

"The suspension has to change on both sides because of increased
braking and acceleration loads," Mactaggart said. "The uprights
also have to change to accommodate larger brake calipers.
Because we need larger brake calipers, the brake ducts need to
change because we need better cooling to the brakes because they
will be used a lot more."

The suspension on the two IndyCar Series chassis differs:
Dallaras use a pull-rod suspension, while the Panoz G Force
features a more traditional push-rod suspension. Mactaggart said
no changes will have to be made to the design of either chassis
for road racing.

"(Pull-rods are) an integral part of the (Dallara) design, so
they'll still use the pull-rod on the road course," he said.
"You'll have to do more damper and spring changes on road courses,
and it makes it more difficult on the teams, but it's physically
possible to run pull-rod cars on road courses. All the Marches
were pull-rods in the mid-'80s when they ran on road courses."

Mactaggart said the road-course powertrain will change from the
current spool-drive to a limited-slip differential, which will
help power the rear wheels while turning, and a faster steering
rack, with more teeth on the pinion, will be installed to
provide more steering input for the drivers.

"Turning right and left will obviously put different loads on
the wheels, so we have to have a differential," he said.

Casey said the aerodynamic package introduced at the 88th
Indianapolis 500 will remain virtually the same. The wings
currently used with the series' short oval package will be used
as part of the road course package. Though Mactaggart said
limited modifications to the wings could be made to help move
the balance of the car forward.

"I think cooling and everything else is in good shape, but we
may have to make a few modifications here and there," Casey