By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Wilson hopes to repeat at The Glen
2. AVIS partners with IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights
3. Winslow returns to SSM at The Glen
4. Yacaman completes first triathlon
1. Wilson hopes to repeat at The Glen: It’s not often that a race car driver has the opportunity to exclaim “It was a perfect day for me.”
A year of reflection and Justin Wilson reiterates his Watkins Glen International Victory Circle statement. Wilson led a field-high 49 (of 60) laps, including the final 15, and went on to present Dale Coyne Racing its first IZOD IndyCar Series victory.
“It was just a great day to go out there and be quick,” said Wilson, who will attempt to successfully defend his title in the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 4. “The car felt great. Everything went right – apart from we couldn’t get a full tank of fuel.
“We could only get 19 gallons in the car every pit stop so that meant we were saving fuel like crazy the whole day until finally there was a yellow with 10 laps to go. That allowed us to save enough fuel so I could run flat out to the end. That’s why I managed to pull away from the rest of the field (to a 4-second victory over Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe).
“That’s what I was working with the whole time, but it worked for us as well.”
Wilson won on the Belle Isle street circuit in ’08 with Newman/Haas Racing in his first IZOD IndyCar Series season, but it wasn’t as fulfilling for the Colorado resident who turns 32 on July 31.
“(The Glen) was more rewarding because I was able to overtake on track and be able to control the field as well,” said Wilson, noting that there were eight lead changes among six drivers. “At Belle Isle, I got alongside Helio (Castroneves) before I got squeezed in toward the wall and had to back out and that’s when (Race Control) deemed that to be blocking. At Watkins Glen, Ryan left me a little bit of road and I was able to complete the pass.”
Wilson said he enjoys the 3.4-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen course that has played host to Formula 1among multiple formulas for more than 50 years – mainly because it’s related to courses he competed on in Europe. Off-season facility modifications (replacing the tire barriers in Turn 11and the Inner Loops with the SAFER Barrier and paving some runoffs) are welcome by drivers.
“I think it’s one of the best tracks in the world,” he said. “Having won there last year I’m going to say that, but it’s just a great, fun track. There are a lot of fast corners and it hasn’t lost any of its character with the safety improvements. That’s key. When you come out of those fifth- and fourth-gear corners, you know when you’ve got it right. It’s like, ‘That feels good.’ ”
He’ll attempt to regain that feeling in the No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry. Wilson had three top 10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes, in the four early season road/street course package and is eighth in the championship standings. The Glen race weekend kicks off a five-race road/street course swing that will impact the championship order.
“I’m focused on this year, hoping we can go back there and be as competitive,” said Wilson, who started alongside pole sitter Ryan Briscoe each of the past two years. “It’s a different team, but I want to get back that same level of competition. Hopefully we can work it all out and repeat.”
2. AVIS partners with IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights: AVIS has formed a multi-year partnership with the Indy Racing League to be the official rental car company of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights.
AVIS, which for 11 consecutive years has been named the leading rental car company in customer loyalty, will take an active role in promoting both series through e-mail campaigns, displays at select airport locations and other large-scale promotions. It also will offer a national sweepstakes program, which will provide a unique VIP experience to fans during an IZOD IndyCar Series race weekend.
Avis Rent A Car System and its subsidiaries operate about 2,200 locations, offering a diverse catalog, including Flex Fuel, of vehicles. Its speedy online reservation system is complemented by the use of the latest in technology, and it continues to explore innovation to offer value and reliability to customers.
The IZOD IndyCar Series, whose Honda engines are powered by 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol, is the first and only form of motorsports to utilize a renewable and environmentally friendly fuel source on a diverse mix of road and street circuits and ovals. It is recognized as the leader in motorsports safety and innovation and, with its partners, constantly pursues the advancement of the sport by incorporating the latest in technology.
“AVIS and the IZOD IndyCar Series share assets of speed, innovation, technology, diversity and green and we are pleased to welcome another great brand to our family of partners,” said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League.
Safety, reliability and customer service earned Avis top marks in April among car rental companies in customer loyalty by the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index for the 11th year in a row. The annual study examined customers’ relationships with 518 brands in 71 categories.
Included in the partnership is a discounted car rental rate that will be offered to members of IndyCar Nation, the official fan club of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
3. Winslow returns to SSM at The Glen: James Winslow and the No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports team will return to Firestone Indy Lights at Watkins Glen International, team officials announced.
“I’m excited to get back into the car,” Winslow said. “I haven’t raced since April, so the almost three-month break has me itching to get back out there. The team overall has done a great job in my absence, but I’d love to get back out there and contribute some great results for the organization and for myself.”
In three starts this season, Winslow has a best finish of seventh in St. Petersburg, though it’s not the most accurate reflection of his talent. Despite starting deep in the pack at both Barber Park and Long Beach, Winslow has shown the ability to make passes happen where others couldn’t and move through the field.
“I’ve shown my potential, but I want to get in some top finishes and avoid the bad luck we were plagued with before,” Winslow said. “I think we could have had podium finishes at Barber Motorsports Park and Long Beach had luck not turned against us.”
Winslow’s No. 77 Focal Point/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car is the same chassis and crew that Wade Cunningham used when he won Schmidt’s fifth Firestone Freedom 100 title back in May. Focal Point Lighting, a company out of Chicago, will serve as the primary sponsor of the car.
“James has shown he has the talent and ability to run competitively in this series,” team owner Sam Schmidt said. “We’re pleased to have him in the car again and give him another opportunity to run up front and hopefully score some top fives for us.”
4. Yacaman completes first triathlon: Firestone Indy Lights racer Gustavo Yacaman didn’t want to stop competing on a weekend away from racing. So the 19-year-old Colombian entered his first triathlon on June 26 at Morse Reservoir near Indianapolis.
“Racing is a very physical sport, very physical indeed,” Yacaman said. “To be in shape, I always look for alternative ways. I don’t just stick to the gym and lift weights. I really like to run and ride both mountain and road bike. Lately I have started to pick up swimming. So then I thought why not mix it all up and do a triathlon?”
Yacaman, who had previously competed in a duathlon (cycling and running) and a 10K road races, finished the 600-yard swim, 14-mile bike and 3-mile run in a time of 1 hour, 37 minutes and 3 seconds (seventh in his age group).
“I wasn’t going for a win because I had never done one before, but the whole triathlon will help me prepare for the very physical road courses coming ahead,” Yacaman said. “The heat, the intensity and the endurance are all things that I will need to be strong at during this races. Training this way is more exciting than just hitting the weights in the gym and it also feeds my competitive spirit.”
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues July 4 with the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Corning 100 on July 4 at the Watkins Glen International.