Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Scheckter joins Conquest for Chicago
2. Points leader Vernay looks forward to oval stretch
1. Scheckter joins Conquest for Chicago: Conquest Racing will welcome a seasoned IZOD IndyCar Series veteran to its team this weekend as Tomas Scheckter will drive the No. 36 car at Chicagoland Speedway in the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300.
The South African brings a wealth of experience gained over the course of his 100-plus starts in the open-wheel racing series. Since his first IZOD IndyCar Series start in 2002, he has gone on to claim 43 top-10s including a pair of wins and has led more than 1,300 laps.
“I’m very happy to be joining Conquest Racing,” said Scheckter, who has made four starts this season with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. “Eric (Bachelart) and I have been talking for quite a while and when this opportunity to drive for them came up, I immediately took advantage of it.
“I know some of the guys on the team for having worked with them in the past and I am really looking forward to working with them again as well as with everyone else. We’re coming together a little bit at the last minute but I am confident that we can come out with a good result, there are a lot of good people on this team.”
The 29-year-old driver has seven starts at Chicagoland Speedway with a best finish of fourth and has led 118 laps on the 1.5-mile tri-oval.
“I’m pretty excited to be getting back into an Indy car at Chicagoland,” Scheckter said. “I really like that track. I’ve led laps there and last season I had the quickest lap of the race. There’s a lot of side-by-side racing and it’s always fun to be racing at night. I can’t wait.”
Team owner Eric Bachelart said he is thrilled to add Scheckter to his Indianapolis-based team’s lineup alongside rookie Bertrand Baguette.
“Tomas and I have been in contact for quite some time and it is great to finally be able to put a deal together,” Bachelart said. “He brings so much experience to the team. We’re really excited to have the chance to work with him. He will also be a good pairing for Bertrand and will be able to help him develop his oval racing skills.”I’m looking forward to a good weekend from both drivers.”
2. Points leader Vernay looks forward to oval stretch: James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball know they have to beat J.K. Vernay if either wants to win the Firestone Indy Lights title.
So it’s understandable that they would try to scare the French rookie a little bit before his first race at Chicagoland Speedway. During the post-race press conference at Sonoma, the veteran drivers did their best to make the Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver uneasy about the 1.5-mile oval:
Hinchcliffe: “I mean there is nothing harder than Chicago! Chicago is the tax I pay for being a race car driver. It’s not even fun really.”
Kimball: “Oh, you’ve not been there?”
James Hinchcliffe: “It’s like playing Russian Roulette with five bullets. I mean, I don’t even know why you’d show up.”
While Vernay heard the “horror” stories about racing at Chicagoland Speedway, the ear-to-ear grin the Firestone Indy Lights point leader showed as he listened to his rivals shows he will not only be at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, he also has no signs of nervousness about a return to ovals.
“I love the ovals, honestly,” Vernay said. “At Chicago, you never know what will happen because anyone can win in the last two laps, but I know I’ll have a great car this weekend.
“I’ve only done two ovals, but I finished on the podium at Iowa and at Indy, I had the pace to win the race if I didn’t have problems. I’ve tested Kentucky and we were quick and in Miami I’m sure the car will be really good. My team is really good on the ovals. I have a good engineer, a really good team around me. I will try to do a good performance.”
Vernay has put in solid performance all year.
He leads Hinchcliffe by 71 points and Kimball by 85 points heading into this weekend’s Chicagoland 100. Vernay, driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil/CJ/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, built his lead on his more experience rivals with five wins on road courses but he’s been looking forward to the final three races of the season: Chicago, Kentucky and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“If I have to finish second because I cannot win or because we don’t have the pace to win, it will still be a great day,” Vernay said. “We want to win the race, but if the other guys are better than us, then you have to congratulate them and move on to the next race. I’m still focused on the championship because it’s never finished until the last race, the checkered flag of the last race,”
But experience in the draft may be the key to success at Chicagoland and that’s something Hinchcliffe hopes that can make the difference.
“The race craft is a little bit different (on 1.5-mile ovals), so it’s going to be interesting when we get to Chicago,” the Team Moore Racing driver said. “Chicago, in all fairness, is probably the worst one to start on for the rookies. It’s a wild track. It’s 185-mile-an-hour game of chess. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a completely different kind of racing. It’s heart in your throat the whole time.”
Teams will have a 45-minute practice session on Aug. 27 (3:30 p.m. ET), with another session practice (11 a.m. ET) on the morning of Aug 28. Sunoco Pole Qualifying (2 p.m.) and the Chicagoland 100 (5:15 p.m.) follow.
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 28 with the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 7 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 212. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Chicagoland 100 on Aug. 28 at Chicagoland Speedway.