By Amy Konrath

Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:

1. Road king Power seeks redemption at Infineon

2. Return to podium boosts Clarke’s confidence

3. Carpenter, Fuzzy’s Vodka rejoin Panther Racing for oval events

4. Vote for Tire-ific Move of the Race

1. Road king Power seeks redemption at Infineon: Will Power left Infineon Raceway in 2009 in a medical helicopter – the result of a scary practice crash with Nelson Philippe that left the Australian with a broken back.

When he returns to Northern California for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma later this month, he’ll return a champion.

Power wrapped the inaugural Mario Andretti Road Course Trophy with his second-place finish in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 8 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He’ll receive his road course championship prize from the trophy’s namesake – Mario Andretti – on Aug. 22.

“Getting the trophy from one of racing’s legends will be very special,” Power said. “I really want to win at Infineon after what happened last year. I was going into that weekend expecting to be at the front. To get that trophy will be a very good feeling, but it will be an even better feeling to get the trophy and have a good result.”

Power’s recovery time was spent wondering if he would be able to regain the speed that he was just beginning to show in his limited campaign with Penske Racing in 2009. He had claimed his first win with the team a few weeks before the crash.

“I did wonder if I was going to be as fast as I was,” Power said. “Once I got back into the car at the first test, I knew it was going to be OK.”

A confident Power took to the 2010 season with that assurance and quickly showed he was back and ready to contend for the title and pay back Roger Penske’s confidence in him and the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

He won at Brazil, St. Petersburg and finished on the podium at Long Beach to build a nearly insurmountable lead by the time the IZOD IndyCar Series established the road course title.

Wins followed at Watkins Glen and Toronto and runner-up finishes Edmonton and Mid-Ohio cemented Power as the series’ “King of the Road.”

“The key was winning, actually,” he said. “In any championship, winning makes a huge difference, but so does consistency. I’ve had a very strong team around me all year and two very good teammates that have helped me a lot. I’ve had a good run.”

With one goal complete, Power can turn his attention to a much bigger prize – his first IZOD IndyCar Series championship. He leads by 41 points heading to Sonoma – the final road course on the schedule but knows he can’t lose the focus that helped him gain both the road course crown and his championship points lead.

“We’ve got our sights set on winning the overall championship,” Power said. “That’s what I’ve been aiming for all year. You can’t think too far ahead in the championship. That’s how I’ve approached every race this year. You are aware in your head of the points, and you always want to win, but sometimes you have to drive accordingly to cover the big picture.”

2. Return to podium boosts Clarke’s confidence: For the past few seasons, Dan Clarke has been in racing’s version of limbo. Without a regular ride, he picked up whatever drives he could and stayed as visible as possible in the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock as one of the many drivers walking the pit lane.

That all changed earlier this year when veteran team owner Derrick Walker tabbed Clarke as the driver of his team’s No. 40 Wasteco Deans Knight Special in Firestone Indy Lights, beginning with round two at Barber Motorsports Park.

While his early results were solid, he’s become more and more of a threat to win as he’s gotten more and more comfortable with the series.

“I have to say we’ve picked it up (since Toronto),” the 26-year-old native of Maidenhead, England said after recording his second podium in three races at the Mid-Ohio 100. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all year is catch up to these guys. It’s my first year in (Firestone) Indy Lights. A lot of these guys, it’s their second year. I’m literary coming into tracks I haven’t driven before. I had to learn Mid-Ohio in a practice session.”

Part of the team’s recent run of success was the addition of engineer Nathan O’Rourke, who worked with Ed Carpenter in the IZOD IndyCar Series at Vision Racing. Since O’Rourke joined the team at Toronto, Clarke has three consecutive top-five finishes and jumped from 10th to seventh in the standings.

“It appears like (Nathan) changed everything really, but we’ve all been working hard all year,” Clarke said. “I really credit a lot of this to Derrick, not only putting me in the car and getting me back in a race car, but also just all the dedication he’s put in just making sure that everybody’s doing their absolute best and we’re getting the best out of everything. That’s really why we’ve got this momentum now.”

Taking that momentum and continuing to finish well could translate into Clarke’s first win in the series, but the Englishman has bigger plans, even if the Firestone Firehawk Cup may be out of reach. Clarke hopes to pay back Walker’s faith in him by helping the team achieve its goal of moving up the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“We’re working really hard to get in the big car,” he said. “We have an opportunity to get in a big car this year really, and we just need a little bit of sponsorship to do that. These podiums are great. I’m happy for Derrick that we’re back on the podium because he wants (to move up) just as much as I do and prove that he belongs higher up.”

3. Carpenter, Fuzzy’s Vodka rejoin Panther Racing for oval events: Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter, who paired with Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka and Panther Racing for the Indianapolis 500 in May, will collaborate with them again for the three domestic oval races remaining on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.

He’ll drive the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka entry at Chicagoland Speedway on Aug. 28, Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 4 and Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 2.

“We’re really very excited about the opportunity to compete in more IndyCar races this season thanks to the support of Fuzzy Zoeller and his Ultra Premium Vodka along with John Barnes and the Panther Racing team,” Vision Racing co-owner Tony George said. “We’re looking forward to building on the experience of both teams and our partnership at the Indianapolis 500 this year to secure strong results.”

Carpenter started an Indianapolis 500-best eighth, ran as high as fourth and finished 17th in the May 30 event, which was his 100th IZOD IndyCar Series race.

“The Indianapolis 500 experience with Ed Carpenter, Vision and Panther Racing was really enjoyable and we saw it as a success for Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka,” said Indiana native and professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller. “We really wanted to continue our relationship and partnership with Tony, Ed and the teams and I’m looking forward to supporting Ed’s run at these tracks. I believe we will accomplish some great things together moving forward.”

Carpenter fared well in 2009 in a Vision Racing car at the three 1.5-mile ovals. At Chicagoland Speedway, he advanced six positions to finish sixth in a race in which the top 13 cars were separated by 0.8269 seconds. At Kentucky Speedway, he led 34 laps and fell short of his first victory by 0.0162 of a second in the series’ closest finish at the track. At Homestead-Miami Speedway, he started a career-high fourth and finished 12th.

“I cannot wait to get back on the racetrack in the No.20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium vodka car,” said Carpenter, who on Aug. 9 was participating in a media tour to promote the Kentucky Speedway race. “We had such a great month of May that I am excited to finish what we started. All three races that we are doing we should be very competitive, and I am hoping to deliver for Fuzzy, Vision and Panther. It has been a long season watching IndyCar action from the sidelines, so I am eager to get back into the action.”

Carpenter, 29, made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in 2003 and has been Vision Racing’s full-time driver since the team’s inception in 2005.

The No. 20 team will feature the same core of personnel responsible for Carpenter’s Indianapolis effort, with Al Bodey returning as race engineer and Brian Franzosi continuing chief mechanic duties. Longtime Vision Racing team manager Keven Kaye will oversee operations of the Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka entry. Carpenter’s teammate will be an asset as well, as Dan Wheldon earned a series-record three consecutive victories at Homestead (2005-07) and was victorious at Chicagoland in 2005 and ’06.

“We knew from the beginning that we wanted to run Ed for more than just the Indianapolis 500,” Panther managing partner and CEO John Barnes said. “I’ve got to thank Fuzzy’s Vodka and Tony George for making this happen; they’ve put in a lot of hard work since we finished at Indianapolis to make this deal happen and we know that Ed is going to be able to step right back in the No. 20 car and be a major factor in all three of these events.

“He worked very well with Wheldon during Indianapolis and I’m sure their relationship will continue to help our team get back into Victory Lane.”

4. Vote for Tire-ific Move of the Race: Fans select the Firestone Tire-ific Move of the Race winner by voting on indycar.com after every race. This $10,000 prize is awarded to the driver best utilizing his or her Firestone tires to make a bold, dramatic move during the event.

Nominees for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio are: Ryan Hunter-Reay for recovering from a pit-lane incident that put him near the rear of the field to finish 10th; Raphael Matos, whose charge from 19th starting spot to finish seventh included a pair of nifty late passes for position; Alex Tagliani, whose early pit stop allowed him to lead the most laps and finish fourth.


The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 22 with the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 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 Carneros 100 on Aug. 22 at Infineon Raceway.