By Amy Konrath

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

1. Teams head to Mid-Ohio for test

2. Edmonton race draws highest rating on VERSUS

3. Construction of Baltimore GP course underway

4. INDYCAR event at Barber wins tourism award

1. Teams head to Mid-Ohio for test: Twenty one of the 27 cars entered in the Honda Indy 200 will be on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 28 to run through setup programs for the second natural-terrain road course race of the IZOD IndyCar Series season.

The test is open to the public and free from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with viewing from the infield and the Keyhole. Spectators are welcome to bring food and coolers. The Honda Indy 200 is Aug. 5-7.

“You still have to focus on the areas that you think the car needs improvement or development pieces, but there’s nothing better than having your competition there to sort of gauge how that’s going,” said Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who has top-five finishes in each of the past four years at the facility that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary, including victories in 2007 and ’09.

“That’s why a lot of teams pull together. I know a lot of times when we book a test we try to book it with Penske or Andretti or KV – teams that you know you can benchmark yourself off. I think you’ve seen a pattern over the last few years – Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, Alabama – there’s been a lot of those tracks where everybody sort of organized a test day beforehand and they try to go to get information.”

Scheduled to participate are:

Andretti Autosport — Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway, Marco Andretti
Conquest Racing – Sebastian Saavedra
Dale Coyne Racing – Sebastien Bourdais, James Jakes
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – Justin Wilson, Ana Beatriz
HVM Racing – Simona de Silvestro
KV Racing Technology-Lotus – Tony Kanaan, Takuma Sato, E.J. Viso
National Guard Panther Racing – JR Hildebrand
Newman/Haas Racing – Oriol Servia
Sam Schmidt Motorsports – Alex Tagliani, Martin Plowman, Simon Pagenaud
Sarah Fisher Racing – Ed Carpenter
Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing – Graham Rahal
Target Chip Ganassi Racing – Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon

Pagenaud competed in the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park in early April, filling in for the injured Ana Beatriz (fractured wrist) in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car.

Three weeks ago, Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power joined Jakes for a test session on the course. Franchitti, the series championship points leader by 38 over Power, is the defending race winner. Power started from the pole and finished second in 2010.

2. Edmonton race draws highest rating on VERSUS: Viewership of VERSUS’ broadcast of the Edmonton Indy on July 24 doubled over the 2010 race at City Centre Airport.

The 80-lap race on the 2.224-mile, 13-turn circuit won by Will Power registered a .60 rating — the highest-rated IZOD IndyCar Series race on VERSUS this season.

Through seven races, VERSUS has seen a 25 percent ratings increase over its 2010 season average. It will televise the Honda Indy 200 at 2 p.m. (ET) Aug. 7.

“While I’m excited as we all are to see it I’m not surprised by it,” said Robby Greene, president and COO of IMS Productions. “We have a fantastic product that gets better each week.

“From the support and leadership we receive from VERSUS through the strategic thinking of our producers and directors to the hardest-working group of professionals in the business actually making it happen on the course, we have an unbelievable opportunity here.

“While this does represent our highest rating thus far, we are seeing the signs regularly that growth is happening and an explosion is imminent. New sponsors, new cars, new tracks and promoters mixed with the fastest and most versatile seat in motor sports, what doesn’t spell growth in that formula?”

3. Construction of Baltimore GP course underway: Preparation for one of the largest events ever to come to downtown Baltimore took another big step on July 25, when cornerstone track walls were set-up in front of the Inner Harbor Amphitheater for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix.

The work signals the first segment of construction of the 2.0 mile, 13-turn street circuit that races around Camden Yards and the Scenic Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore. Jay Davidson, President and CEO of the Baltimore Grand Prix, as well as Martyn Thake, the circuit designer and Director of Operations, along with the staff of the Baltimore Grand Prix were on hand for the ceremonial event.

“This is an exciting day for the Baltimore Grand Prix,” said Jay Davidson. “All of the years of planning are now truly coming to fruition before our eyes. This event also brings home the fact that in 40 days, there will be thousands of fans lining these streets to see the spectacular sight of racecars going 180 miles per hour down Pratt Street so Martyn and his crew definitely have their work lined out.”

More than 2,200, 12-foot long, 39-inch cement race walls will line the perimeter inside and outside the race circuit. The wall segments each weigh approximately 9,300 pounds and will be interconnected creating a track wall with a combined weight of close to 20,000,000 pounds total. In addition to the concreterace walls and fencing, portions of the circuit are lined with tire barriers to soften any potential impact. Strategically placed around the 2-mile circuit there will be 650 tire pallets which consist of 25 bundled, interlocked tires.

During the next 40 days leading up to the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix September 2 – 4, crews will construct a debris fence purpose built for motor racing that will adorn the top of the wall segments. The debris fencing will encompass the entire 2-mile street course and additional fencing will be built behind the race walls to create what is called in racing “no man’s land”, a restricted area between the spectator areas and the racing circuit. Work will be done between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid peak drive times.

Martyn Thake, who has overseen construction on circuits such as the Grand Prix of Denver, Mexico City Grand Prix and Houston Grand Prix among many others, is the lead person for the design and build of the Baltimore Grand Prix temporary street circuit.

Thake said that this track has a little bit of everything for both the spectators and the competitors. “This may be the best race track I have ever been a part of and with the Harbor and Camden Yards anchoring thesite it will be one of the best looking street tracks. There will also be several opportunities for passing, due to the wide streets and long straightaway’s and plenty of places for the fans to see all the action. Baltimore is joining a very select and exclusive club as one of only about 15 cities in the world that host a street race and this circuit is really going to look fabulous on TV.”

In addition to the racing circuit, construction crews will begin work on ancillary projects for the race weekend such as grandstands, hospitality tents and pedestrian bridges.

The removal of the track and other areas will begin immediately after the conclusion of the race on September 4 and will take close to 30 days to be completely disassembled.

4. INDYCAR event at Barber wins tourism award: The Honda Indy Grand Prix has been named the 2011 Alabama Event of the Year by the Alabama Tourism Department.

The second event at the Barber Motorsports Park featured the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy. I first have to thank Mr. (George) Barber for his vision for Barber Motorsports Park. In addition, without the combined efforts of the public and private sectors, this event would not be possible, nor would it have seen the success it has enjoyed,” said Gene Hallman, president of ZOOM Motorsports (promotional group of Barber Motorsports Park).

“The fact that IndyCar is racing in Alabama, as the only stop in the Deep South, is an example of what we can do when we work together. We look forward to many more spectacular years of IndyCar at Barber Motorsports Park.”

Criteria for Event of the Year include outstanding performance, outstanding economic impact statistics, quality and effectiveness of marketing efforts, additions and/or improvements designed to increase appeal to tourists, increased attendance, and the enhancement of local, regional or state image as a tourist destination.

The Event of the Year award is among 14 for 2011 that comprise the Alabama Tourism Awards. The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum received the Attraction of the Year award.


The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 7 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be televised live at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Grand Prix of Trois Rivieres on Aug. 7 at the streets of Trois Rivieres. It will be televised on tape delay by VERSUS at 4 p.m. on Aug. 17.