IndyCar trying to match excitement of 2009 after a slew of changes

Two-time champ Scott Dixon enters his eighth season with Chip Ganassi’s team.

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Two-time champ Scott Dixon enters his eighth season with Chip Ganassi’s team.

Driver lineup

No., Name Team Hometown

00, Davey Hamilton De Ferran Luczo Dragon Nampa, Idaho

06, Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas/Lanigan Tokyo

2, Raphael Matos De Ferran Luczo Dragon B. Horiz., Brazil

3, Helio Castroneves Team Penske Sao Paulo, Brazil

4, Dan Wheldon Panther Racing Emberton, England

5, Takuma Sato KV Racing Tokyo

6, Ryan Briscoe Team Penske Sydney, Australia

7, Danica Patrick Andretti Autosport Roscoe, Ill.

8, E.J. Viso KV Racing Caracas, Venezuela

9, Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Auckland, New Zealand

10, Dario Franchitti Chip Ganassi Edinburgh, Scotland

11, Tony Kanaan Andretti Autosport Salvador, Brazil

12, Will Power Team Penske Toowoomba, Australia

14, Vitor Meira A.J. Foyt Racing Brasilia

18, Milka Duno Dale Coyne Caracas, Venezuela

22, Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold Sheffield, England

23, Ana B. Figueiredo Dreyer & Reinbold Sao Paulo, Brazil

24, Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold Bromley, England

26, Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Nazareth, Pa.

34, Mario Romancini Conquest Racing Sao Paulo, Brazil

37, Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Boca Raton

66, Jay Howard Sarah Fisher Basildon, England

67, Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher Commercial Point, Ohio

77, Alex Tagliani FAZZT Race Team Lachenaie, Quebec

78, Simona de Silvestro HVM Racing Thun, Switzerland

Schedule

Date Site Type Time/TV

Sunday Sao Paulo, Brazil Street 11:30 a.m., Versus

March 28 St. Petersburg Street 3:30 p.m., Ch. 28

April 11 Birmingham, Ala. Road 3 p.m., Versus

April 18 Long Beach, Calif. Street 3:30 p.m., Versus

May 1 Kansas City, Kan. Oval 1:30 p.m., Ch. 28

May 30 Indianapolis Oval Noon, Ch. 28

June 5 Fort Worth, Texas Oval 8 p.m., Versus

June 20 Newton, Iowa Oval 1:30 p.m., Versus

July 4 Watkins Glen, N.Y. Road 3:30 p.m., Ch. 28

July 18 Toronto Street 12:30 p.m., Ch. 28

July 25 Edmonton, Alberta Street 5 p.m., Versus

Aug. 8 Lexington, Ohio Road 2:30 p.m., Versus

Aug. 22 Sonoma, Calif. Road 5 p.m., Versus

Aug. 28 Joliet, Ill. Oval 7 p.m., Versus

Sept. 4 Sparta, Ky. Oval 8 p.m., Versus

Sept. 18 Motegi, Japan Oval 10:30 p.m., Versus

Oct. 2 Homestead Oval 6 p.m., Versus

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Coming off a fantastic finish in 2009, the IndyCar series looks to build on that excitement this season with a new title sponsor, a new CEO and several familiar drivers.

The 2009 title chase, which saw the points lead change hands 15 times, was decided in the closing laps of the final race as Dario Franchitti edged Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe in one the closest points race in series history. Those three return when the season kicks off Sunday in Brazil, as will three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, Andretti Autsport teammates Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick, and several other title contenders.

"The depth of the field is definitely growing," Dixon, a two-time series champion, told the Associated Press. "There is a lot of great drivers and teams again this year. It will be exciting."

In addition to Sunday's inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300, the other new venue this season is Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

The series also hired promoter Randy Bernard as CEO and picked up a new title sponsor, clothingmaker Izod. Bernard spent 15 years as the head of Professional Bull Riders.

His job of increasing IndyCar's marketability got easier when Patrick decided to stay, though she's also running a 13-race slate in NASCAR's Nationwide series. In fact, IndyCar, which lost Franchitti (temporarily) and Sam Hornish to NASCAR in recent years, had no major defections.

Aside from Patrick there are also four other women — Milka Duno, Sarah Fisher and rookies Ana Beatriz Figueiredo and Simona de Silvestro. Fisher isn't expected to run all races and won't be in Brazil for the opener. On Thursday, ESPN.com reported that Graham Rahal, out of a full-time job after two seasons at Newman/Haas/Lanigan, has a deal to replace Fisher as a driver in two races, including the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 28.

"We know the competition is going to be tougher," said Franchitti, also the 2007 champion. "There will be the usual suspects that were in the title fight last year, and I think you'll add a couple more. We'll have to work harder if we want to come home with another championship."

IndyCar trying to match excitement of 2009 after a slew of changes 03/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 8:59pm]

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