Rookies adapt to the oval; other notes


By Dave Lewandowski

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “It was so different,” said KV Racing Technology’s Takuma Sato, which could be the understatement of the year.

Sato was among four IZOD IndyCar Series rookies to participate April 28 in an orientation/test on the 1.5-mile, variably-banked Kansas Speedway oval. He was smiling afterward, which was the best indication that all (well, maybe a few points under 100 percent) went well under the watchful eyes of IZOD IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch and Indy Racing League consultant Al Unser Jr..

“Everyone ran about 125 laps, which is a nice day’s work,” Blanch said. “We were able to get them running in traffic, and getting in and out of pit lane and getting back up to speed. They all did a nice job responding to what we talked with them about prior to running. It didn’t take them long to get up to speed and understand what they needed to do.

Click it: Andretti Autosport signs Carroll to drive in select races this season

“They started to gain a respect for oval racing, which requires a lot of thinking ahead. You have to drive three or four laps ahead of yourself. It was interesting to see how they were figuring out things like not wanting to catch a guy in a corner, why you want to pass on the straightaway, how to hustle into the pits.”

Sato, Mario Romancini (pictured above) and Bertrand Baguette of Conquest Racing and Simona De Silvestro of Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing will compete in their first IZOD IndyCar Series event this weekend – the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300.

Romancini, who competed on several ovals last season with Andersen Racing in Firestone Indy Lights, was the only driver with oval racing experience. He won at The Milwaukee Mile and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Last season at Kansas Speedway, he started sixth and finished third.

“I am really looking forward to the start of oval racing this season and competing in an (IZOD) IndyCar (Series car),” he said. “I got used to the ovals very quickly last year, and I am hoping to have some good performances this year as well. The race in Kansas last season was my first time competing on an oval and I was able to finish third, so for sure I have some good memories of that place.”

New Firehawks for the race weekend

For the first oval race of the season, Firestone has introduced a new specification that was developed at the tire test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in January.

The spec uses the same construction as the Firehawks used in the October 2009 Homestead-Miami Speedway race with new compounds on the left and right sides. The goal was to improve grip. The tire will be used during the Open Test at Kentucky Speedway on May 4 and the Firestone 550k at Texas Motor Speedway on June 5. Each car received eight sets of tires for the race weekend.

Twenty for 12 – Honda overtake assist

Drivers will have available 20 pushes of the Honda overtake assist button for a duration of 12 seconds each use. There is a 10-second recovery period between pushes.

The Honda overtake assist system gives additional horsepower to the Honda Indy V-8 engines for the specified time.

Vote for Patrick for SPIKE award

Danica Patrick is among the nominees for SPIKE’s Guys Choice award in the Top Female Athlete Hotshot category.

Awards will be presented June 5, with the show airing on SPIKE on June 20. Vote for Patrick at

Of note

Like at Barber Motorsports Park, Suave is the primary sponsor of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car for Dario Franchitti this weekend. … A.J. Foyt will miss the afternoon race to make his annual trip to the Kentucky Derby. “It has two sides but the good side is that he feels comfortable — and that’s normally not the kind of gamble A.J. would do — but he feels comfortable with the quality of people that he and (team director) Larry (Foyt) put together on this ABC team,” driver Vitor Meira said. … In 2002, the Foyt team won the doubleheader at Kansas Speedway with Airton Dare winning the IndyCar Series race and A.J. Foyt IV winning the Indy Lights race. … Sharon Lindenbaum, senior director of finance for Time Warner Cable, will give the command to start engines. … Andretti Autosport’s Tony Kanaan and Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard are featured in the May 11 issue of ESPN The Magazine.


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