February 9, 2009 by  
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The Indy Racing League, or IRL, is a sanctioning body for open-wheel auto racing in America. Best known for the popular Indianapolis 500, the IRL endorses the IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and, as of 2010, the U.S. F2000 National Championship.

Tony George was responsible for the establishment of the IRL back in 1994, with racing beginning in 1996. George’s goal was to found a lower-cost alternative to CART, which was only accessible to wealthy teams who could afford the expensive technology. As of 2008 Champ Car racing (previously CART) was merged into the IRL.

IndyCar vehicles look similar to open-wheeled formula racing cars, featuring wings and large airboxes. The cars have strict specifications, with all cars using the same parts. Every three years, the chassis and engine manufacturers are reviewed. Originally built just for oval racing, the new generation of IndyCar machines are made to deal with road racing too.

The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, or Indy 500, takes place each Memorial Day weekend at America’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway. One of the oldest motorsport races, the Indy 500 draws large crowds each year. It is an event avid racing fans would not want to miss. Winners of the Indianapolis 500 have included Dario Franchitti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish, Jr. Scott Dixon, and others.

IndyCar Series Official Website

2008 Hawkeye Downs Speedway Wall of Fame Inductees

August 12, 2008 by  
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Racing fans in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will soon be getting ready to enjoy a night of festivities when ten more people are inducted to the Hawkeye Downs Speedway Wall of Fame. The induction ceremony is set to take place on Friday night, August 22.

The inductee line-up starts with Chris Economaki, a world-renowned race commentator who has enjoyed many great years in the industry. He is joined by Steve Kosiski, a Dirt Late Model driver that hails from Omaha, Nebraska. Third on the list of inductees is Mike Schulte, a 12-time Modified track champion from Norway, Iowa. And that’s just the start of the list!

Economaki may be known today on a national level, but he started his work as an announcer with the IMCA’s traveling series during the 1940s and 1950s. He was so dedicated to his work that he spent the night after his wedding in the Hawkeye Downs Speedway announcing booth at an IMCA-sanctioned event. Economaki later went on to expand his work as a commentator, slowly making a name for himself as a color commentator who regularly featured at the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. He has also since managed to become the Editor of National Speed Sport. Clearly this man is worthy of being honored on the wall of fame.

Kosiski has likewise enjoyed a stellar career, driving his Late Model to victory on more than one occasion on the ½-mile dirt oval. He was particularly successful during the late 1980s when he managed to rack up multiple wins at HD while participating in the NASCAR/Busch All-Star Tour. Today he is a well known name in the area. Kosiski was also the last person to win the Yankee Dirt Track Classic before the Hawkeye Downs Speedway changed their surface from dirt to pavement.

Schulte is known for his skills behind the wheel in the Modified division from the late 1980s and well into the 1990s. He was the first Modified person to win the IMCA Super Nationals in 1983 and this driving champ is still going strong, taking to the racetrack in a Modified again this season.

Other names on the list are Larry Kelley, a former Hawkeye Downs Late Model Champion, Johnny Beauchamp, a legendary NASCAR star who also happens to be an IMCA champion, Dale Gegner who was once a track promoter, Leo Pfeiffer, a fair board member, Lou Holland and Cliff Blundy, who were both exceptional Sprint/Midget drivers, and Gary Gramblin, who has spent many years working hard ensure that the Hawkeye Downs Speedway continued to be a success. All ten of the inductees will be invited to the ceremony wherein they will be awarded plaques in honor of their induction. The event will also be an opportunity to rub shoulders with past inductees.

NASCAR Coca-Cola 600

May 20, 2008 by  
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Every year motor racing enthusiasts gather to watch one of the best Memorial Day races around: The NASCAR Coca-Cola 600. Formerly known as the World 600, this great stock car race has the distinction of being the longest race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It is has also been in existence longer than any other regularly-scheduled oval track automobile race in the world.

The NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 was originally started as part of an attempt to create an auto racing event that would be able to generate just as much fan interest as the Indianapolis 500 does. Over the years the Coca-Cola 600 has certainly achieved that goal. In fact, it actually had larger TV ratings than its chief competitor between 2002 and 2004. Originally the races were held on different days during the course of the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend but since 1974 the races have been held on exactly the same day. Some drivers attempt to challenge both races in one day but this often proves virtually impossible for most. Fortunately fans can have the best of both worlds from the comfort of their own homes because both races are fully broadcast on national television.

There are several unique challenges that face drivers when racing the Coca-Cola 600. Since having the starting time for the race moved to 17:30 in 2001, drivers find that they not only have to cope with the searing Carolina heat, but they also have to face a radical drop in temperature after night fall. This makes for very different track conditions and also means that drivers have to drive both in daylight and under spotlights. The race usually ends by 22:00.

This year’s NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 will take place on Sunday, 25 May 2008 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte. Officials have already lined up some additional entertainment so fans can make the most of this great event. Country music fans will be delighted to know that artist Darryl Worley to participate in the pre-race ceremony. Tickets are selling out fast so make sure you get yours as soon as you can!

Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program a Success

May 7, 2008 by  
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When thirteen young drivers showed up to take part in the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program on Sunday, officials noted that this was the biggest turn out since 1997. However only a few could make the cut and it remained to be seen just how many drivers would manage to complete all four phases of the program.

The Orientation Program took place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on 4 May 2008, where the 500-mile race has been held regularly for the past 91 years. During the course of the program the rookies are given the opportunity to practice on the 2.5-mile oval track for two days before the track is opened to all drivers. Of all the rookies that took part, Will Power proved to be the fastest. Power’s fastest lap time was 40.7804 seconds.

The grueling two-day orientation program certainly isn’t a picnic. During the course of the two days, the rookies need to pass all four phases of the orientation program. During each phase the drivers are required to demonstrate consistent car control for 10 laps. At the start of each phase there is an increase in the level of speed required and drivers will not only have to navigate their way between other drivers, but they will also have to ensure that they are performing at a satisfactory level at a satisfactory speed.

This year’s competitors really proved that they are ready to join the ranks of more mature racers when ten of them passed all four of the phases. These drivers were: Jaime Camara, Jay Howard, Alex Lloyd, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Hideki Mutoh, Oriol Servia, Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, E.J. Viso and, of course, Will Power. Enrique Bernoldi managed to complete three of the four phases and may still complete the fourth phases during the course of the month. The remaining two drivers will have to complete the first three phases of the orientation program if they wish to remain eligible to compete in the Indianapolis 500 later this year.

The legendary Indianapolis 500 is set to start on May 25 later this year. Both rookies and veterans are looking forward to yet another year of great racing during the course of this spectacular racing event.

Students Study the Business of NASCAR

November 1, 2007 by  
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Auto racing is considered to be among the fastest growing sports, with over 78 million loyal supporters and raking in about $3 million in licensed product sales on an annual basis. Clearly NASCAR translates into very big business. With this in mind, in 2004, Professors Jon Ackley and Michael W. Pitts introduced an honors course for the study of “The Business of NASCAR” that runs every fall semester at the Virginia Commonwealth University.

Approximately 20 students attend the course each year to benefit from the expertise of these two professors, as well as to gain insight from guest speakers who lecture on a range of subjects and issues related to the fast moving world of auto racing. Students will analyze the operation of the business and can look forward to being addressed by a race track public relations director, a newspaper reporter and advertising account executives for NASCAR. They will also be given an in-depth tour of the Richmond International Raceway.

The course includes gaining an understanding of how contracts are negotiated and signed up, as well as how salaries are generated for the support teams of the drivers. An auto racing team may have 40 cars and a support team of 200 or more employees, including the highly trained crew chiefs, engineers and mechanics who are essential to the success of the team.

According to financial analysts, NASCAR fans are extremely brand loyal, which highlights the value of sponsorship. Although sponsorship is a costly exercise for companies, it is considered to be worth the expense because of the extensive exposure that NASCAR events have, with broadcasting to at least 160 countries. It is this kind of exposure that attracts foreign sponsors such as Toyota as well as drawing foreign drivers who normally race Formula 1 and the Indianapolis 500.

Another factor that influences the financial aspects of NASCAR is the fact that it is privately owned and not unionized and has no pension plan. These are all issues that must be taken into consideration by anyone seeking employment in this multi million dollar sport.

With the popularity of this sport showing no signs of slowing down, the study course on the Business of NASCAR at the Virginia Commonwealth University is likely to continue giving valuable insight to students who want to carve out a career in the fast-paced world of auto racing.

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