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Apr 25, 2014 - 11:26 AM
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IndyCar News And Notes - April 24, 2014
Posted by: newsla on Apr 25, 2014 - 11:22 AM
IndyCar News
IndyCar News And Notes - April 24, 2014

Today's Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Dixon looks to shake runner-up status at Barber

2. Next generation Herta makes Mazda Road to Indy debut

3. Coming off victory, Conway looks ahead


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1. Dixon looks to shake runner-up status at Barber: Part of Scott Dixon's success at Barber Motorsports Park relates to another flowing road circuit, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver has won four of the past seven Verizon IndyCar Series races.

Dixon has been the runner-up in each of the four races on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park, and though the top step in Victory Circle is the goal each outing the points accumulated have greatly helped in the championship chase. Dixon, driver of the No. 9 entry, earned his third series title in 2013.

"I guess you could say I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the track," said Dixon, who has 31 career second-place finishes.

In the past 50 years, the only other time a driver has placed second four times in a row at the same racetrack was Dixon (2006-09) at Chicagoland Speedway. Dixon clinched the '08 championship at the 1.5-mile oval in Joliet, Ill.

The increasing grip of the Barber racing surface through the weekend produces high cornering speeds that create momentum through the remainder of the racetrack that features 80 feet of elevation change. Reaching a balance on the car's set-up for the high- and slow-speed corners, much like Mid-Ohio, is a key.

As Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing said: "Everything tends to feel good on the car because there's so much grip. The car is fast for everyone, but the challenge is you just have to be a little bit quicker than everyone else, and it's hard to find that last bit of speed."

Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti have finished third in consecutive years at Barber. Castroneves also won the race in 2010, while Team Penske teammate Will Power won in 2011 and '12.

2. Next generation Herta makes Mazda Road to Indy debut: Here's one for the record books: Colton Herta will make his Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debut this weekend, becoming the first driver born this century to compete in an INDYCAR-sanctioned race.

Herta, who celebrated his 14th birthday March 30, won the Pacific F1600 Championship in 2013 and was the runner-up in the Skip Barber Racing Summer Series. He's the eldest son of Verizon IndyCar Series team owner and former racer Bryan Herta.

"It's a ginormous step in my career," said Herta, of Valencia, Calif. "I'm very excited."
He was sixth quick in the initial practice session and seventh in the afternoon on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park, which hosts Rounds 3 and 4 of the season April 26.

"Everybody has been here before us (competing in the Mazda Road to Indy Winterfest) so the biggest issue was learning the track," Herta said.

Herta, driving the No. 98 car for JAY Motorsports, was too young to compete in the March 29-30 opening doubleheader at St. Petersburg, Fla., according to the rulebook. Some other things he's still too young to do:

*Sit in the exit row of an airplane.

*Hold a driver's license - for a passenger car to get to the racetrack.

*Get a work permit.

*Give blood.

*Join a trade union.

*Pilot a glider.

*Buy a lottery ticket.

*Apply for a passport without parental consent.

Nelson Philippe -- at 17 years, 8 months, 25 days -- is the youngest driver to compete in an Indy car race (April 18, 2004, at Long Beach sanctioned by Champ Car) in records dating to 1946. Graham Rahal -- at 19 years, 3 months, 2 days -- is the youngest race winner (April 6, 2008, at St. Petersburg sanctioned by INDYCAR).

Bryan Herta won the Barber Formula Ford and Barber Saab Pro Series titles and then dominated the 1993 Indy Lights championship. He graduated to Indy car racing in 1994 -- at age 23 -- with A.J. Foyt Racing.

3. Coming off victory, Conway looks ahead: "What if" isn't lodged in Mike Conway's thoughts. Conway, driving the No. 20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka car for Ed Carpenter Racing on road/street courses, won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13. He's second in the championship standings heading into the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

A missed radio communication at St. Petersburg while in third cost Conway a possible podium in the season opener March 30.

"I can't really look back at the St. Pete now," said Conway, who qualified on the front row in the first race at Barber. "We learned a lot about our team there and how to improve the overall performance. I missed the pits and it cost us. But we came back strong at Long Beach. I feel we can transfer the Long Beach win into a good showing this weekend at Barber."

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