2006 IndyCar Series season

2006 IndyCar Series season

Template:IndyCar seasons
year = 2006
races = 14
start_date = March 26
end_date = September 10
season_champ = flagicon|USA Sam Hornish, Jr.
champ_team = flagicon|USA Team Penske
rookie_of_year = flagicon|USA Marco Andretti
most_popular = flagicon|USA Danica Patrick
indy_winner = flagicon|USA Sam Hornish, Jr.
previous = 2005
next = 2007
The 2006 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season began on March 26 and concluded on September 10. Sam Hornish Jr. won his third IndyCar Series championship. Hornish also won the 90th Indianapolis 500, passing rookie Marco Andretti on the final lap less than 500 feet from the finish line.

Off season changes

2006 for the Indy Racing League was much different from 2005. The biggest change being the withdrawal of Chevrolet- and Toyota-powered cars from the series, leaving Honda as the only engine manufacturer. There was much speculation after this announcement that because there would not be nearly as much money provided to teams by engine providers as in previous years, many of them would scale back. To some extent, this was true: Ganassi Racing pared its team from three to two cars and Panther Racing and Cheever Racing from two to one. However, Tony George and Patrick Dempsey's Vision Racing added a car for displaced Tomas Scheckter. Honda also reduced the costs of both year-long and Indy-only engine leases, promised that all teams would be provided with identical engines and technical support, and that engines would last two races between scheduled rebuilds--all significant cost-cutting measures compared to previous years.

The chassis situation is little changed from 2005, the largest change being Ganassi Racing's switch from Panoz to Dallara. The only full-season runners using the Panoz in 2006 are Rahal Letterman Racing's three cars and Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp.

2006 also sees the elimination of three rounds of the championship from the 2005 season. The Phoenix International Raceway race was cancelled because of scheduling conflicts. The California Speedway round was not retained because the IRL wanted to move its date earlier in the season so as to not conflict with the NFL season, but a date that was available for both the speedway and the league could not be found. Both the IRL and California Speedway hope that a race there will return for 2007. The Pikes Peak International Raceway was eliminated from the 2006 schedule as the track was sold by its owners and subsequently closed. Further explanation for this new schedule was given by the league as being more "compact" and "exciting" and as a method of avoiding lost television ratings and race attendance by finishing their race season before the NFL season. Many critics viewed this shortened schedule as a definite setback for the series, not an improvement.

There were also a handful of significant driver moves, most important of which was 2005 series champion Dan Wheldon moving to Ganassi Racing from Andretti Green Racing, where he was replaced by Marco Andretti. Additionally, Tomas Scheckter moved from Panther Racing to a new car at Vision Racing and Vitor Meira moved from Rahal Letterman to Scheckter's seat at Panther. Paul Dana and his personal sponsor filled Meira's spot at Rahal Letterman. Eddie Cheever announced that he would return to the role of owner-driver of his single car team for the first four races, including the Indianapolis 500, and Michael Andretti announced he would return to the cockpit to drive alongside his son in the "500". A.J. Foyt IV, who left for NASCAR, was replaced by Felipe Giaffone in Foyt Enterprises' car, while Buddy Lazier returned to a full-time ride in the series by replacing the struggling Roger Yasukawa at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Hemelgarn Racing signed P. J. Chesson late in the offseason with backing from Carmelo Anthony to replace the outgoing Paul Dana.

There were also ongoing rumors during the offseason that Tony George and Champ Car principal Kevin Kalkhoven had been meeting and discussing a potential merger, or a new series that would re-unite open wheel racing in America. The two men have admitted to meeting and enjoying each other's company in skiing and golf, and in separate March 2006 interviews with the Los Angeles Times admitted that they were in fact discussing the prospects of combining the two series [http://www.speedtv.com/articles/auto/autoindustry/22685/] .

Mid-Season changes

Following Paul Dana's death in a crash before the first race, Rahal-Letterman hired Jeff Simmons to drive the #17 car two races later at Motegi. Following an Indy 500 where both Hemelgarn cars crashed into each other and finished in the last two positions, Hemelgarn Racing, which had been running full-time with P. J. Chesson, ceased operations. After the Kansas Speedway race, Cheever Racing ceased operations due to lack of sponsorship and Foyt Enterprises replaced Felipe Giaffone with Jeff Bucknum. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing also announced that Ryan Briscoe, who drove their car to a third place at Watkins Glen, would drive their car in the remaining short oval and road course races instead of Buddy Lazier and that Sarah Fisher would race the car at the remaining 1.5 mile tracks, Kentucky and Chicagoland. Marty Roth returned to the series after crashing in Indy 500 practice and missing the race to drive his own Roth Racing machine in the final 3 oval races of the season (Michigan, Kentucky, and Chicagoland).

Race summaries

Toyota Indy 300

This race held at Homestead-Miami Speedway was run on March 26 and covered by ABC. Sam Hornish, Jr. won the pole.

The race was marred by a violent crash in the final practice session. Paul Dana was killed in the crash and fellow teammates Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice withdrew from the race to honor his memory. He was the third driver to lose his life in the IRL. Ed Carpenter was also injured.

Top ten results

# Dan Wheldon 200 laps
# Hélio Castroneves +0.0147 (9th closest finish in IRL history)
# Sam Hornish, Jr. +0.4744
# Dario Franchitti +0.9401
# Scott Dixon +1.1989
# Kosuke Matsuura +2 laps
# Scott Sharp +2 laps
# Felipe Giaffone +2 laps
# Tomas Scheckter +3 laps
# Eddie Cheever +4 laps

IRL Video Synopsis of the Race

[http://www.veotag.com/player/?pid=ad8594bf-bcd8-48ac-93c9-b4297c6373db Annotated Video of Race Summary ]

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

The Streets of St. Petersburg race was held on April 2 and covered by ESPN. Dario Franchitti won the pole, but was knocked out early due to mechanical failure. The race finished under the yellow flag after Tomas Scheckter and Buddy Rice hit the barrier with 4 laps to go.

Top ten results

# Hélio Castroneves 100 laps
# Scott Dixon +0.1386
# Tony Kanaan +0.6284
# Bryan Herta +0.7813
# Vitor Meira +2.5995
# Danica Patrick +3.0433
# Kosuke Matsuura +52.7172
# Sam Hornish, Jr. +1 lap
# Felipe Giaffone +1 lap
# Scott Sharp +1 lap

Indy Japan 300

The Twin Ring Motegi, Japan race was run on April 22 and covered (via tape delay) by ESPN. Qualifying was rained out and the field was set by entrant points. As a result, Hélio Castroneves sat on pole, and for the second race running, Castroneves won the race. This race also saw the return of Ed Carpenter after the accident at Homestead. Rahal Letterman Racing also returned the #17 car to competition after sitting out a second race, as Indy Pro Series driver Jeff Simmons moved up to the seat. While Simmons has two IndyCar Series races to his experience (one the 2004 Indianapolis 500), he is eligible for the Bombardier series Rookie of the Year contest for 2006.

Top ten results

# Hélio Castroneves 200 laps
# Dan Wheldon +6.3851
# Tony Kanaan +8.6163
# Sam Hornish, Jr. +9.0011
# Buddy Rice +9.7491
# Bryan Herta +13.8972
# Kosuke Matsuura +14.7633
# Danica Patrick +15.4456
# Scott Dixon +1 lap
# Vitor Meira +1 lap

=90th Indianapolis 500=

The Indy 500 was run on May 28 and covered by ABC. Sam Hornish, Jr. won the pole with a 4-lap average of 228.985 mph (2:37.2155). It was Hornish's 10th pole of his short, but yet outstanding career. Hornish then went on to win the race, beating Marco Andretti in the second-closest finish in Indy 500 history. Dan Wheldon led most laps with 148.

Top ten results

# Sam Hornish, Jr. 200 laps
# Marco Andretti +0.0635
# Michael Andretti +1.0087
# Dan Wheldon +1.2692
# Tony Kanaan +1.6456
# Scott Dixon +3.0566
# Dario Franchitti +5.6249
# Danica Patrick +5.7263
# Scott Sharp +11.1252
# Vitor Meira +17.9554

Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix presented by Tissot

The Watkins Glen International race was run on June 4 and covered by ABC. Qualifying was cancelled due to fog and the field was set based on Friday practice speeds. Hélio Castroneves sat on pole. The race was shortened to 55 laps from the scheduled 60 due to the 2 hour time limit. The race also made history as the first ever IRL race to be run in wet conditions. Kiwi Scott Dixon won from Panther Racing's Vitor Meira and Australia's Ryan Briscoe, of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Top ten results

# Scott Dixon 55 laps
# Vitor Meira +2.3311
# Ryan Briscoe +2.7999
# Buddy Rice +9.2284
# Felipe Giaffone +11.4811
# Ed Carpenter +12.4427
# Hélio Castroneves +13.0455
# Danica Patrick +13.3289
# Scott Sharp +16.6462
# Tomas Scheckter +48.4872

Video Synopsis of Race

# [http://www.veotag.com/player/?pid=3fdb9dfb-6605-4d9c-94a8-2f7ffb451378 Annotated Version of IRL Race Summary]

=Bombardier Learjet 500=

The Texas race was run on June 10 and covered by ESPN. Sam Hornish, Jr. won the pole. Hélio Castroneves captured his second Texas win and third win of the season. Dan Wheldon had led most of the race and looked in control only for a short delay on his final pit stop to drop him back to third.

Top ten results

# Hélio Castroneves 200 laps
# Scott Dixon +0.2402
# Dan Wheldon +0.2981
# Sam Hornish, Jr. +14.5389
# Scott Sharp +14.5895
# Vitor Meira +15.9294
# Tony Kanaan +16.1398
# Kosuke Matsuura +22.3327
# Ed Carpenter +22.9791
# Tomas Scheckter +1 lap

IRL Race Summary

# [http://www.veotag.com/player/?pid=989cde68-701c-459e-a396-6a462c5a1ede Annotated Race Summary Video ]

SunTrust Indy

The Richmond International Raceway race was run on June 24 and covered by ESPN. Qualifying was rained out and Hélio Castroneves won the pole based on combined practice speeds. Sam Hornish, Jr. has won the race, leading 212 of 250 laps. The race finished in yellow flag at 4 laps to go due a blew tire from Hélio Castroneves which dropped him to 10th place.

Top Ten Results

# Sam Hornish, Jr. 250 laps
# Vitor Meira +0.3907
# Dario Franchitti +1.5895
# Marco Andretti +6.5400
# Scott Sharp +6.6677
# Bryan Herta +10.9217
# Tomas Scheckter +1 lap
# Ed Carpenter +1 lap
# Dan Wheldon +1 lap
# Hélio Castroneves +1 lap

Kansas Lottery Indy 300

The Kansas Speedway race was run on July 2. Dan Wheldon won the pole. Sam Hornish, Jr. won the race taking the lead from Wheldon with two laps to go. This was the 50th IRL race where 1st and 2nd were separated by less than a second.

Top ten results
# Sam Hornish, Jr. 200 laps
# Dan Wheldon +0.0793
# Vitor Meira +5.3892
# Scott Dixon +5.5158
# Tony Kanaan +5.7762
# Hélio Castroneves +7.0432
# Tomas Scheckter +9.6925
# Kosuke Matsuura +9.9881
# Marco Andretti +1 lap
# Jeff Simmons +1 lap

Firestone Indy 200

The Nashville Superspeedway race was run on July 15 and covered by ESPN. Dan Wheldon won the pole. Scott Dixon won his second race of the season and captured his first win on an oval since 2003.

Top ten results:
# Scott Dixon 200 laps
# Dan Wheldon +0.1176
# Vitor Meira +1.2756
# Danica Patrick +2.5019
# Hélio Castroneves +3.5647
# Dario Franchitti +11.9449
# Jeff Simmons +1 lap
# Marco Andretti +1 lap
# Ryan Briscoe +1 lap
# Ed Carpenter +2 laps

ABC Supply Company A.J. Foyt 225

The The Milwaukee Mile race was run on July 23 and covered by ESPN. Hélio Castroneves won the pole. Tony Kanaan led most of the race and gave Andretti Green Racing its first win of the season.

Top ten results
# Tony Kanaan 225 laps
# Sam Hornish, Jr. +1.8276
# Tomas Scheckter +2.0114
# Danica Patrick +8.4708
# Marco Andretti +10.2611
# Dario Franchitti +11.2373
# Bryan Herta +14.1195
# Dan Wheldon +1 lap
# Jeff Simmons +2 laps
# Scott Dixon +2 laps

Firestone Indy 400

The Michigan International Speedway race was run on July 30 and covered by ABC. The race start was delayed almost 3 hours and the race was aired tape delayed on ESPN2. Hélio Castroneves got his fourth race win of the season from the pole.

Top ten results:
# Hélio Castroneves 200 laps
# Vitor Meira +1.6229
# Dan Wheldon +6.2259
# Tony Kanaan +6.9874
# Tomas Scheckter +27.9005
# Scott Sharp +28.5560
# Ed Carpenter +1 lap
# Marco Andretti +1 lap
# Kosuke Matsuura +1 lap
# Jeff Simmons +1 lap

Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret

The Kentucky Speedway race was run on August 13 and covered by ABC. Hélio Castroneves won the pole. Sam Hornish, Jr. captured his 4th win of the year and re-took the points lead. This was also the second IRL race with two female drivers in the field, the first was the 2000 Indianapolis 500.

Top ten results:
# Sam Hornish, Jr. 200 laps
# Scott Dixon +0.5866
# Hélio Castroneves +0.6511
# Dan Wheldon +1.8913
# Tony Kanaan +2.3049
# Vitor Meira +2.5191
# Tomas Scheckter +2.8124
# Danica Patrick +3.2408
# Dario Franchitti +4.7070
# Bryan Herta +4.7966

Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

The Infineon Raceway race was run on August 27 and covered by ESPN. Scott Dixon won the pole. Marco Andretti became the youngest winner of a major open wheel race and the first new IRL winner since Adrian Fernandez in 2004.

Top ten results:
# Marco Andretti 80 laps
# Dario Franchitti +0.6557
# Vitor Meira +10.6535
# Scott Dixon +11.1867
# Hélio Castroneves +12.5049
# Dan Wheldon +13.4493
# Jeff Simmons +13.8754
# Danica Patrick +15.7417
# Sam Hornish, Jr. +16.3369
# Bryan Herta +18.5571

Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean

The Chicagoland Speedway race was run on September 10 and covered by ABC. Sam Hornish, Jr. won the pole and clinched the championship by finishing third. Dan Wheldon won the race and tied Hornish in season points, but lost the title due to the tiebreaker (most wins).

Top ten results:
# Dan Wheldon 200 laps
# Scott Dixon +0.1897
# Sam Hornish, Jr. +0.2323
# Hélio Castroneves +2.6913
# Ed Carpenter +1 lap
# Vitor Meira +1 lap
# Tony Kanaan +1 lap
# Jeff Simmons +1 lap
# Scott Sharp +1 lap
# Tomas Scheckter +1 lap

Final 2006 Point Standings

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