tampabay.com

Penske-Ganassi rivalry is on

By BRANT JAMES
Published March 28, 2006


HOMESTEAD - It's no surprise that Roger Penske 's and Chip Ganassi 's Indy Racing League teams are already positioning themselves for a seasonlong clash of wills.

Penske won eight CART titles; Ganassi four, then added an IRL title in 2003. Penske has 13 Indianapolis 500 wins, Ganassi one.

With both former Toyota teams now using Honda engines like the rest of the spec-engine series, use of their extensive resources and their smoldering rivalry should be interesting. Maybe not so interesting for other teams, however.

With Dan Wheldon winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday in his first race with Ganassi and teammate Scott Dixon finishing fifth; and Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. second and third, respectively, the teams are leaving little room for anyone else.

"If anybody asked me if there was going to be a rivalry, I think it would be a Penske/Ganassi rivalry, because we've seen that before in the CART series," Wheldon said.

"With Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske, you've got two determined team owners that want to prove a point to one another. I'm glad we started off right because I think Chip will be more motivated now to help us develop some stuff."

RESPECTS: A memorial service for Paul Dana , killed Sunday in a prerace crash with Ed Carpenter , will be held by the IRL on Thursday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Funeral arrangements will not be announced by the family.

The Rahal Letterman team plans to race his No. 17 car again this season - but not here this weekend - and the replacement driver will be picked by his ethanol sponsorship group and approved by the team.

Meantime, Carpenter was released from the hospital Monday. He is recovering from a bruised lung and hasn't been cleared to drive in Sunday's race in St. Petersburg.

WILL DRIVE FOR FOOD: Ryan Briscoe was tooling around the garage at Homestead this weekend, hoping his presence would spark some interest after he was fired by Ganassi following his rookie season.

Briscoe, 24, suffered multiple injuries - including two broken clavicles - and was knocked out for the season after his car flew into the catch fence and broke apart in a fireball at Chicago. Ganassi downsized to a two-car team after releasing the former Formula One test driver. Briscoe would have loved a chance to drive for Ganassi this season with equal horsepower.

"Last year obviously we did not get the results we wanted and we just struggled for speed in general and that's why it would have been really cool to come and do a second season with material that was competitive and we would have been able to win with," said Briscoe, who had three top-10s in 15 starts.

"It's sort of disappointing I'm not in the game this year. I would have liked to have been, but at the moment I'm just going to see what I can put together for 2007. If I can do the Indy 500 it would be huge. "

HOUSE GUEST: After months of playing phone tag, Castroneves lined up accommodations for this weekend at Sebastien Bourdais ' St. Petersburg home. After meeting Castroneves in Richmond last fall during an IROC race, Bourdais extended an invitation for Grand Prix weekend that Castroneves gladly accepted, once their schedules actually allowed them to reach each other on the phone.

Bourdais doesn't expect to see Castroneves much this weekend either. He just hopes his guest doesn't drink out of the milk carton.

"Maybe I'll have to mark a Helio bottle," he laughed.