Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Green are the teams to beat week in and week out in the IRL. Rahal Letterman's Ryan Hunter-Reay acknowledged as much at the news conference after the Indianapolis 500. But he also served notice that RLR is on the rise.
Like Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, the Indy Racing League also has a “big three.” Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Green are the teams to beat week in and week out in the IRL. Rahal Letterman's Ryan Hunter-Reay acknowledged as much at the news conference after the Indianapolis 500. But he also served notice that RLR is on the rise. “I've been working well with this team, they've been working well with me,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished sixth in his first Indy 500. “It's a great bunch of guys, and I think there's going to be better things to come this year. With that said, we were punching above our weight. I'm not under any disillusions that we're going to be fighting Penske, AGR and Ganassi every weekend. They're in a league of their own at the moment.” Hunter-Reay said he watched “years and years” of tapes of old Indianapolis 500s to prepare himself for Sunday's race. His preparation not only gave him a good finish, he earned Rookie of the Year honors. “This was a strong rookie field this season, perhaps one of the best in a long time,” Hunter-Reay said when accepting the award, “and it is very important to me to win this award.” The series races this weekend at its traditional post-Indianapolis track, the Milwaukee Mile. Getting in NHRA Funny Car driver Jack Beckman is riding a rough stretch of luck at this point in the season. The Don Schumacher Racing driver has failed to qualify for the past two races and definitely wants to make the field for this weekend's NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan. Beckman calls his car “just a step off,” but the team tested it after the last race two weeks ago. “The results were positive,” Beckman said, “but it wasn't under national-event conditions against 19 other Funny Cars. So everybody on the crew is smart enough to realize that one race is not going to put us exactly where we want to be. ... We need to qualify, we need to run well on Friday and we need to regain our momentum.” Springfield Mile Sunday's AMA Flat Track Springfield Mile was rained out, rescheduled for Monday and rained out again. It has been rescheduled as part of the Labor Day weekend motorcycle races at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. There will be four days of racing that weekend -- an amateur short track race on Aug. 29, a GNC short track race on Aug. 30, and miles on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. The TT race at Springfield was held last Saturday and was won by Henry Wiles. The three-time Peoria TT winner took the lead from Jared Mees on lap five when Mees had trouble negotiating a sharp turn. Joe Kopp finished second, followed by Jake Johnson, Sam Halbert and JR Schnabel. Morton's Rob Pearson was seventh. On the mend Dario Franchitti is one week away from getting back in his Sprint Cup series car. Jeremy Mayfield will fill in for Franchitti this weekend at Dover. Franchitti will race in the Nationwise Series event this weekend. New president As expected, Bruton Smith's son Marcus was named president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway and president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc. He replaces Humpy Wheeler, who stepped down after 33 years from those positions after Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. Sponsor news Lucas Oil Products has signed on to be the primary sponsor for Derek Neville's ASA Late Model Series North Division Chevrolet starting at this weekend's race in Morris. Nick Neville is sponsored by Dixie Chopper Lawn Mowers. The brothers, who race out of Mackinaw, are in their third season in the series. Jane Miller is the Peoria Journal Star motorsports columnist. Write her at 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call (309) 686-3207 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.