New Era In Open-Wheel Racing Begins

A new era in American open-wheel racing begins March 29 when the 2008 season opens with a unified IndyCar Series.

The GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300, which will be contested under the lights at Homestead-Miami Speedway, will reunite former competitors such as Helio Castroneves and Bruno Junqueira as well renew family rivalries with next-generation drivers Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal.

"I'm extremely excited about having one series again," said Castroneves, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who made 79 starts in CART before his 97 career starts in the IndyCar Series. "I have always been outspoken about that. One strong open-wheel series is going to be the best for everyone, not only for the drivers, not only for the teams, not only for the press, but especially for all the fans."

Fans will be rewarded when 26 cars take the starting grid for the 2008 season opener. The count represents 17 cars from teams that previously competed in the IndyCar Series and nine cars from five teams transitioning to the series.

The favorite in the 200-lap, 300-mile season opener - Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon will be looking for a record-setting fourth consecutive victory on the 1.5-mile, variable-banked oval. Last year, Wheldon, who recently got married, beat teammate Scott Dixon by more than six seconds at Homestead-Miami, but in 2006, he edged Castroneves by just 0.0147 of a second in the closest race in track history.

"One fan did tell me the more I keep winning the less likely each year I come back to be a repeat winner," Wheldon said. "I kind of ignored that one."

Following the Homestead-Miami race the unified series embarks on a schedule that is the most diverse in motorsports. The 2008 schedule will take the teams and drivers to short ovals, superspeedways, road and street courses, and of course the Indianapolis 500.

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